MUSIC IN CATHOLIC WORSHIP
Bishops' Committee on the Liturgy
United States Catholic Conference
I. THE THEOLOGY OF CELEBRATION
1. People are Christians because through the Christian community they have met Jesus Christ,
heard his word in invitation, and responded to him in faith. Christians gather at Mass that they may
hear and express their faith again in this assembly, and, by expressing it, renew and deepen it.
2. We do not come to meet Christ as if he were absent from the rest of our lives. We come
together to deepen our awareness of, and commitment to the action of his Spirit in the whole of
our lives at every moment. We come together to acknowledge the love of God poured out among
us in the work of the Spirit, to stand in awe and praise.
3. We are celebrating when we involve ourselves meaningfully in the thoughts, words, songs and
gestures of the worshipping community - when everything we do is wholehearted and authentic for
us - when we mean the words and want to do what is done.
4. People in love make signs of love, not only to express their love but also to deepen it. Love
never expressed dies. Christians' faith in Christ and in each other, must be expressed in the signs
and symbols of celebration, or it will die.
5. Celebrations need not fail, even on a particular Sunday when our feelings do not match the
invitation of Christ and his Church to worship. Faith dose not always premeate our feelings. But
the signs and symbols of worship can give bodily expression to faith as we celebrate. Our own
faith is stimulated. We become one with others whose faith is similarly expressed. We rise above
our own feelings to respond to God in prayer.
6. Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations foster and nourish
faith. Poor celebrations weaken and destroy faith.
7. To celebrate the liturgy means to do the action or perform the sign in such a way that the full
meaning and impact shine in clear and compelling fashion. Since these signs are vehicles of
communication and instruments of faith, they must be simple and comprehensible. Since they are
directed to fellow human beings, they must be humanly attractive. They must be meaningful and
appealing to the body of worshippers, or they will fail to stir up faith and people will fail to worship
8. The signs of celebration should be short, clear, unencumbered by useless repetition; they should
be within the people's power of comprehension and normally should not require much explanation.
If the signs need explanation to communicate faith, they will often be watched instead of
9. In true celebration each sign or sacramental action will be invested with the personal and
prayerful faith, care, attention and enthusiasm of those who carry it out.
II. PASTORAL PLANNING
10. The responsibility for effective pastoral celebration in a parish community falls upon all those
who exercise major roles in the liturgy. "The particular preparation for each liturgical celebration
should be done in a spirit of cooperation by all parties concerned, under the guidance of the rector
of the church, whether it be ritual, pastoral or musical matters." (General Instruction on the Missal,
73) In practice, this ordinarily means an organized "planning team" or committee which meets
regularly to achieve creative and coordinated worship and a good use of the liturgical and musical
options of a flexible liturgy.
11. The power of a liturgical celebration to share faith will frequently depend upon its unity - a
unity drawn from the liturgical feast or season or from the readings appointed in the lectionary and
artistic unity flowing from the skillful and sensitive selection of options, music and related arts. The
sacred scriptures ought to be the source and inspiration of sound planning, for it is the very nature
of celebration that the gathered assembly hear the saving words and works of the Lord and then
respond in meaningful signs and symbols. Where the readings of the lectionary possess a thematic
unity, the other elements ought to be so arranged as to form a setting for and response to the
message of the Word.
12. The planning team or committee is headed by the priest (celebrant and homilist), for no
community can experience the security of a unified celebration if that unity is not grasped by the
one who presides, as well as by those who have special roles.
The planning team should include those with the knowledge and artistic skills needed in
celebration - men and women trained in music, poetry, and art, and knowledge in current
resources in these areas - men and women sensitive to the present day thirst of so many people
for the riches of scripture, theology and prayer. It is always good to include some general
members of the community who have not taken special roles in the celebrations, so that honest
evaluations can be made.
13. The planning should go beyond the choosing of options, songs, and ministers to the
composition of such texts as the brief introduction, general intercessions, and other appropriate
comments as provided in the General Instruction on the Roman Missal. The manner of inviting the
people to join in a particular song may be as important as the choice of the song itself.
