At odds with my priest over doing chant mass chant mass...

My husband and I do the music for one of the masses at our parish. I am a classically trained soprano, he’s a classically trained pianist, we both have degrees in music, though not any formal liturgical training because there simply isn’t any available in our area. He’s a cradle Catholic, I’m a convert. Of the three masses, we tend to be the most traditional and “old school”, even though we’re the youngest musicians. Anyways…

We change mass parts a couple times a year, according to season, as do many other churches in our area. In the past, when we were new to doing the music, we tried to do the Latin chant mass… it was not recieved well. This year, a few years later, we decided to do the chant mass in English for Lent, which is in our missal, with the idea of “getting back to basics”, thinking that eventually we could bring in the Latin once the parish more comfortable with the chant. Even easier during Lent because there’s no Gloria. We did not teach it before mass last night (for Ash Wednesday) because we thought at least some people would be familiar with it, and it’s easy and slow enough that the rest could catch on. Well… hardly anyone sang. Not that we usually get a huge amount of participation anyways. Last night was not our usual crowd, and there were a lot of visitors, which may have had something to do with it. After the mass, our priest came to talk to us. He was upset that people weren’t participating, and pretty much pinned it on us and our music selection (this isn’t a new thing; if they aren’t singing he usually blames the musicians, a favorite reason being “it’s too high”, when everything we do is out of the hymnal…). He kept saying “you have to do stuff they know, if you don’t, they won’t sing. If you keep picking things they don’t know, they’ll get used to not singing and just give up.” I tried to explain that we do try very hard to pick songs they are familiar with, and that we feel the chant mass is something every Catholic should know, that the Pope is trying to bring back the traditional music… he continued to not be very supportive and repeat himself. At one point I talked over him when he was repeating the same points, completely not meaning to be rude, just a bad habit of interrupting, and he snapped at me… I felt completely awful. I just felt so attacked and not supported at all. I don’t want to disrespect my priest, of course not. I would understand his reaction if we were doing something new and crazy and contemporary or whatever, but this is the basic of basics, not even in Latin but in English… I don’t understand why he’s not supportive. True, the chant mass hasn’t been done in this church in who knows how long, but isn’t that all the better reason to try to bring it back? He finally agreed to let us try again on Sunday provided we spend time teaching it before mass. I’m just so frustrated. I’m ashamed that I disprespected my priest, but I still feel that we’re right… I don’t even feel like facing him at this point, and wonding if we should just give in and go back to doing Mass of Creation.

I’d appreciate others’ perspectives on this.

It does not appear to be a matter of right or wrong. It seems to be a matter of communication and planning.

I suggest that in the future you have music planned out well in advance and either meet with the priest or submit something in writing and get agreement/approval beforehand. So, if you wanted to introduce new things on Ash Wednesday, the time to have presented that to the pastor was in January. It was not a good idea to simply spring it on everyone at Mass. Included in that communication plan is how to communicate it to the congregation to prepare them.

You assumed people knew it. You assumed people would join in. You assumed because it was in the hymnal that meant something to someone other than you. As a person in the pews, I can assure you it does not. Also Ash Wednesday is one of the highest attendance days for lapsed, inactive, and infrequent Catholics along with non-Catholics. Might have been better to communicate it ahead of time or to stick with an old standard.

It sounds like your priest is right.

I have led music ministry for a few decades and worked with numerous priests.

If the people are not singing it is the fault of the music leaders. You can’t push people - you have to invite and guide them gently.

Also, you cannot introduce unfamiliar music at a mass like Ash Wednesday - it just will not work.

And if the priest doesn’t like your music selection he is right.

Apart from that;)

Kudos for trying and for your efforts.:thumbsup: Don’t give up, but follow the lead of your priest. And maybe give him a list weeks in advance of particular seasons and special liturgies of the music you would like to introduce/go back to so he doesn’t feel hijacked.

Remember the music is there to support the liturgy, and the leader of the liturgy is the priest.

Not to pick on you, but…

This almost sounds like “I’d listen to what my priest tells me if I thought he was right, but I think he’s wrong, so why won’t he listen to me?”… :shrug:

Check out the thread about Bishop Sample’s pastoral letter on music…then share it with your pastor! Although Bishop Sample is likely not your own bishop, nevertheless he has many true and useful things to say.

I’m attending a nearby parish that is doing the chanted Mass in English. I’m leaving my parish because the electric guitar, drum trap set, and pop style music has finally pushed me over the edge. I’ve tried for many years to hang on, but things have continually gotten worse and worse. (This is not a criticism or judgement of those involved, I realize that they are sincere - it’s just that they are also sincerely misled).

Anyway, when I started attending the nearby parish about 9 months ago, they were just learning the chant-style sung Mass, and it was pretty sorry sounding . However, now it sounds GREAT and has become second nature to everyone! It’s printed in the missal/hymn book, so it’s not like there is nothing to follow along with. Now, just about EVERYBODY SINGS! FAR MORE than the number that were participating in the secular pop-style music in my own parish.

