Mass Responses: Cadence and enuciation


I recently visited another English speaking country and attended Mass at Catholic parishes in two different areas of that country, one suburban and the other rural. I noticed something that differed from my American experience and am wondering about it.

At my home parish people generally enunciate clearly and audibly. And they speak together. Other American parishes I have visited may have had different cadence from my own parish but they did speak together.

In the country I visited everyone seemed to be speaking individual rhythms. A number of people were still using the older translation. Most of the people seemed to be speaking in the “Catholic mumble” that I remember from my early to mid 1960s childhood. The result was that the responses were pretty much unintelligible. It was the same at both parishes.

When I was a child the responses were often not clearly enunciated but people did speak with the same cadence. Since the 1970s I have been accustomed to Americans responding clearly enough that a non-Catholic visitor would be able to understand what was being said.

Were my experiences during my recent travels just flukes? Or is that typical? Is my American experience outside the norm?


Sounds strange to me. Maybe the confusion was a recent problem caused people who refused to switch to the new responses?


Sounds like my parish. :smiley:

While we are getting better at using the correct responses, one could call the cadence “sprung rhythm.” :wink:


When I was in Amsterdam I had the experience of the same cadence as my own home Parish albeit a different language. It was a beautiful experience.

Sounds as the other posters have said perhaps an issue with the changes in responses.
Probably most likely in my opinion.



Were the towns you visited tourist towns? In many highly ‘touristed’ parishes each person would bring the cadence of their home country. It would be especially noticeable if many of the tourists did not speak English as a first language.

I have trouble keeping up with the creed in Spanish, even though I have the words in front of my. I don’t phrase the sentences correctly.


The suburban city I visited could have been considered a tourist town. But that particular parish was not in an especially touristy area. I would not think the rural town was likely to have had a big tourist population. But perhaps I am wrong.

I had the sense that the people considered (what to me was) cacophony to be perfectly normal.


We have different ‘cadences’ at different parishes all in one town! :slight_smile:

My mother’s parish speaks and rushes quickly through the prayers; those parishes I’ve been to in my own diocese (7, I think?) are more ‘prayerful’ to me, speaking a little slower.

However, I have noticed the ‘mumble’ during the Rosary and Divine Mercy at times. Perhaps that ‘mumble’ sound comes from people who don’t know the exact words (St. Michael the Archangel prayer) but are trying to keep up. (That would be me right now! :slight_smile: )


Dutch has a similar cadence to English and is closely related to it. It is often said by English-speakers that Dutch sounds as though they should be able to understand it.


I don’t think there are official exact words for the prayer (except for the Latin). Some say “cast,” some say “thrust;” some say “defender,” some “protector.”


They are both Germanic languages, so there should be some similarity to the flow and cadence.


Our parish had spoken in sync for years, even with the change in words, but then we got a new priest who spoke with an unusual rhythm to all his prayers. Because he is on a microphone, this has caused us to go out of rhythm. I’m not sure if we will eventually speak to his rhythm or if we will draw him into ours. :smiley:


FWIW, my boss at the time the Mass was being reformed in the 60’s, thought praying in cadences wasn’t really praying. I wonder sometimes if he had a point.


I think we are meant to pray in a cadence so we can be united. For the Lord’s Prayer begin “OUR father” meant to be recited together.

Also the old saying is “Cantare, bis orare” [To sing is to pray twice] and singing is in a cadence (beat) so all may join.

It’s not me and Jesus, it’s US. WE are the Church, not me, but US.


Do we know if that is the original? I remember reading somewhere it was more along the lines of “O Father…” but it doesn’t disprove your overall point.

Seems like, though, when we think cadence, we focus more on that than what is actually said. Not to mention, sometimes the words come out wrong and we don’t even know they’re wrong. One priest I had stopped the praying of the rosary when he heard “pray for our sinners” instead of “pray for us sinners.” True story.


I think it’s a mixed bag.

I don’t think people so much think about cadence as it is that they surrender to it. And yes, in the process they often don’t think about the words and what they mean.

On the other hand, I think people find it easier to memorize words when they learn the customary local cadence.

All I can say is that during my recent vacation I was not thinking about the meaning of the words because I was so distracted by the lack of unity. I suppose people get used to hearing things that way.


We pray the rosary before Daily Mass and everyone seems to “adopt” the cadence of the leader. It works well for we have a limited amount of time. That said I agree when it’s so fast some may find it difficult to think about the words.

I would be more distracted by a lack of unity but I suppose because each Mass I attend has its own cadence and I’m not used to the lack of unity type.
Good point.


People think and follow at different speeds. I can understand when people walk out of or avoid group rosaries or other group prayers for that reason. I don’t see that as a slap against praying per se, just a slap against those who try to set the “proper” cadence. And how do they decide anyway? Do they have the training of drill sargeants? :slight_smile:


I don’t think anyone is really trying to “set” a cadence. We rotate between anyone who wants to lead and normally it seems people that speak quickly normally in every day

speech say the rosary quickly, and the same for moderate and slower speakers.

No drill sargeants yet.

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