14. In planning pastoral celebrations, the people, the occasion and the celebrant must be taken
15. "The pastoral effectiveness of a celebation depends in great measure on choosing readings,
prayers, and songs which correspond to the needs, spiritual preparation and attitudes of the
participants." (General Instruction, 313) A type of celebration suitable for a youth group may not
fit in a retirement home; a more formal style effective in a parish church may be inappropriate in a
home liturgy. The music used should be within the competence of most of the worshippers. It
should suit their age level, cultural background and level of faith.
16. Variation in faith level raises special problems. Liturgical celebration presupposes a minimum
of bibical knowledge and a deep commitment of living faith. Lacking these conditions, the liturgy
may be forced to become a tool of evangelization. Greater liberty in the choice of music and style
of celebration may be required as the participants are led toward that day when they can share a
growing faith in the whole community. Songs such as the psalms may create problems where faith
is weak. Music, chosen with care, can serve as a bridge to faith as well as an expression of it.
17. The diversity of people present at a parish liturgy gives rise to a further problem. Can the
same parish liturgy be an authentic expression for a grade school girl, her college-age brother,
their married sister with her young family, their parents, their grandparents? Can it satisfy the
theologically and musically educated along with those lacking in training? Can it please those who
seek a more informal style of celebration? The planning team must consider the general makeup of
the total community. Each Christian must keep in mind that to live and worship in community often
demands a personal sacrifice. Everyone must be willing to share likes and dislikes with those
whose ideas and experience may be quite different.
18. Often the problem of diversity can be mitigated by supplementing the parish Sunday
celebration with special celebrations for smaller homogeneous groups. "The need of the faithful of
a particular age level may often be met by a music that can serve as a congenial,
liturgically-oriented expression of prayer." (BCL, April 1966) the music and other options may
then be more easily suited to the particular group celebrating. Nevertheless, it would be out of
harmony with the Lord's wish for unity in his Church if believers were to worship only in such
homogeneous groupings. Celebration in such groups, in which the genuine sense of community is
more readily experienced, can contribute significantly to growth in awareness of the parish as
community, especially when all the faithful participate in the parish Mass on the Lord's day.
19. The same community will want to celebrate in a variety of ways. During the course of the year
the different mysteries of redemption are celebrated at Mass so that in some way they are made
present. Each feast and season has its own spirit and its own music. The penitential occasions
demand more restraint. The great feasts demand more solemnity. Solemnity, however, depends
less on the ornateness of song and magnificence of ceremony than on worthy and religious
20. Generally an assembly or choir will want to sing more on the great feasts like Christmas and
Easter and less in the season through the year. Important events in family and parish life will
suggest fuller programs of song. Sundays will be celebated with variety but always as befits the
day of the Lord. All liturgies, from the very simple to the most ornate, must be truly pastoral and
21. No other single factor affects the liturgy as much as the attitude, style, and bearing of the
celebrant: his sincere faith and warmth as he welcomes the worshipping community; his human
naturalness combined with dignity and seriousness as he breaks the Bread of Word and Eucharist.
22.The style and pattern of song ought to facilitate the effectiveness of a good celebrant. His role
is enhanced when he is capable of rendering some of his parts in song and he should be
encouraged to do so. What he cannot sing well and effectively he ought to recite. If capable, he
ought, for the sake of the people, to rehearse carefully the sung parts that would contribute to their
III. THE PLACE OF MUSIC IN THE CELEBRATION
Music Serves the Expression of Faith
23. Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate its faith, music is of
preeminent importance. As sacred song united to the words it forms an integral part of solemn
liturgy. Yet the function of music is ministerial; it must serve and never dominate. Music should
assist the assembled believers to express and share the gift of faith that is within them and to
nourish and strengthen their interior commitment of faith. It should heighten the texts so that they
speak more fully and more effectively. The quality of joy and enthusiasm which music adds to
community worship cannot be gained in any other way. It imparts a sense of unity to the gathered
assebly and sets the appropriate tone for a particular celebration.
