Music at Mass

I just need some outside advice about music that my parish performs. I am part of the music team so I can have some influence.

Blessed be your name by Chris Tomlin (I do believe). (Not us performing but so you can hear it - we play only with a piano)

How Beautiful by Twila Paris

Thank you by Hillsong (?)

There are others but they’re in our hymnals so it’s different. These songs are not in our hymnals and while we’re paying copyright and all that official stuff I just don’t know how I feel about singing these obviously chorus type songs at the Mass.

Thoughts? Anything objectionable in the lyrics? Style is easily modified so if it’s the style alone that bothers you we can do things like rearrange the music, play slower, remove drums, remove guitars, etc (which we do. All these songs are played only with the piano and voices).

Honestly I like these more than some of the songs in the hymnal but I know Mass isn’t about what I personally like (nor should it be about your personal preferences either, my concern is more about is this diametrically opposed to the Mass).

I love these songs dearly and they are nowhere near suitable for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. I would refer you to the appropriate Church documents for what is suitable, recommended, and proper.

Also I would like to offer an uncommon argument about why these are not suitable. Hymns should either be appropriate for corporate singing in unison/harmony by the whole assembly, or call/response by the cantor/assembly, or by harmony by the whole choir, or finally by the cantor alone, and this is order of preference. These are solo songs that cannot be adapted to good choral settings. It is better to blow them up and write from scratch songs that are suitable - or you could just use something in the 2000 year wide treasury of sacred liturgical hymns. (This field is narrower if you insist on using English but it is nevertheless still rich and beautiful and should be considered while newly written stuff is used sparingly, as a last resort.)

Also, two out of three of these are just love songs with a theological facelift. I have a special revulsion for these. I recently purchased a CD from the Carmelite Sisters of Los Angeles which for all the world could have lapsed into thinly-veiled love songs, or worse, “porn hymns” and did not. In fact this CD is incredibly rich, delicate, playful and yet thoroughly faithful and orthodox. I highly recommend it, while parts of it may not be fitting for Mass, others are actually drawn directly from the Sacred Liturgy, such as the Credo and the Gloria.

I have sung these songs for years in protestant churches…always in a choral setting. and the few times I hear songs like this at mass (5pm Sundays), there is no issue of choral singing.

So I really don’t see that as a true issue. Most any song can be song in harmony with others. These ones are certainly catchy enough and harmonious enough to sing in a choral setting among all the faithful.


Further objection: All of the OP’s composers/performers are non-Catholic. When there is so much great Catholic music out there, written by Catholics, why are we supporting non-Catholics? Can’t we keep it in the family? For crying out loud!

My only rebuttal to the first opposition offered (good points, thank you) is that these actually are very easy to sing as a group. We’ve had no issue in the past with participation of the parish. In fact, the parish seems to sing more robustly when we do these than when we do any of the hymns in our hymnal. So clearly they are serving the purpose of making the parish participate.

Some of your other points were interesting though and I will bring them to my music team.

Please direct me to this great Catholic music because honestly I don’t see it in my hymnals. >.< The music in my hymnals is all very dated and difficult to sing along with (which is why my music team has taken to seeking music outside of the Catholic circle of composers).

PS: This was not meant as a defensive question but an honest one. Really, please recommend some great Catholic music because I haven’t seen any yet (beyond Gregorian Chant which the parish would not respond well to).

The songs are beautiful! One of them not available on mobile but the ones I could listen to were great. If your priest deems them acceptable, why not? I must admit I am not sure how that works but personally I like them.

I was thinking the same thing. There are Catholic composers? They exist? Where? :smiley:

Haha. My biggest pet peeve with the Catholic music I’ve experienced so far (I’ve only been Catholic three years) is that they are usually written in a range nobody can sing!!! When we DO use songs from our hymnal I can never sing along, and neither can most of the parish. Seriously, who can sing above a high C? NOT ME! LOL!

This is my favorite communion hymn. Part of the reason why I like it is because I can actual sing it (a huge bonus, even if my Spanish is awful!) and it sounds amazing when the choir sings it.

