Gospel mass

My parish is considering having a one-off mass infused with gospel music as opposed to traditional hymns. I think it would be a good thing to try. Just wondered what other opinions were. (Some people in my parish think this kind of music has no place inside of services…especially our normal choir.)

I’m of the belief that liturgical music needs to be as close to what is sacred music as much as possible. At the same time, though, I do understand that the Church does allow certain kinds of music which is part of a particular ethnic culture. Is the music part of the culture of the parish? I’ve attended mass at predominantly African-American parishes which uses gospel music and other kinds of music which is part of their culture.

Questions to ask… Why is the parish doing this? Were there many people of a particular culture in the parish who asked for it? Is it something to add for novelty? Does the pastor think it will bring in more people for mass? Will it add to the reverence and solemnity of the mass?

Personally, I’ve found Gospel music really good in African-American churches (Protestant and Catholic). It is part of their culture and it is in their souls.But whenever I hear it done in predominantly white churches, it is just so lacking and feels forced and awkward. I say this as a professional musician and one who is ethnically mixed, although I’ve been raised in a mostly western/European way of life and thought. If your parish is like the latter, I’d think it would be a bad idea.

When I was in choirs, especially in high school, for concerts there was always a section of Spirituals and Gospel music. The spirituals weren’t so bad and could be sung well and beautifully. (If you ever hear Jessye Norman or Kathleen Battle - two famous African American opera singers - singing spirituals in the classical style of voice, it’s gorgeous) The Gospel music, well, now that I listen to the recordings, it is just so white-sounding and bad. Everything is sung correctly, but it lacks a certain something. And it’s not like the choir didn’t try. I remember how we really liked the music and had a good time doing it. It was light and fun, but it really did lack. I joined a Gospel choir in high school because I was friendly with a number of the girls in the choir who was on the track team with me. I eventually dropped out of it, though, because I realized that my voice (classically trained) just lacked the necessary “ingredients” for it to sound good.

So, those are things your parish should consider before going hard core with it. Even if you do have people in the parish who wants it, think about how it will compare to real performers of Gospel music. Also, think about whether or not they are doing it just to have something different or to truly add to the prayer and reverence of the Mass.

Anyway, those are my opinions on it.

Personally I love gospel music . . . but I don’t think it belongs in Mass.

Much of that music is used to accentuate or cause emotions. While emotions have their place, Mass is already full of emotions. I don’t think we should use music to generate the feelings we should already have.
I’ve begun reading ‘Mass Appeal’ by David DesOrmeaux - I thought I knew a lot about the symbols and emotions of Mass but I keep finding myself saying ‘wow there is SO much meaning here’.

Gospel music get togethers - fine.
Gospel music Mass - not the place.

Would a setting where “Gospel Music” was considered acceptable (Protestant/Evangelical) ever consider our traditional Liturgical music (other than the music we have in common) for one of their services? If the answer is no (and I think it probably is) then why would their music be automatically OK for our Holy Sacrifice of the Mass since we already have music deemed appropriate Liturgical music?

It WOULD be fine so long as the music (this is always the case) in no way negatively impacted the Mass. We all have our favorite sort of music and our favorites are not necessarily always the best nor certainly the only appropriate music for Mass.

Just make sure it is music from USCCB approved sources. You are not permitted to use just any old music or songs during Mass.

“USCCB approved sources?” What does that even mean in this context?

When I’ve been in the African American parishes, they had special Catholic hymnals, so perhaps that is what Bro. Rich is referring to. Basically, you can’t just sing any Gospel hymn. That said, I believe the OP is in the United Kingdom and not in the U.S., so would the USCCB and what it approves even be considered there?

Yes, we do this every week at my parish. I have to play it. It’s called “10 am Mass.” :stuck_out_tongue:

No it would be the Bishops Conference for England and Whales (sp?)

True but the USCCB certainly does not approve each song by title that may be sung in a Catholic Church. The Church gives general guidelines.

Not every hymn in Gregorian Chant would be appropriate either so this applies to all sorts of music.

Since when is Gregorian Chant not appropriate for the Mass? Every Pope has lauded its usage in the Sacred Liturgy.

I think there are a lot of gospel songs that could fit in the church. In fact there are several in the missallette already: Take My Hand Precious Lord, Just A Closer Walk With Thee, Were You There, How Great Thou Art, Amazing Grace, All Hail! The Power of Jesus Name. Those are the ones I can think of at the moment.