24. Music, in addition to expressing texts, can also unveil a dimension of meaning and feeling, a
communication of ideas and intuitions which words alone cannot yield. This dimension is integral to
the human personality and to our growth in faith. It cannot be ignored if the signs of worship are to
speak to the whole person. Ideally every communal celebration of faith, including funerals and the
sacraments of baptism, confirmation, penance, anointing and matrimony, should include music and
singing. Where the Liturgy of the Hours is able to be celebrated in a community, it too should
25. To determine the value of a given musical element in a liturgical celebration a threefold
judgement must be made: musical, liturgical and pastoral.
THE MUSICAL JUDGEMENT
26. Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good? This judgement is basic and
primary and should be made by competent musicians. Only artistically sound music will be
effective in the long run. To admit the cheap, the trite, the musical cliche often found in popular
songs on the grounds of instant liturgy is to cheapen the liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to
27. Musicians must search for and create music of quality for worship, especially the new musical
settings for the new liturgical texts. They must also do the research needed to find new uses for the
best of the old music. They must explore the repertory of good music used in other communions.
They must find practical means of preserving and using our rich heritage of Latin chants and
In the meantime, however, the words of St. Augustine should not be forgotten: "Do not allow
yourselves to be offended by the imperfect while you strive for the perfect."
28. We do a disservice to musical values, however, when we confuse the judgement of music
with the judgement of musical style. Style and value are two distinct judgements. Good music of
new styles is finding a happy home in the celebrations of today. To chant and polyphony we have
effectively added the chorale hymn, restored responsorial singing to a great extent, and employed
many styles of contemporary composition. Music in the folk idiom is finding acceptance in
eucharistic celebrations. We must judge value within each style.
In modern times the Church has consistently and freely admitted the use of various styles of music
as an aid to liturgical worship. Since the promulgation of the Constitution on the Liturgy and more
especially since the introduction of vernacular languages into the liturgy, there has arisen a more
pressing need for musical compositions in idioms that can be sung by the whole community and
thus further communal participation.
29. The musician has every right to insist that the music be good. But although all liturgical music
should be good music, not all good music is suitable to the liturgy. The musical judgement is basic
but not final. There remain the liturgical and pastoral judgements.
THE LITURGICAL JUDGMENT
30. The nature of the liturgy itself will help to determine what kind of music is called for, what
parts are to be preferred for singing and who is to sing them.
31. The choice of sung parts, the balance between them and the style of musical setting should
reflect the relative importance of the parts of the Mass (or other service) and the nature of each
part. Thus elaborate settings of the entrance song, or Lord Have Mercy or Glory to God may
make the proclamation of the word seem unimportant; and an overly elaborate song during the
preparation of the gifts with a spoken Holy Holy Holy may make the eucharistic prayer seem less
32. Dose the music express and interpret the text correctly and make it more meaningful? Is the
form of the text respected? In making these judgements the principal classes of texts must be kept
in mind: proclamations, acclamations, psalms and hymns, and prayers. Each has a specific function
which must be served by the music chosen for the text.
In most instances there is an official liturgical text approved by the episcopal conference.
"Vernacular text set to music composed in earlier periods may be used in liturgical texts."(sic,
NCCB, November 1967) As noted elsewhere, criteria have been provided for the texts which
may replace the processional chants of the Mass. In these cases and in the choice of all
supplementary music, the text must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they
should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources.
33. In liturgical celebretions each person who has an office to perform should do all of, but only,
those parts which pertain to that office by the nature of the rite and the principles of liturgy. Special
musical concern must be given to the role of the whole assembly, the cantor, the choir, and the
34. Music for everyone must be within the performance ability of those who gather. The whole
assembly must be comfortable and secure with what is to be done in order to celebrate well.
35. While there is no place in the liturgy for virtuosity for its own sake, artistry is valued, and an
individual singer can effectively lead the assembly, attractively proclaim the Word of God in the
psalm sung between the readings, and take his or her part in other responsorial singing. Especially
when there is no possibility of setting up even a small choir, provision should be made for one or
two trained singers. "The singer will present some simpler musical setting, with the people taking
part, and can lead and support the faithful as far as is needed. The presence of such a singer is
desirable even in churches which have a choir for those celebrations in which the choir cannot take
part, but which may fittingly be performed with some solemnity and therefore with singing." (1967,
Instruction on Music In the Liturgy). Although a cantor cannot enhance the service of worship in
the same way as a choir, a trained and competent cantor can perform an important ministry by
leading the assembly in common sacred song and responsorial singing.