To be honest, hardly anyone sang or participated in the secular/pop thing anyway. It just sounded loud because of the amps!

You are on the right track. Unfortunately, our many of our priests have had an abysmal formation. I have a feeling that they will soon be corrected.

The chant-style Mass is so wonderful, as it is an integral part of the Mass, and requires participation. The other one was simply “songs” tacked on here and there for “inspiration” (?) and, quite frankly, a venue for the band to “perform”.

Nessie, perhaps you might consider incorporating just one Latin chant hymn into the Mass every now and then, once or twice a month. That’s what they do at the parish (OF) that I occasionally attend, and it seems to work out fine (I usually attend an EF Mass, though).

Sometimes the Latin is done on Sunday at the offeratory, when parishioners aren’t likely to sing as much anyway. You might also consider choosing songs that maybe the older folks in the parish might remember from the old days. At least that way you might have at least a little participation

I hope every Parish is required to offer the Tridentine Mass complete with chant. The Novus Ordo feels too protestant to me. I know that it can be done reverently and that it is a valid form of Mass, but it just doesn’t feel that way to me. I know a lot of Catholics would be upset if the TLM came back in a big way, but boo hoo. Latin is not only our “rite”, it is our heritage. We should never let go of the traditions that kept our rite so strong throughout the ages. We’ve lost so much by switching to english and abandoning traditional reverence for this new style Mass. Priests don’t even offer the Mass ad orientem anymore. It’s so discouraging. I wish there was an FSSP parish near me. Or some Eastern Catholic Churches.

P.S. If the priest is not behind you, it probably won’t work. Things like this have to start very small. Maybe w/ just one part of the Mass done in chant - say, the Kyrie or the Agnus Dei (in English, of course, for your parish). Eventually, add other parts. It’s too overwhelming for non-musicians to be expected to have such a big change all at once.

Of course they aren’t. No priest is “required” to say the Latin Mass.
And the efficacy of the mass does not depend on our personal feelings for a particular valid form, or whether we like the music.

What does this have to do with the OP?

The OF Mass does not feel “Protestant” if done right with chant.

That said, I belong to a small schola. Chant is all we do. When we were based at one parish all the time we did meet this sort of hostility. Now we chant once a month at different parishes and we do Vespers in chant at the cathedral once during Advent and once during Lent, plus Lauds on Holy Saturday.

When we chant, it’s presented as a “special occasion” and well-received. Many can chant the Pater, the ordinary from the Mass of the Angels and other simple settings.

Since the OP is based at the same parish, I’d go easy. Maybe try to chant one piece with special traditional meaning during each season, such as Veni Creator at Pentecost, or maybe a traditional introit such as Ad te levavi first Sunday of Advent.

Create a hunger but don’t overwhelm. Maybe use a hymn like Veni Creator at the Offertory or as a recessional.

It’s a good sign that your priest said that you can try again on Sunday. Do you think that maybe you could ask some of the older Catholics, who may be sympathetic to Latin chant, about what Latin hymns they remember from the old days? They can even look through the hymnal, because I think that most of them are still there. Is there a board at your parish, up near the sanctuary, which lists the hymns to be sung at Mass? I realize that some parishes don’t have these boards anymore.

We have a liturgy committee, of which the musicians are a part. We always work with the direction of the priest. All groups are doing the Chant Mass in English for Lent, but this is not new to the parishioners. Whever we have had new Mass parts music we have spent several weeks going through the new parts with the parishioners so they will feel comfortable singing. We want to do our best to encourage congregational singing. I know the times when I am sitting in the pew and not leading music, I don’t feel welcomed when unfamiliar music is being sung.

I would say do some preparation for the Chant mass, if your priest is okay with it, then slowly introduce a song or two a week to teach the people how it goes. We included in our announcements any plans to learn new parts so that there was open communication and no surprises. Now we include at each mass an announcement by the Lector about which mass parts will be used for that mass.

Some of the “highest” and most “traditional” liturgies I have been to have been “protestant” - the Anglican Catholic Church of Canada;)

As it the priest who is ultimately responsible and have to answer for the caring of soul in your parish I would listen to him

I agree with others to introduce chant slowly, maybe one at a time, especially when a parish hasn’t done Latin or chant in many years. I found that is usually more successful than just springing it all on a congregation at once.

In regards to your priest, I understand feeling badly for being disrespectful towards him or anyone. There was probably a communication problem on both of your parts. Meetings with the priest prior to each liturgical season can be very helpful to discuss what you would like to try to introduce and do and for the priest to express what he’d like to see for the liturgy. You can even write up a plan of how you’d like to implement the new music and encourage the singing. I think the priest has to understand that most people will not be able to pick up a new mass immediately. It takes a few times. But the priest is also right in that the new mass probably shouldn’t have been introduced at Ash Wednesday and that having all new music at mass can be discouraging. I disagree that you can’t choose any new music. All the music that parish knows now was new once and they had to learn it. Just have the congregation learn little by little so that they don’t feel overwhelmed.

