Hymns are now illicit in the Roman Missal: Third Edition

Dramatic Changes in Music Rubrics for New Missal

I bring up this old chestnut because it was trotted out in another thread, and it seemed an apt topic for a tangent, so I started this thread so we would not hijack the other one.

In this blog post, Jeffrey Tucker, esteemed Director of Publications of CMAA, and Managing Editor of Sacred Music, seems to make a bold assertion: that by publication of the Roman Missal, Third Edition (actually by publication of the English translation of its GIRM) that the Church has legislated that only chants can be used, and no more hymns are licit for use in the Eucharistic liturgy.

He cites several substantial changes in the wording of the GIRM, but his thesis hinges on one word in particular: “chant”. This is a word that was previously translate into English as various words, but in particular, it meant “song”. Due to the reforms of Liturgiam Authenticam, which prohibited imprecise “dynamic equivalency” translation, the writers of the English Missal always use the word “chant” to translate the Latin “cantus”. So what Tucker sees as a revolutionary change in legislation is simply his own error in understanding the English and not studying the Latin original (shame, shame, he should know better!)

The proof is in the pudding. This blog post is 23 months old, and no bishop anywhere has prohibited hymns or songs which are now commonly used in place of chanted proper antiphons. It’s clear that the change in legislation, though present, was meant to be incremental and gentle, and hasn’t outlawed anything (yet). OCP/GIA/WLP can sleep soundly at night, knowing their empires are secure.

Don’t get me wrong. There is a Reform of the Reform. It may have suffered a setback with the election in March, but it is still a strong wave in liturgical music, and I think it is here to stay. My parish has jettisoned GIA’s Gather, and transitioned to the Lumen Christi Missal, and it is slowly but surely being implemented. We’ve still kept many of the hymns. No bishop has complained to us yet.

Perhaps we should stop petty arguments from dividing people who fundamentally agree with each other. Maybe arguments like these should be kept to text messages, chat rooms and phone calls.

When I originally read that article, I was not convinced. Mr. Tucker seemed to be drawing conclusions way beyond what the change in wording to “chant” warranted.

Personally, I would be pleased if chant replaced many of the “songs” , that are typically used at Catholic parishes, in the Mass! Chant is prayer; oftentimes songs at Mass are just nice, religious… songs!

Boy this type of article would get my dear old Dad’s blood boiling. We have so many wonderful songs within our Catholic faith. Then wham we change directions and a song is not allowed due to new priest, bishop or whomever. This has been going on for as long as I have been alive. Sometime we are our own worst enemy.

Yep. Exactly.

More chant would be beautiful :slight_smile:

I also thought Tucker was reaching on that one.

There is no word in the French language to distinguish between chant and song/hymn, just like there is no word to distinguish between chanting and singing, the verb ‘chanter’ is used for both. You would have to specify what you are singing: une chanson (song); hymne (hymn), although that word is also used for ‘anthem’ as in ‘national anthem’; chant grégorien (Gregorian chant).

I always check the French GIRM, published as L’art de célébrer la messe *[FONT=Georgia](The Art of Celebrating Mass) *and it[/FONT] doesn’t specify. The entrance chant is called ‘chant d’entrée’ and that could be a chanted antiphon or a hymn as indicated in GIRM 48 (in French there are 3 options Graduale Romanum or Graduale Simplex or an appropriate song approved by the Conference of Bishops). We find that third option in an internationally approved French hymnal. The Canadian edition of said hymnal, D’une même voix (With One Voice), was published in 2002 and contains more compositions by Canadian musicians.

The missal has not changed. Only the English translation has changed. The newest round of translations was geared toward a more direct literal translation. In this case, actual transliteration. This means that laymen reading this must understand the dynamics of this type of translation and what it means and does not mean. We have to understand words, not as they are commonly used, but as they have been used and evolved over centuries. This is why no one but a blogger here or there has gotten in a stir over the newest translation.

Yes, well it’s all very nuanced, translating the word as “chant”, versus “song” or “hymn”. Given the entrenchment of hymns and songs in Catholic Masses ( at least in America), a subtlle change in translation has had only a subtle effect: hymns and songs are still king, even with the 3rd Edition of the Roman Missal!