36. A well-trained choir adds beauty and solemnity to the liturgy and also assists and encourages
the singing of the whole assembly. The Second Vatical Council, in speaking of the choir, stated
emphatically: "Choirs must be diligently promoted (so that) the whole body of the faithful may be
able to contribute that active participation that is rightly theirs." (Constitution on the Liturgy, 114).
At times the choir, within the assembly of the faithful and as part of it, will assume the role of
leadership, while at other times it will retain its own distinctive ministry. This means that the choir
will lead the people in sung prayer, by alternating or reinforcing the sacred song of the assembly or
by enhancing it with the addition of musical elaboration. At other times in the course of liturgical
celebration, the choir alone will sing works whose musical demands enlist and challenge its
The Organist and Other Instrumentalists
37. Singing is not the only kind of music suitable for liturgical celebration. Music performed on the
organ and other instruments can stimulate feelings of joy and contemplation at appropriate times.
This can be done effectively at the following points:
an instrumental prelude
a soft background to a spoken psalm
at the preparation of the gifts, in place of singing
during portions of the communion rite
In the dioceses of the United States, musical instruments other than the organ may be used in
liturgical services, provided that they are played in a manner that is suitable to public worship. This
decision deliberately refrains from singling out specific instruments. Their use depends on
circumstances, the nature of the community, etc.
38. The PROPER PLACING of the organ and choir according to the arrangement and acoustics
of the church will facilitate celebration. Practically speaking, the choir must be near the director
and the organ (both console and sound). The choir ought to be able to perform without too much
distraction; the acoustics ought to give a lively presence of sound in the choir area and allow both
tone and word to reach everyone present with clarity. Visually it is desirable that the choir appear
to be part of the worshipping community, yet a part which serves in a unique way. Locating the
organ console too far away from the area of the assembly cause a time lag which tends to make
the singing drag unless the organist is trained to cope with it. A location near the front pews will
facilitate the singing of the assembly.
THE PASTORAL JUDGEMENT
39. The pastoral judgement governs the use and function of every element of celebration. Ideally
this judgement is made by the planning team or committee. It is the judgement that must be made
in this particular situation, in these concrete circumstances. Does music in the celebration enable
these people to express their faith, in this place, in this age, in this culture?
40. The instruction of the Congregation for Divine Worship, issued September 5, 1971,
encourages episcopal conferences to consider not only liturgical music's suitability to the time and
circumstances of the celebration, "but alsothe needs of the faithful who will sing them. All means
must be used to promote singing by the people. New forms should be used, which are adapted to
the different mentalities and to modern tastes." The document adds that the music and the
instruments "should correspond to the sacred character of the celebration and the place of
41. A musician may judge that a certain composition or style of composition is good music, but
that musical judgement really says nothing about wheather and how this music is to be used in this
celebration. The signs of the celebration must be accepted and received as meaningful for a
genuinely human faith experience for these specific worshippers. This pastoral judgement can be
aided by sociological studies of the people who make up the community: their age, culture and
education. These factors influence the effectiveness of the liturgical signs, including music. No set
of rubrics or regulations of itself will ever achieve a truly pastoral celebration of the sacramrntal
rites. Such regulations must always be applied with a pastoral concern for the given woshipping
IV. GENERAL CONSIDERATION
ON LITURGICAL STRUCTURE
42. Those who are responsible for planning the music for eucharistic celebartions in accord with
the three judgements above must have a clear understanding of the structure of the liturgy. They
must be aware of what is the primary importance. They should know the nature of each of the
parts of the liturgy and the relationship of each part to the overall rhythm of the liturgical action.
