Finding a Church

Hi all,

Over the past year I’ve become deeply interested in Roman Catholicism and have been strongly considering being received into the Church. During this time I’ve been attending Mass on Sundays and Holy Days at a Cathedral- namely, Westminster Cathedral, London- that I felt I could strongly trust to conduct their Mass services in accordance with the requirements for Mass set by the RCC. But now that I’ve moved from London to North Carolina, I’m faced with the basic question of how I know that the Church I decide to attend is “the real deal”. Hopefully the sense of this expression is clear enough- I just want to make sure that the Church I attend is in full communion with the RCC and that its practices are in accordance with the requirements set by the RCC. There may be an easy answer to this, but I am admittedly a complete beginner.

One worry was flagged for me by this interesting article on music at Mass from Crisis Magazine: The author writes,

“The second Vatican Council plainly stated: Gregorian chant is to have first place at Mass (Sacrosactum Concilium). This statement has profound significance if you understand something of the structure of the liturgy and the purpose and applicability of Gregorian chant within it… The trouble is that hardly anyone does understand this.”

So, for instance, insofar as this is right at least, I would want to make sure that the Church I decide to attend gives the proper place to Gregorian Chant in its Mass proceedings. What else do I need to be looking out for? Or should I only be worrying about whether a Church is in full communion with the RCC and assume that this takes care of the rest? If so, how does one make sure that a Church is in full communion with the RCC?

Any help is appreciated!

Also, my apologies if this was not the right forum to have posted this question in, which I’ve just realized it might not have been!

You can check the web site for your diocese. They usually have a list of all the Catholic parishes in the diocese, so if it is listed there it is fully in union with the Church. You might also look at to look for local parishes.

If Gregorian chant is important to you, then you can check out different parishes to find one that uses it. In my area that would probably require a long drive since none of my nearby parishes include it. (And since my preference is for more contemporary music, that is just fine with me.) Keep in mind that Crisis has a certain focus. If that is in line with your focus as well, then great. But if it isn’t, then know that they are not the final word on what makes for a valid Catholic Mass.

The easiest way I know of hands down is to use this site: They list everyone in your area all you need do is plug in your zip code and viola! You’ll find a Catholic Church near you and I don’t think they list folks who are not in Communion with Rome so there ya go!

Happy sailing and welcome aboard! My skipper is Francis and the port o call is Heaven.


If you can’t find any EFs or OF’s which comply with SC, you might want to try a monastery Mass. One or two posters have found Gregorian chant inside a Benedictine abbey.

Music and chant has its’ place but don’t make it any litmus test. Find a good parish and then talk about introducing chant, if they don’t have it.

you mentioned Westminster Cathederal -that is an Anglican Church for the last 500 years or so

No, Westminster Cathedral is Roman Catholic. See here:

You’re thinking of Westminster Abbey. :wink:

Thank you all for the helpful replies!

Living in NC, unless you are in one of a few cities, it will be hard to find Gregorian Chant and all that - many areas only have 1 Catholic church per county, sometimes fewer than that.

You can check the diocesan websites for a listing of all churchs in communion with the RCC. North Carolina only has 2 dioceses - Raleigh covers roughly the middle of the state eastward, and Charlotte covers the western half of the state.

Good luck finding Gregorian chant at your average parish. Monasteries are a good place though; the abbey I’m associated with uses it for the Mass as well as at Lauds and Vespers.

In parishes, it’s a bit of a desert. You can do what I did: find and join a schola or choir, and If there isn’t one, you could try to round up other like-minded folks and found a schola. It can also be lots of fun and an opportunity to meet and interact with like-minded Catholics. Plus you become a deeper participant in the liturgy.

Our own schola rotates to different parishes every month, in a small city of 100k population.

That said, don’t get too wrapped up in the externals. The real miracle of the Mass is what happens on the altar at the consecration. Bad liturgy can never take that away.

If the church is in full communion with the Universal Church then that, really, is the beginning and end of your enquiry. While liturgical and musical tastes differ from person to person what ultimately matters is the eucharist.