Also, here’s a quick bio on the priest who wrote it.

I like that you are making an effort to find better music for your parish. At mine, it’s hit or miss whether we’ll have decent music. The song I linked to is definitely a “hit” with me.

You, obviously, can find versions of it on YouTube and around the internet.

My personal objection to the songs you chose is that I want music I won’t find on my local Christian radio station at Mass. This kind of thing is way too Protestant for my taste. When I was parish shopping, a parish was marked off my list if they did this type of song during Mass. I didn’t like it too much as a Protestant (I missed some of the ‘old songs’ and having hymnals.) I tolerated it and I liked it for a while, but ultimately, church isn’t a Christian rock concert. Catholic Mass definitely isn’t in the same class of experience as a ‘non-denominational’ Christian service.

However, I have the same frustrations with a lot of our parish music. Half the songs, I have to hum along with because I just can’t find the melody. (And I have very little singing talent to begin with). Still, I find it more fitting for Catholic Mass.

It’s funny to me that the music is too Protestant for you but “Parish Shopping” is not. :slight_smile:

This isn’t Catholic music and not hymns. I can’t believe you can’t find easy to sing hymns somewhere. We sang quite a few of them in the 50s and early 60s. Those hymns are still out there.

Do you enjoy music exclusively from the 12th century? Times change! Music changes! There’s nothing wrong with it.

I wonder how angry people were when Pope Gregory added Gregorian chant to the liturgy. Oh the horror they said.

Or when the liturgy transitioned from Greek to Latin. Oh the travesty they said.


I daresay no one enjoys music from only a particular period. Although a whole lot of junk is produced both in the secular and sacred/“sacred” spheres today, there is a small minority in both categories which will be good enough to stand the test of time going in to the future.

I don’t know if today a higher proportion of the aggregate produced is bad compared to in the past.

Thank you for the balanced perspective…so refreshing! I too like music from all different time periods.

Just my opinion, but I think this “testy” discussion should not be on the “Traditional Forum”.


No, I think a discussion of music in this forum is appropriate and useful, as most of them are in the Liturgy and Sacraments field, in which a certain set of people set forth their standards and preferences for music. Here in this forum there might be a whole different tone to the discussion. I welcome fresh new perspectives.

I think an equal ratio of good-to-bad music has been produced in the past just as in the present, but only because “good” and “bad” might be subjective terms depending on their connotations to the writer and the reader. However, there are objective criteria we can apply to music to determine if it is “good”, or more accurately, well-suited to the Sacred Liturgy.

Is it a type of music which the Church exhorts us to use? If yes, then that’s a step in the right direction. But it’s not the whole picture. Thomas Aquinas gives three requirements for beauty: integritas sive perfectio, debita proportio sive consonantia, and claritas. That is, integrity, harmony, and clarity or radiance. If we dispassionately apply these tests to not only the music, but also the lyrics and the performance thereof, as well as the instruments used to convey it, then we should easily arrive at an answer.

I was just discussing tonight about how beauty, although it can be determined objectively, can often be a matter of taste, perspective, and subjectivity. An objectively beautiful thing can be repulsive to a listener, not because of a deficiency in the thing itself, but a deficiency in the listener instead. The listener then needs to reach deeper, to search out what is missing in herself which causes the revulsion, and attempt to appreciate the thing anew. This cannot always be successful, but because beauty must always reflect truth, it leads us toward truth, and sometimes we are not ready to hear the truth. But just as Christ will prevail and establish His kingdom on Earth, so too will truth and beauty prevail over evil and chaos.

I can’t for the life of me understand why any Catholic, even the most conservative or traditional Catholic, could possibly object to Twila Paris’ “How Beautiful” in the Mass.

:confused: :rolleyes:

When we were Evangelical Protestant, we felt uncomfortable singing “How Beautiful” because it was "too Catholic."

