Contemporary Christian Music

I am inspired by so many of the contemporary Christian songs that are available now. Is there a likelihood that some of these songs may find their way into Mass or other Catholic events? In some cases, I know that the people who wrote the songs or the singers are Catholic. While I love the old traditional music, I also like the newer style. It would be nice to see more of a mix. Agree or disagree?

I would not agree. The problem is that music for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass needs to be solemn, dignified, beautiful, majestic and transcendent, not trendy and hip. While there are certainly new compositions that can be added, we should examine what then-Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger wrote in his book, Spirit of the Liturgy, on the subject of music in the Mass:

On the one hand, there is pop music, which is certainly no longer supported by the people in the ancient sense (populus). It is aimed at the phenomenon of the masses, is industrially produced, and ultimately has to be described as a cult of the banal. “Rock”, on the other hand, is the expression of elemental passions, and at rock festivals it assumes a cultic character, a form of worship, in fact, in opposition to Christian worship. People are, so to speak, released from themselves by the emotional shock of rhythm, noise, and special lighting effects. However, in the ecstasy of having all their defenses torn down, the participants sink, as it were, beneath the elemental force of the universe. The music of the Holy Spirit’s sober inebriation seems to have little chance when self has become a prison, the mind is a shackle, and breaking out from both appears as a true promise of redemption that can be tasted at least for a few moments.

Now, match this up with with what the late Pope John Paul II wrote in his Chirograph on Sacred Music:

  1. In following the course of the teachings of Saint Pius X and of the Second Vatican Council, it is above all necessary to emphasize that music destined for the sacred rites must have as its point of reference sanctity: it in fact “will be the more holy the more closely it is united to the liturgical action”. Precisely because of this, “not all that which stands outside the temple (profanum) is fit to cross the threshold”, sagely affirmed my venerated Predecessor Paul VI, commenting upon a decree of the Council of Trent and clarified that “if it does not at once possess the sense of prayer, of dignity and beauty, music – instrumental and vocal – by this fact is precluded from admission into the sacred and religious realm”.

On the other hand, the category of “sacred music” today has undergone such a broadening of meaning as to include repertoire that cannot enter into the celebration without violating the spirit and the norms of the Liturgy itself.

The reform effected by Saint Pius X had specifically in view the purification of Church music from the contamination of profane theatrical music, which in many countries had polluted liturgical music repertoire and praxis. This is also to be considered attentively in our times, as I have placed in evidence in the Encyclical Ecclesia de Eucharistia: that not all expressions of the figurative arts and of music are capable “of adequately expressing the Mystery worshipped in the fullness of the Church’s faith”. As a consequence, not all musical forms can be considered suitable for liturgical celebrations.

This, as I read both documents, leads me to believe that the CCMm genre is not completely compatible with the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

We should also look at what Pope Benedict XVI wrote in Sacramentum Caritatis where he notes that:

Liturgical song

  1. In the ars celebrandi, liturgical song has a pre-eminent place. (126) Saint Augustine rightly says in a famous sermon that “the new man sings a new song. Singing is an expression of joy and, if we consider the matter, an expression of love” (127). The People of God assembled for the liturgy sings the praises of God. In the course of her two-thousand-year history, the Church has created, and still creates, music and songs which represent a rich patrimony of faith and love. This heritage must not be lost. Certainly as far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall celebration (128). Consequently everything – texts, music, execution – ought to correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure of the rite and the liturgical seasons (129). Finally, while respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed (130) as the chant proper to the Roman liturgy (131).

A lot of these songs are written in pop-music and rock format. For me, this is not at all in keeping with the dignity and majesty of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. If you want to use this at a youth rally or meeting, fine, but, not for the Mass.

I love Contemporary Christian music too. But Benedictgal is correct that it’s not appropriate for the Mass, unless it conforms to the norms of the Church and happens to be contemporary. But CCM is certainly far superior to most of the other new music out there, both lyrically and musically, in my humble Catholic and musician’s opinion. God bless.

Dear Benidictgal,

Please forgive me for careering off topic here but I was most interested to read your citation from cardinal Ratzinger and his critque of pop and rock music. Quite recently I was involved in a lengthy debate on CAF regarding this very topic. It was my contention that rock music and pop was both unwholesome and unsavoury owing to its occultic connections and heavy sexual overtones; needles to say my highly provocative, hard-hitting attack of the rock scene was not well received. It was deeply saddening to see Catholics defend to the death this wicked music that apppeals only to our base instincts. However be that as it may, can you tell me if there is any scholarly R.C. critique of rock music. Moreover, would all devout Catholics unite in denouncing this genre of music in the strongest terms? Please tell me more of the Holy Father’s views on this subject please. Any links would be most appreciated.

Warmest good wishes,


As a non-Catholic I would have to agree that the music at mass should be dignified. I think music that we listen to in our daily lives or for fun; is not the same as what you would listen to at a solemn occastion. My cousin goes to a Vineyard church and I went with her and I was completely turned off. It didn’t feel sacred. There was a “starbucks” in the foyer and then there was a rock band inside. To me what has always appealed to me is the quiet solemnity and sacredness of the mass. When I have visited a mass I have felt a quiet strong peace; whereas in the “hip” churches it doesn’t feel genuine it feels like they’re trying to conform to what people want. I have always admired the Catholic church for sticking to its principles and traditions and not swaying so drastically for the times and what seems “fun” to people. This is just my humble opinion as a non-Catholic considering conversion.

Peace and Blessings, Lauren

Disagree. Strongly. Vehemently.


Christian Rock and all that is OK in general, but not for Mass.


Traditional Latin Mass: Translation and Grammar

I must ditto everyone else and say that contemporary Christian music, while great for listening to outside of Mass, has no place in the solemn, dignified, and majestic proceedings of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

Yeah, but I have to say that a lot of CCM is superior to the Glory and Praise music we sing most Sundays…

Actually, neither are really ideal for the Mass. Glory and Praise is too commercially contrived and banal, while CCM is not a good genre for the Mass in the first place. Both sets of music are not the ideal for the Mass, as I have experienced them. One of them is too much like the 70s-early 80s folk and soft rock you hear on Sirius while the other is more centered around anthems. Both lack the sacred, majestic, dignified and beautiful.


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