As far as the article you linked to is concerned, I don’t think it fairly reflect what SC actually says or indeed the time and effort that many church musicians put in. Admittedly, part of the problem is that most priests (like most of the population generally) aren’t overly musically literate and so are reliant on the musicians in their parishes although, as with most things, a bit of cetchesis would go a long way. At any rate what SC actually says is this:

  1. The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.
    But other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action, as laid down in Art. 30

121. Composers, filled with the Christian spirit, should feel that their vocation is to cultivate sacred music and increase its store of treasures.

Let them produce compositions which have the qualities proper to genuine sacred music, not confining themselves to works which can be sung only by large choirs, but providing also for the needs of small choirs and for the active participation of the entire assembly of the faithful.

The texts intended to be sung must always be in conformity with Catholic doctrine; indeed they should be drawn chiefly from holy scripture and from liturgical sources.

Hello Burnie.


Regarding the Chant part. You could always download some into an MP3 gadget and keep one ear bud in place as you attend. It would probably take some time to co-ordinate the MP3’s music to synchronize with the Liturgy, but I bet if you got familiar with both, you could pull it off. They’d be praying the Mass in the Vernacular, while you listen to the Mass in Latin. Kinda cool if you are turned on and tuned into the Oldies but Goodies of the Church. It would take much work on your part though. But if Latin is the love of your life, go for it.


Thanks all for the very helpful replies! InThePew your reply is especially helpful. I see from the passage that you have cited from the SC that the article I cited distorts the meaning of the SC. The “other things equal” clause is an important one, and it is in any case abundantly clear from what the text goes on to say that Gregorian Chant is not the only acceptable form of liturgical music. Indeed, it is now unclear to me how the author of the article I cited walked away with the reading of the SC that he did! Thanks for clearing this up.

The SC didn’t mandate the pipe organ, Gregorian chant or polyphonic music per se. It even gave allowance for limited vernacular. But an important document such as the SC shouldn’t be IMO almost totally disregarded in regards to its guidance, especially when it was followed up with the Vatican’s push to implement Jubilate Deo in every parish, not to mention the Entrance, Offertory, and Communion antiphons which almost every parish has replaced with hymns or other pieces of music.

Agreed here. SC made a limited and prudential allowance for alternative forms of music. It did not envision the near-total abandonment of traditional forms of music.

Another important fact is that the English translation of SC really fails to capture the vocabulary which the Church uses in 116. Fr. Z had a good post on the topic here: The language the Church employed makes clear that Gregorian chant etc. is not merely optional, it is definitively and unambiguously normative, and the present situation is an outright derogation of the norm which SC established.

Thanks for that article. I had long suspected problems with the English translation of the entire SC when I tried to do my own and couldn’t see how “haud raro” (not rarely) was rendered as “frequently,” as in using the vernacular. Biased translation, if anything, especially after the jussive subjunctive (command) that Latin be preserved in the liturgy.

Oh dear, welcome to the difficulty of being a Catholic in the Bible Belt! I live in Jacksonville, NC, a town in Southeast NC where there’s a huge Marine base, Camp Lejeune. The town is well over 100,000 people and has only one Catholic parish but an endless number of various protestant churches. We are in the diocese of Raleigh. The two priests at our large parish do their best, but Gregorian chant is definitely well beyond the scope of the average NC parish. I have been referred to as an “idol worshiper” here by people who have never even met a Catholic before! But don’t give up! Southern Catholics, even though fewer in number, are good people who will do all they can to help you. If you live close to Raleigh or Charlotte you will have a much easier time finding strong fellow Catholics. [BIBLEDRB][/BIBLEDRB]

The best way to find a parish that celebrates the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with the reverence and beauty it deserves, other than word of mouth from those whose opinions and judgement you trust, might be to ask here:

If we truly believe that the Mass is the Source and Summit of our Faith, we owe it to ourselves to perform the rites with the greatest of care and our best efforts.

I would say unless the music actually thwarts recollection, the music is less important than the texts.

The preference should always be for singing the assigned texts, the “propers”, over random sacred songs.

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

By checking you will find all Catholic Churches in the area, but you also run the risk of finding some that are Catholic in name only. A method that I have used is to look for a church that has Perpetual Adoration. They are usually pretty rock solid Catholic. Good luck and welcome.

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