IF they were pretty!

I was reading through the chants of some of the older Mass settings (by reading, I mean singing) in our parish hymnal, and frankly, I cannot see why anyone thinks that intoning the same three notes over and over and over again is “beautiful.” I think it’s monotonous. And if those attempting to sing chant use incorrect singing technique (through the nose, down in the chest, constant breaths, “scooping”, etc.), it sounds truly ugly–like some kind of broken piece of machinery.

I just don’t get it, folks. Why do you think singing a few notes with no discernible melody is beautiful? It’s been nine years now since I converted, and I still don’t see any beauty at all in any kind of chant. :confused: It’s so random.

I devoutly hope that pretty hymns and songs are never eliminated from the Mass. I fear we would lose many many Catholics who are poorly catechized and weak in their faith, as they would head for the Protestant churches that present magnificent music, both traditional and contemporary.

Cat, you bring up good points. I know a few cantors who can sing hymns and other metrical music well, but they can do one ugly chant. I think this is where my music director’s beef on chant comes from. A lot of people make it sound horrid. Personally, I like the Roman Missal chants, but they can turn ugly if you don’t watch tempo and proper singing techniques.

My parish did use the English version of the Sanctus chant whenever we first implemented the Roman Missal and then again this past Lent, and some days it was sounded really bad.

This is one reason why any change will have to be “subtle” or the result will be no music (which is always an option). Priest, bishops have to work with the raw materials they have withing their parish. If the Holy Father said tomorrow that the only instrument allowable was the organ or chant without instrument, then silence would prevail in most parishes. It would be a lot less work for me, but I fear we would be the poorer for it. We would also lose souls.

While I do not find the translation change to be significant, I do find other teaching in the Church rather compelling in this matter, both with chant, organ and inclusion of Latin.

I always say, “Chant can be beautiful. But most of the time? It is just awful.” :shrug:

Yet another odd POV to come.
First of all, The secretary of the USCCB Office of Worship, Fr. Hilgartner, clarified that for all practical purposes the instruction (in the intro. of the USA GIRM) of the literal translation of “cantus” was to be rendered chant, but that allowed as how colloquially that meant anything sung, especially at the the three processions. So, OCP now calls the Entrance a “chant” and then lists a ton of suggested songs.
Secondly, it might be wise to remember that virtually anything can actually be chanted, even Gather us in (which I dismissed elsewhere.) Try it in a rehearsal. This was also irrefutably proved decades ago when after the watermark chant CD of SD de Silos was released, a parody called the Monks of Santo Benzedrine chanted “Hey, hey, we’re the monks…(monkees)…” and other send ups.
Don’t get hung up on nomenclature. As Indiana Jone’s dad said in the film: “Choose wisely.”

Therefore, they should not be used.

umm…I think I am certain I do not know what is meant by “chant” - that which I think is beautiful. :slight_smile: I am thinking youtube.com/watch?v=EnO_bq2XT8o
which if something similar was sung during Mass, how beautiful would that be!

During the past few decades I’ve heard the lament from some Catholics (clergy and lay) about songs being too “we-centered” instead of “Jesus-centered”, and thus not truly prayers. I remember specific criticism about the song “They’ll Know We are Christians by our Love” being too much about “us.” Is this what you’re talking about Father?

I remember singing Entrance and Recessional songs, and sometimes Communion songs, mostly in English, before we had the Mass in the vernacular. Many parishes had hymnals in the pews. Do any of you remember “To Jesus’ Heart Most Burning”? Our few dialogue responses during Mass were always in Latin, of course. And we sometimes prayed the Lord’s Prayer with the priest, sometimes not – it was also in Latin.

I don’t know that I would attend “chant only” Masses. In my opinion, there are some very prayerful hymns, both “old” and modern, which wonderfully lift our hearts up in prayer, such as:

Come Holy Ghost
Come, Holy Ghost, Creator blest, and in our hearts take up they rest;come with they grace and heav’nly aid to fill the hearts which thou hast made; to fill the hearts which thou hast made.

Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
Holy God, we praise thy name; Lord of all, we bow before thee; all on earth thy sceptor claim, all in heaven above adore thee. Infinite thy vast domain, everlasting is thy reign! Infinite thy vast domain, everlasting is thy reign!

O Come, O Come, Emmanuel (how could we not want to sing this during Advent?)
second verse: O come, Thou Wisdom from on high, Who ord’rest all things mightily; to us the path of knowledge show, and teach us in her ways to go

Ubi Caritas (partially from 9th century, partially from Hurd 1996)
*fifth verse: *May we one day behold your glory and see you face to face, rejoicing with the saints of God to sing eternal praise.

Gather Your People (Hurd 1991)
*fourth verse: *Wash us, Lord, in the waters of life; waters of mercy, waters of hope that flow from your side.

God, We Praise You (Idle 1983, based on Te Deum Laudamus)
*first verse: *God, we praise you! God, we bless you! God, we name you sov’reign Lord! Might King whom angels worship, Father, by your Church adored. All creation shows your glory, Heav’n and earth draw near your throne, singing “Holy, holy, holy,” Lord of hosts and God alone!


I thought chant was a *chant *and *cantique *was a song (canticle) and *hymne *was, specifically, a hymn.

For example, in GIRM no. 86:

*Le chant se prolonge pendant que les fidèles communient[74]. Mais il s’arrêtera au moment opportun s’il y a une hymne après la communion. *
Or, elsewhere:

*164. Après cela, le prêtre peut revenir au siège. On peut observer, pendant un certain temps, un silence sacré ou bien chanter un psaume, un cantique de louange ou une hymne (cf. n. 88).
*I don’t pretend to be at all fluent in French, but I do note the differences in the words “chant”, “cantique”, or “hymne” in the French version of the GIRM.

Perhaps somebody can explain the nuanced differences in the three nouns.

I am thinking of something I heard Peter Kreeft say, that in any philosophical discussion or debate, the first challenge is establishing the definitions. No two languages translate exactly and even within a language word usage can be fluid and vary from region to region or even person to person. This is the main reason why a liturgical language like Latin is so essential. Jeffrey Tucker and a few others have put forth this theory of hymns being illicit on the internet based on one way to understand the word “chant”. The point that is missed is that it is never up to the liturgist to interpret this word or even the most skilled linguist. The interpretation and implementation of the GIRM is the exclusive authority of the bishop. The only opinion of this change that matters is one’s individual bishop and those to whom he grants authority for implementation of the GIRM in his diocese.

I know Jeffrey Tucker pretty well as a friend and colleague in CMAA, and I fairly sure he’s never "put forth this theory of hymns being illicit on the internet based on one way to understand the word “chant”. His very serious agenda to inform folks about the eventual restoration of entrance and other propers to the normative catholic worship culture is self-evident, but is not tantamount to his rejection of the strophic hymn in all cases as suitable for service music at Mass. Were that the case, why would he (and CMAA) endorse the foremost hymnist Kathleen Pluth as a Chant Cafe contributor and program her as a presenter at the last two colloquia as well as sing her hymn texts at those Masses in Salt Lake? He is also supportive of the strophic hymn forms of the propers to known hymntunes by Dr. Tietze of San Francisco’s cathedral.
We should take care in the context of “Catholic answers” to know the context in which we’re deliberating. Tucker as well and his CMAA president Wm. Mahrt have some divergence in their latitude about the use of certain “chant” types (chant equals song) but Mahrt functions almost exclusively in Latin in the OF, as does Tucker. But Tucker’s approach is a big tent approach. They agree that the maintenance of the hymn sandwich is antithetical to a true reform. They agree that catholic hymns should all be theologically vetted for suitability when used. They also agree that hymns are better suited in the office than at a cultural authentic Latin rite Mass. And because of what I cite above regarding Ms. Pluth’s influence, they both agree that hymns, particularly at recessionals, are still and yet licit sacred music for use at Mass.

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