43. The Mass is made up of the liturgy of the word and the liturgy of the Eucharist. These two
parts are so closely connected as to from one act of worship. The table of the Lord is the table of
God's Word and Christ's Body, and from it the faithful are instructed and refreshed. In addition,
the Mass has introductory and concluding rites. The introductory and concluding rites are
The Introductory Rites
44. The parts preceding the liturgy of the word, namely the entrance, greeting, penitential rite,
Gloria, and opening prayer, have the character of introduction and preparation. The purpose of
these rites is to help the assembled people become a worshipping community and to prepare them
for listening to to God's Word and celebrating the Eucharist. Of these parts the entrance song and
the opening prayer is primary. All else is secondary.
If Mass begins with the sprinkling of the people with blessed water, the penitential rite is omitted;
this may be done at all Sunday Masses. Similarly, if the psalms of part of the Liturgy of the Hours
precede Mass, the introductory rite is abbreviated in accord with the General Instruction on the
office of prayer.
THE LITURGY OF THE WORD
45. Readings from scripture are the heart of the liturgy of the word. The homily, responsorial
psalm, profession of faith, and general intercessions develop and complete it. In the readings, God
speaks to his people and nourishes their spirit; Christ is present thruogh his word. The homily
explains the readings. The chants and the profession of faith comprise the people's acceptance of
God's Word. It is of primary importance that the people hear God's message of love, digest it with
the aid of psalms, silence and the homily, and respond, involving themselves in the great covenant
of love and redemption. All else is secondary.
THE EUCHARISTIC PRAYER
47. The eucharistic prayer, a prayer of thanksgiving and sanctification, is the center of the entire
celebration. By an introductory dialogue the priest invites the people to lift their hearts to God in
praise and thanks; he unites them with himself in the prayer he addresses in their name to the
Father through Jesus Christ. The meaning of the prayer is that the whole assembly joins Christ in
acknowledging the works of God and offering the sacrifice. As a statement of faith of the local
assembly it is affirmed and ratified by all present through acclamations of faith: the first acclamation
or Sanctus, the memorial acclamation, and the Great Amen.
THE COMMUNION RITE
48. The eating and drinking of the Body and Blood of the Lord in a paschal meal is the climax of
our eucharistic celebration. It is prepared for by several rites: the Lord's Prayer with embolism and
doxology, the rite of peace, breaking of bread (and commingling) during the "Lamb of God,"
private preparation of the priest and showing of the eucharistic bread. The eating and drinking is
accompanied by a song expressing the unity of the communicants and is followed by a time of
prayer after communion. Those elements are primary which show forth signs that the first fruit of
the Eucharist is the unity of the Body of Christ, Christians loving Christ through loving one another.
The principal texts to accompany or express the sacred action are the Lord's Prayer, the song
during the communion procession, and the prayer after communion.
The Concluding Rite
49. The concluding rite consists of the priest's greeting and blessing, which is sometimes
expanded by the prayer over the people or another solemn form, and the dismissal which sends
each member of the assembly to do good works, praising and blessing the Lord.
A recessional song is optional. The greeting ("The Lord be with you . . ."), blessing, dismissal and
recessional song or instrumental music ideally form one continuous action which may culminate in
the priest's personal greetings and conversations at the church door.
V. APPLICATION OF THE PRINCIPLES OF
TO MUSIC IN EUCHARISTIC WORSHIP
A. GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS
50. Many and varied musical patterns are now possible within the liturgical structure. Musicians
and composers need to respond creatively and responsibly to the challenge of developing new
music for today's celebrations.
51. While it is possible to make technical distinctions in the forms of Mass - all the way from the
Mass in which nothing is sung to the Mass in which every thing is sung - such distinctions are of
little significance in themselves; almost unlimited combinations of sung and recited parts may be
chosen. The important decision is whether or not this or that part may or should be sung in this
particular celebration and under these specific circumstances. The former distinction between
ordinary and proper parts of the Mass with regard to musical settings and distribution of roles is
no longer retained. For this reason the musical settings of the past are usually not helpful models
for composing truly liturgical contemporary pieces.
