Guitar music for liturgy

I recently heard that it was illegal in the Catholic Church to have guitar music. I wanted to check this out. I have heard guitar music in many Catholic Churches and the assembly seems to enjoy it so much. Thanks. BDornak

There is nothing ‘illegal’ about guitar music in the Catholic Church – not that some of us don’t wish it were.:wink:

The problem in many parishes is that the quality of the guitar playing leaves a lot to be desired. It is also not the best accompaniment for many of the older hymns which are much better accompanied by the organ or much of the more recent pieces which were written for piano and sound much better when accompanied by that instrument.

But a guitar played in the classical style, in a space with acoustics that do that justice can sound lovely and quite prayerful. That’s not generally what we hear though.

Inasmuch as I do not like it, it is not illegal. However, it is important to note that the Church gives pride of place to the organ as the instrument to be used for the sacred liturgy.

  1. Musical instruments can be very useful in sacred celebrations, whether they accompany the singing or whether they are played as solo instruments.
    "The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, since it is its traditional instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lift up men’s minds to God and higher things.

"The use of other instruments may also be admitted in divine worship, given the decision and consent of the competent territorial authority, provided that the instruments are suitable for sacred use, or can be adapted to it, that they are in keeping with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the faithful."43

  1. In permitting and using musical instruments, the culture and traditions of individual peoples must be taken into account. However, those instruments which are, by common opinion and use, suitable for secular music only, are to be altogether prohibited from every liturgical celebration and from popular devotions.44

Its as though publishing houses have forgotten this very important statement that Musicam Sacram makes in note #63.

what is the source for the claim? w/o a source there is nothing to discuss.

Any instrument might be inappropriate for the Mass, depending upon how it is used, even an organ. I don’t want an organ or any other instrument playing jazz or other blatantly secular music while I am at Mass. Someone playing guitar like a two-chord garage band is far different than a Segovia or Maphis.
We have just passed through the Chirstmas season again, in which it is most likely Silent Night, Holy Night was sung in numerous languages and accompanied by a variety of instruments. This song was first sung with a guitar.

You don’t mean Joe Maphis, do you??? As much as I love his playing I would hate to hear someone rip with Flying Fingers or The Rockin’ Gypsy in Church! Now, if it was afterward at coffee and donuts…:slight_smile:

Yes, the late Joe Maphis, who was adept on just about any instrument with strings. I heard him play classical and religious musicas well as the country, rock, and other genres on both acoustic and his famouse twin-neck Mosrite electric.
Despite being at least a nominal Mason, he had not hesitance about playing Ave Maria, Tantum Ergo, and other music that might be heard in a Catholic Church.

I only wish that guitar Masses were banned, but alas, the elevator music continues…

Owing to the fact that Stille Nacht was composed for guitars and zithers because the parish’s organ was broken, it has always traditionally been played on these instruments in Germanic countries, but this was pretty much the only exception to the organ for liturgical music. Today throughout that part of the world, guitar music is usually only heard at youth Masses.

No problem with a guitar for Mass. It has never been mentioned in a Church document, at least not yet. It might be that a priest, or even a bishop, might ban them, but if such an action took place, it would only affect their area of authority, not the whole Church.

It is not illegal but I wish it is. I don’t like guitar in mass.

I would rather have no accompaniment than to sing with a guitar.

Agreed. When in doubt, I go with the Fr Z rule “on Guitars and Berettas”:

Partial Indulgence if you shoot a gituar, plenary if it’s being played.

Me too. My priest wanted me to sing but I can’t sing with guitar nor do I feel anything Christian while they play guitar at mass. I hate it since when I first entered to university.

Guitar never sounded good, for hymns. Always seems like a distraction.

Once again, lots of comments about “feelings.” And lots of personal opinions about music styles and instruments.

Not that it matters, since the Mass isn’t about what I feel, but I happen to “feel” very “Christian” when the guitar is played in Mass or any church setting. As I grew up with guitar in church (not just folk guitar), I don’t see it as a “secular” instrument at all.

We will be showing Father Robert Barron’s film series about Catholicism this fall in our parish. During the intro film, he makes a comment about the Catholic Church redeeming secular things that the world has stolen away from us. He was speaking about various musical styles that are used in Mass around the world.

Like I said, what I think and I feel doesn’t matter. What does matter is what does the Church teach regarding guitar? As benedictgal pointed out, it’s not “illegal” in the Mass. It can be used.

And many of us would rather sing with a guitar than sing unaccompanied. In the U.S., at least in our part of the country, music education is so bad in the schools that most people don’t know how to sing or hold a pitch, and desperately need an instrument to help them sing during Mass.

Yes, but everyone is entitled to their opinions on such matters. And this shows one reason why decisions are made locally. I know of no one in my parish with those opinions, and I am always actively seeking such opinions. On the other hand, if such opinions were the norm, then I guess we would go acapella, though I would ask those whose pitch is good enough to sing without accompaniment to put their voice where their mouth is :smiley: and lead it.

Of course everyone is entitled to their personal opinions. That’s the point of a forum.

Our parish is like yours. The people are happy to have any kind of music, and they seem to love guitar, piano, etc…

When anyone desires more traditional music (Latin, pipe organ only), they are free to drive about two miles to attend the local TLM parish, or they can attend one of several parishes within easy driving distance where the OF Mass has gone with more traditional practices (e.g., no contemporary music, more Latin in the Mass, Holy Communion kneeling at an altar rail, no girls serving at altar, etc.).

Or they can attend the 6:30 a.m. Mass on Sundays where there is no music. Lots of people do this, as it works well with little children, and it frees up the rest of the day.

We are fortunate that so many wonderful Mass options are available within easy driving distance! :slight_smile:

The one option that we don’t have is a parish with really excellent music done by excellent musicians. Our Catholic parishes in our city do the best we can, but if your motive for attending church is hearing good music, you’ll go to one of the Protestant churches, either the evangelical churches for great contemporary praise or traditional praise Christian music, or the non-denoms for good Christian rock music, or the old Lutheran and other mainline churches for beautiful classical music, or the African-American churches for awesome Gospel music, or the Unitarian “church” for the very best music of all styles (that’s where all our area’s professional musicians hang out and jam).

OTOH, I started my pipe organ lessons last week–maybe in ten years, I’ll be good enough to play something worth hearing for Mass!

I have done just that for the past several weeks, and, the faithful have sung. In fact one of the celebrants seemed pleased to not have to deal with the guitar. He found it rather refreshing.


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