Some I think would be ok to add: His Eye Is On The Sparrow, Blessed Assurance, The Old Rugged Cross, In The Garden, Saved By Grace, What A Friend (We Have In Jesus), Softly And Tenderly, Face To Face, Jesus Savior Pilot Me, Sweet Hour of Prayer, I could go on…

Of course there are tons of sacred Catholic music we don’t sing anymore, so I can’t really see introducing any of the above, until we bring back our own music. I think emotions are very important in music especially in conveying a sense of devotion and prayerfullness; these and other traits, sadly seem to be lacking in our more modern vernaculars. :slight_smile:

These are sadly lacking.
My point is there are SO many other parts of the Mass which are meant to induce emotion that SO many Catholics don’t know about. We should focus on what is already there, not look to add.

I had top laugh. What is “our music” If you are talking about old world chants, then you really need to expand see were the Church is today. Our music is what ever the music of the country and culture were the Church exist.
Right now, over half of all Catholics are in southern hemisphere countries. It is no longer Euro-centric and will never be again. Writers on this site only see the Church through Euro-Amercan eyes which is a huge mistake, since it is much more dinamic than that.

Gospel masses are wonderful, they are full of the Holy Spirit with a great deal of praise. Traditionalist, I propose, need to have a wider view of the faith. It is growing in ways that they do not or refuse to see, holding onto ideas that no longer fit the modern world or church. This is not a critisizm, I love and follow the traditon of the Church, but those who refuse to move with the times and direction of the Church, may be left behind. The approval of the TLM was not an effort to move backward, but forward. It was a way to say that our traditions are honored, to bring all to the table to start putting aside differences that exist within the Church, an work for our common good which all exist in the body of Christ." If a house is divided against itself, that house (church) will not be able to stand. {MK3:25}


You make a very valid point. The Church is not Western European-centered any longer in terms of actual members. More and more it’s truly becoming world-wide institution.

I dislike the term “Gospel Mass.” It’s not a “Gospel Mass” – it’s the Mass with a specific choice in genre of music. I can just imagine the fundamentalist catholics using “Gospel Mass” as an invective to attack something they personally might not like yet is A-OK with the Church.

Point is, those involved in liturgical music needs to be sure that the text of songs/hymns from other denominations, and even from our own religion, is appropriate for a Catholic mass. That goes for text as well as genre and style. It also means one must determine if the music they are using is part of specific culture or if it is used to bring innovation and novelty. The USCCB does set the guidelines and we are to hope that Catholic hymnals will have the experts to determine this. But even then, there have been hymns used in certain hymnals which have questionable text on theology and such. Of course, hymns and sacred music are not just approved by title. That would be irresponsible. One must look at the text and the music.

I do not know of any Gregorian Chant specifically done for liturgy being deemed inappropriate for mass. Actually, it is perhaps the only form of sacred music in which there is no controversy in regards to appropriateness for text as well as music. The Church has never said that chant was inappropriate. The reason being is because it has always had its origins in prayer and worship even before Christianity. The controversy which involves this music is whether or not it is “relevant” and in with the times for use today. All other forms of religious and sacred music - from polyphony, to orchestral masses, to traditional hymns, P&W music and Gospel music have had some sort of controversy. Polyphony has since gotten over that hurdle, but the rest of the forms still must endure it and stand the test of time in regards to appropriateness for mass. The newer styles are going through the beginning stages of it. The Church works very slowly, and there may be a point where the Church will eventually decide that these forms are completely inappropriate or appropriate* if *they refine the style.

Just a side note - I am in no ways a chant-only, polyphony-only person. If the music fit the guidelines of sacredness and does not take on too much of the secular world, sounding too popular so that there is no distinction between everyday life and a higher realm of spirituality, I’m for it.

They’re wonderful if it is sung by people who understand it and have the right voices for it. It’s worse than hearing poorly-written saccharine songs, mainly because Gospel music, when sung by people who understand it and have the right voices for it, is good music with good harmony and such. Plus it is usually part of a certain culture. It is part of their lives and souls. It’s sometimes a lot worse when you hear a good piece of music be butchered. It’s like hearing pop singers trying to sing operatic arias or classical sacred music - and vice versa. To me, when I hear mostly white choirs trying to sing Gospel hymns, they just try too hard and it doesn’t sound right. People need to have the wherewithal AND humility to know their strengths and weaknesses. I don’t sing Gospel or Jazz because my voice isn’t for those forms. I’m too classical-sounding and sound like I’m trying to be something that I’m not - no matter how much I enjoy hearing it as a listener.

The TLM wasn’t approved - as in it was replaced and then brought back. It never left. Vernacular Mass was approved. TLM has ALWAYS been acceptable.

That music has Protestant all over it!. If they can’t offer the EF Mass, there is absolutely no place for another form of the OF Mass (Life Teen, Gospel, Techno etcc).

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