52. Two patterns used to serve as foundation for the creating and planning of liturgy. One was
"High Mass" with its five movements, sung Ordinary and fourfold sung Proper. The other was the
four-hymn "Low Mass" format that grew out of the Instruction on Sacred Music of 1958. The
fuor-hymn pattern developed in the context of a Latin Mass which could accommodate song in
the vernacular only at certain points. It is now outdated and the Mass has more than a dozen parts
that may be sung as well as numerous options for the celebrant. Each of these parts must be
understood according to its proper nature and function.
B. SPECIFIC APPLICATIONS
1. THE ACCLAMATIONS
53. The acclamations are shouts of joy which arise from the whole assembly as forceful and
meaningful assents to God's Word and Action. They are important because they make some of
the most significant moments of the Mass stand out (gospel, eucharistic prayer, Lord's Prayer). It
is of their nature that they be rhythmically strong, melodically appealing and affirmative. The
people should know the acclamations by heart in order to sing them spontaneously. The challenge
to the composer and people alike is one of variety without confusion.
54. In the eucharistic celebration there are five acclamations which ought to be sung even at
Masses in which little else is sung:
Alleluia (Gospel Acclamation)
Doxology to Lord's Prayer
55. This acclamation of paschal joy is both a reflection upon the Word of God proclaimed in the
Liturgy and a preparation for the gospel. All stand to sing it. After the cantor or choir sings the
alleluia(s), the people customarily repeat them. Then a proper verse is sung by the cantor or choir,
and all repeat the alleluia(s). If not sung, the alleluia may be omitted. In its place, a moment of
silent reflection may be observed. During Lent a brief verse of acclamatory character replaces the
alleluia and is sung in the same way.
"Holy Holy Holy Lord"
56. This is the people's acclamation of praise concluding the preface of the eucharistic prayer.
We join the whole communion of saints in acclaiming the Lord. Settings which add harmony or
descants on solemn feasts and occasions are appropriate, but since this chant belongs to priest
and people, the choir parts must facilitate and make effective the people's parts.
The Memorial Acclamations
57. We support one another's faith in the paschal mystery, the central mystery of our belief. This
acclamation is properly a memorial of the Lord's suffering and glorification with an expression of
faith in his coming, but variety in text and music is desirable.
The Great Amen
58. The worshippers assent to the eucharistic prayer and make it their own in the Great Amen.
To be most effective, this Amen may be repeated or augmented. Choirs may harmonize and
expand upon the people's acclamation.
Doxology to the Lord's Prayer
59. These words of praise, "For the Kingdom, the power and the glory is yours, now and
forever," are fittingly sung by everyone especially when the Lord's Prayer is sung. Here too the
choir may enhance the acclamation with harmony.
2. THE PROCESSIONAL SONGS
60. The two processional chants - the entrance song and the communion song - are very
important for a sense of community. Proper antiphons are given to be used with appropriate psalm
verses. These may be replaced by the chants of the Simple Gradual, by other psalms and
antiphons or by other fitting songs.
The entrance (Gathering) song
61. The entrance/gathering song should create an atmosphere of celebration. It serves the
function of putting the assembly in the proper frame of mind for listening to the Word of God. It
helps people to become conscious of themselves as a worshipping community. The choice of texts
for the gathering song should not conflict with these purposes. In general, during the most
important seasons of the Church year (Easter, Lent, Christmas and Advent), it is preferable that
most songs used at the entrance be seasonal in nature.
The Communion Song
62. The communion song should foster a sense of unity. It should be simple and not demand great
effort. It gives expression to the joy of unity in the body of Christ and the fulfillment of the mystery
being celebrated. Most benediction hymns, by reason of their concentration on adoration rather
than on communion, are not acceptabe. In general, during the most important season of the
Church year, Easter, Lent, Christmas and Advent, it is preferable that most of the songs used at
the communion be seasonal in nature. During the remainder of the Church year, however, topical
songs may be used during the communion procession, provided these texts do not conflict with the
paschal character of every Sunday.
3. RESPONSORIAL PSALMS
63.This unique and very important song is the response to the first lesson. The new lectionary lists
900 refrains in its determination to match the content of the psalms to the theme of the reading.