Just in case some Catholics haven’t actually read the words, here they are:

How beautiful the hands that served
The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth
How beautiful the feet that walked
The long dusty roads and the hill to the cross

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

How beautiful the heart that bled
That took all my sin and bore it instead
How beautiful the tender eyes
That chose to forgive and never despise

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

And as He laid down His life
We offer this sacrifice
That we will live just as he died
Willing to pay the price
Willing to pay the price

How beautiful the radiant bride
Who waits for her groom with His light in her eyes
How beautiful when humble hearts give
The fruit of pure lives so that others may live

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

How beautiful the feet that bring
The sound of good news and the love of the King
How beautiful the hands that serve
The wine and the bread and the sons of the earth

How beautiful, how beautiful
How beautiful is the body of Christ

Can you all see why this song would be very uncomfortable for Protestants? There are so many aspects of these lyrics that are actually opposed to Evangelical Protestant theology and thinking. For example, most Evangelical Protestants never separate “the heart of Jesus” from the rest of Jesus–to us ,the idea of a “Sacred Heart of Jesus” made no sense and we were suspicious of separating out His Body parts. It seemed wrong to us.

Also, the idea of us being “willing to pay the price” was opposed to our theology. WE didn’t have to pay any price, because Jesus paid it all! So it’s no wonder that many Evangelical Protestant churches would not use this song in any setting, and found it dubious.

Most of us reconciled singing the song by asserting that the words were about us (the body of Christ, i.e., the Church), not Jesus’ actual Body. The idea of glorifying the actual Body of Jesus was not part of our culture or theology.

Poor Twila–she wrote a song that’s too Catholic for Protestants, and too Protestant for Catholics!

As for the actual singing of this song, I usually agree that many contemporary Christians songs, including the popular Matt Maher songs, are not appropriate for a congregation because they are written for soloist, not a congregation.

But when it comes to “How Beautiful,” I think that this is one of the more melodious songs in CCM, and most congregations are quite capable of singing it.

It has a regular rhythm, an easy-to-hear melody with easy intervals, and it is not necessary to “slur” it–it sings very well by just hitting the notes clean.

And for those who can’t accept a piano or guitar accompaniment, I think “How Beautiful” would sound very pretty accompanied by an organ, or acapella.

And it’s not “too high.” :rolleyes: The opening interval is a perfect fifth, and it only goes one step higher, never any higher than that (unless you do the modulation into the higher key that Ms. Paris does in her recording, but that’s not necessary for a congregation–the song sounds fine without the modulation). That’s a lot lower than a hymn like "Holy God, We Praise Thy Name or "Hail, Holy Queen, both of which move up a bit.

Those who dislike CCM used in the Mass need to be careful to consider each song separately and not just lump all the songs into one category and reject them for Mass as “banal” or “unsingable” or “inappropriate.”

“How Beautiful” is very appropriate for Mass, and even more appropriate for Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. I often recite these words in adoration.

Which is true. I think part of the problem is that, instead of incorporating Gregorian chant right after Vatican II, we went immediately to hymn expansion in 1964. This was well before any vernacular Mass music (by Richard Proulx et al) was written. Many of the hymns were in fact borrowed from the Protestant hymnals (although they already had been somewhat familiar to Catholics) and became more popular in Catholic churches but also became controversial in Catholic Mass settings. There is no doubt a lot of the music has a lot of spiritual and inspirational value to some (as did a lot of the top 40 tunes every week) but a lot of others think they are too overplayed or too sentimental or just an insult to their intelligence.

as far as proper music in the Mass what religion the composer is doesn’t matter, rather how does the Music allow someone to enter more deeply into the liturgy, is the music being played just there to accompany the mass or is the Music actually made part of the liturgy?

to the O/P you will get many people saying you shouldn’t play these songs in mass, I agree with them, but at the same time if you were to come out in objection to these songs you may not be liked by your pears. Sure this isn’t the highest priority but my suggestion is to find a song similar to these that are a-little more appropriate for the Mass, don’t come out and say we shouldn’t play this type of music in the Mass, rather introduce good music for the Mass. Also if you have a concern about the music being played talk to the pastor and see what he says.

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