I don’t know your priest, but bringing up articles and documents to support your reasoning isn’t always the best way to make your case. I know that some don’t like that and will even harden themselves to their position even more because it could look to them that you don’t trust or respect their own intelligence and leadership (even if that is not what you meant). Another thing to be aware of is that some priests just don’t like or want to do chant, especially chant in Latin. I’ve worked for some and although they are wonderful priests in other ways, they are of a certain generation which are against anything outside of the vernacular or anything that sounds like the “old ways”. Because they are essentially your boss, you have to do what your boss requests. Of course, discussion is fine, but he makes the final decision and you have to follow through with it.

God bless you.
Most people do not have your background is music and so will be slow and reluctant no matter what you do. Some people, in fact, will never sing period. But for some like me, marginal what helps is something simple and in my limited range. Even if it is new I will give it a try. Now how is this priest when it comes to singing Mass parts? It sounds like he is not that good at it or interested and so wants to stay with the congregation in a vary narrow safe familiar zone.

My advice: make it easy. If something is more difficult give it to a schola or soloist.

I understand you perfectly. You have to remember that your priest has probably been brain washed to oppose Gregorian Chant or polyphohy from the get go and he probably has a lot of pressure from the Bishop to get the people to " take part. " What he may not realize or refuses to admit is that most of the music in the typical hymnals is just awful.

You may not remember but the Bishops had a horrible time getting the people to switch from Latin chant and polyphony when the big changes came through in the 70’s. Very odd that they corresponded with Roe vs Wade time line? English was litteraly shoved down our throats, so was the " new " mass. It was a mess for a long, long time.

Just do what your priest wants, only God can change him - an maybe not even God. Remember he is under lots of stress these days.

Have you considered swithching to the Latin Rite? Not available everywhere but that may be a better fit. Linus

This is so true. I think a lot of people are thinking of evangelical or fundamentalist congregations, but I can say that some of the more traditional services or liturgies I have worked for as a ringer in their choirs or soloist, etc. have been the main-line protestant churches. There is an Anglican parish in our city where the liturgies are dubbed more Catholic than the Catholic masses. When you go to one of them, you’d think you were attending some high-church, very traditional Catholic mass, with communion at the altar rail, chant, Catholic motets, etc.

Music is a hot issue.
If our choir mistress says something to us as the choir about a selection choice we all know better than to challenge her if we think different because she sees red. We all sit there very quiet and sadly she doesn’t register the quiet silence.

She I believe does email the hymns to the priest and if he has any suggestions etc, likewise.

If the priest has a particular choice then yes, as music director or whatever your title is, it is upto you to accommodate them. Though as priest and as director neither of you are not there to give your preferences. In fairness to our choir mistress she does know what the congregation as a whole like, because they tell her. She does try to make sure any requests are actively included. She tells us as a choir when anyone has complained etc, without naming names, though we don’t need the names these days, we know who by the comments that are made.

But none of the hymn selections are done through her preference alone. It is in with what the congregation as a whole like. If a priest decides he wants input then he does get the input. It not about her or your choice. It about what the congregation wants too.

May be someone had complained to him about whatever it was that was happening and he was passing that complaint on and perhaps you took it personally, as indeed so would any of us and our choir mistress. You could in the next day or two, swallow your pride and tell the priest you are sorry on your part and reassure him your hymn selection is done on the bases of what was sung last year and years gone by for that service as our Choir Mistress does keep a record of all of that since she has to for the music licence people. Reassure him too that you are not picking your favourites and it was unfortunate that a lot of people were visitors and didnt know any of it.

For the record our congregation don’t like changes either. When its a complete change choir pratice is open for them to come along and learn it after we are familiarish with it. But they don’t like changes and don’t like this and that but they do say it to the choir mistress and possibly to the priest but definately to the choir mistress.

Your priest was possibly just passing on comments and hoped you understood enough. You can redeem the situation by swallowing your own pride though hard to do and arrange a time with him you can go through stuff and find out what he is wanting etc. Your background training is of no relevance to how you select what music. You do need some litergy understanding and if you know he is going to cover something in his sermon about the Gospel or one of the readings you can go along way to help people remember it by including that hymn, it works for me when it does happen. But not very often because priests don’t usually give away their sermons before hand but you could ask him to choose a hymn may be relevent of that Sunday to back up his Sermon.

But music is a hot topic and priests do have their opinions and you are going to have to learn to work with his opinion since he does have litergy knowledge. How come you don’t have any? I don’t have any training but can work out which hymn for which Sunday by gong on the recommendations in the book etc and knowing my hymns well enough and a bit of research what is next Sunday. I been going for about 25 years. It don’t take a course to understand the connections. Just knowledge and you got internet access. It not a lot to work out which hymn for that week:thumbsup:

Work with your priest on this even if it means swallowing a little pride. The job isn’t about you but about the music of that church. May be that helps a little. Though our choir mistress sees red too in your shoes…:thumbsup:

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