Further life is offered to the liturgy of the Word if, between the first two readings, a cantor sings
the psalm and everyone offers the response. Since most groups cannot learn a new response
every week, seasonal refrains are offered in the lectionary itself and in the Simple Gradual. Other
psalms and refrains may also be used, including psalms arranged in responsorial from, metrical and
similar versions of psalms, provided they are used in accordance with the principles of the Simple
Gradual and are selected in harmony with the liturgical season, feast or occasion. The option of
choosing texts which are not from the psalter is not extended to the chants between these
readings. To facilitate reflection, there may be a brief period of silence between the first reading
and the responsorial psalm.
4. ORDINARY CHANTS
64. The fourth category of liturgical music is that of the ordinary chants which now may be treated
as individual choices. One or more may be sung, the others spoken. The pattern may vary
according to pastoral judgement.
Lord Have Mercy
65. This short litany was traditionally a prayer of praise to the risen Christ. He has been raised
and made "Lord" and we beg him to show his loving kindness. The sixfold Kyrie of the new Order
of Mass may be sung in other ways, for example, as a ninefold chant. It may also be incorporated
in the penitential rite, with invocations addressed to Christ. When sung, the setting should be brief
and simple so as not to give undue importance to the introductory rites. "Glory to God"
66. This ancient hymn of prise is now given in a new poetic and singable translation. It may be
introduced by celebrant, cantor or choir. The resticted use of the Gloria, i.e. only on Sundays
outside Advent and Lent and on solemnities and feasts, emphasizes its special and solemn
character. The new text offers many opportunities for alternation of choir and people in poetic
parallelisms. The Glory to God also provides an opportunity for the choir to sing alone on festive
67. This prayer begins our immediate preparation for sharing in the Paschal Banquet. The
traditional text is retained and may be set to music by composers with the same freedom as in
other parts or the Ordinary. All settings must provide for the participation of the priest and
Lamb of God
68. The Agnus Dei is a litany-song to accompany the breaking of the bread in preparation for
communion. The invocation and response may be repeated as the action demands. The final
response is always "grant us peace." Unlike the "Holy Holy Holy Lord" and the Lord's Prayer, the
Lamb of God is not necessarily a song of the whole assembly. Hence it may be sung by the choir,
though the people should generally make the response.
Profession of Faith
69. This is a communal profession of faith in which "...the people who have heard the Word of
God in the lesson and in the homily may assent and respond to it, and may renew in themselves
the rule of faith as they begin to celebrate the Eucharist." (General Instruction, 43) It is usually
preferable that the Creed be spoken in declamatory fashion rather than sung. If it is sung, it might
more effectively take the form of a simple musical declamation rather than that of an extensive and
involved musical structure.
5. SUPPLEMENTARY SONGS
70. This category includes songs for which there are no specified texts nor any requirement that
there should be a spoken or sung text. Here the choir may play a fuller role for there is no question
of usurping the people's parts. This category includes the following:
During the Preparation of the Gifts
71. Music may accopany the procession and preparation of the gifts. It is not always necessary
or desirable. Organ or instrumental music is also fitting at this time. When song is used, note that
the song need not speak of bread and wine or of offering. The proper function of this song is to
accompany and celebrate the communal aspects of the procession. The text, therefore can be any
appropriate song of praise or of rejoicing in keeping with the season. The antiphons of the Romen
Gradual, not included in the new Roman Missal, may be used with psalm vocals. Instrumental
interludes can effectively accompany the procession and preparation of the gifts and thus keep this
part of the Mass in proper perspective relative to the eucharistic prayer that follows.
The Psalm or Song after Communion
72. The singing of a psalm or hymn of praise after the distribution of communion is optional. If the
organ is played or the choir sings during the distribution of communion, a song by the whole
assembly may well provide a fitting expression of oneness in the Eucharistic Lord. Since no
particular text is specified, there is ample room for creativity.
The Recessional Song
73. The recessional song has never been an official part of the rite; hence musicians are free to
plan music which provides an appropriate closing to the liturgy. A song is one possible choice.
However, if the people have sung a song after communion, it may be advisable to use only an
instrumental or choir recessional.
74. Litanies are often more effective when sung. The repetition of melody and rhythm draws the
people together in a strong and unified response. In addition to the "Lamb of God" already
mentioned, the general intercessions (prayer of the faithful) offer an opportunity for litanical singing,
as do the invocations of Christ in the penitential rite.
PROGRESS AND NEW DIRECTIONS
75. Many new patterns and combinations of song are emerging in eucharistic celebrations. The
most common pattern is the singing of an entrance song, alleluia, Holy Holy Holy Lord, memorial
acclamation, Great Amen, and a song at communion (or a song after communion). Other parts are
added in varying quantities, depending on season, degree of solemnity and musical resources.
Choirs often add one or more of the following: a song befor Mass, a song during the preparation
of the gifts, the "Glory to God" on special occasions, additional communion songs or a song after
communion or a recessional. They may also enhance the entrance song of the assembly with
descants, harmony, and antiphonal arrangements. Harmony is desirable when it gives breadth and
power to the unison voices of people without confusing them.
76. Flexibility reigns supreme. The musician with a sense of artistry and a deep knowledge of the
rhythm of the liturgical action will be able to combine the many options into an effective whole. For
the composer and performer alike there is an unprecedented challenge. They must enhance the
liturgy with new creations of variety and richness and with those compositions from the
time-honored treasury of liturgical music which can still serve today's celebrations. Like the wise
householder in Matthew's Gospel, the church musician must be one "who can produce from his
store both the new and the old."
77. The Church in the United States today needs the services of many qualified musicians as song
leaders, organists, instrumentalists, cantors, choir directors, and composers. We have been
blessed with many generous musicians who have given years of service even with meger financial
compensation. In order that the art many grow and face the challenges of today and tomorrow,
every diocese and parish should establish policies for hiring and paying living wages to competent
musicians. Full-time musicans employed by the Church ought to be on the same salary scale as
teachers with similar qualifications and workloads.
78. Likewise, in order that composers and publishers recive just compensation for their work,
those engaged in parish music programs and those responsible for budgets must often be
reminded that it is illegal and immoral to reproduce by any means either text or music or both of
copyrighted materials without written permission of the copyright owner. The fact that these
duplicated materials are not for sale but for private use does not alter the legal or moral situation of
VI. MUSIC IN SACRAMENTAL CELEBRATIONS
79. While music has traditionally been part of the celebration of weddings, funerals and
confirmation, the communal celebration of baptism, anointing and penance is only recently
restored. The renewed rituals, following the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, provide for and
encourage communal celebrations, which according to the capabilities of the people gathered,
should involve song.
80. The rite of baptism is best begun by an entrance song; the liturgy of the word is enhanced by
a sung psalm and/or alleluia. Where the processions to and from the place of the liturgy of the
word take some time, they should be accompanied by music. Above all, the acclamations - the
affirmation of faith by the people, the acclamation immediately after the baptism, the acclamation
upon completion of the rite - should be sung by the full assembly.
81. Whenever rites like the anointing of the sick or the sacrament of penance are celebrated
communally, music is important. The general structure is intrductory rite, liturgy of the word,
sacrament and dismissal. The introductory rite and liturgy of the word follow the pattern of the
Mass. At the time of the sacrament an acclamation or song by all the people is desirable.
82. Confirmation and marriage are most often celebrated within a Mass. The norms given above
pertain. Great care should be taken, especially at marriages, that all the people are involved at the
important moments of the celebration, that the same general principles of planning worship and
judging music are employed as at other liturgies, and above all, that the liturgy is a prayer for all
present, not a theatrical production.
83. Music becomes particularly important in the new burial rites. Without it the themes of hope
and resurrection are very difficult to express. The entrance song, the acclamations, and the song of
farewell or commendation are of primary importance for the whole assembly. The choral and
instrumental music should fit the paschal mystery theme.
84. We find today a vital interest in the Mass as prayer and here lies the principle of synthesis.
When everyone with one accord strives to make the Mass a prayer, a sharing and celebration of
Faith, then there will be unity - many styles of music, a broad choice of instruments, a wide variety
of forms of celebration, but a single purpose: that people of faith may proclaim and share that faith
in prayer and that Christ may grow among us.