Pope Francis Calls for Reform in Liturgical Music


I am. I’ll add that to my list. I think a hymn written in 1779 falls into the older traditional hymn column.

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Anglicans have been singing the same hymns for years and I get that. The Catholic Church has a multitude of hymnals and collections to choose from. I blame Vatican II for not setting stricter standards and allowing hundreds of composers to allow all types of music in the many to come hymnals and collections from a number of publishing houses.



Many people hate it because it’s a Protestant hymn. So is jesu joy of mans desiring but I’ve never heard anyone hate on Bach

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Perhaps “hate” for this hymn is some places. Our congregants belt this one out. Never heard a priest complain yet. Besides that, HHH, was first used in protestant churches before Catholics sang (well, attempt to sing!) at Mass.

No hate on Bach: I wrote the Easter Sequence to that tune.

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I was just listening to one of my favorite hymns. Can’t get through it without tearing up. ‘My Song is Love Unknown.’ The words are:

My song is love unknown,
My Saviors love to me;
Love to the loveless shown,
That they might lovely be.
O who am I, that for my sake
My Lord should take, frail flesh and die?

He came from His blest throne
Salvation to bestow;
But men made strange, and none
The longed for Christ would know:
But O! my Friend, my Friend indeed,
Who at my need His life did spend.

Sometimes they strew His way,
And His sweet praises sing;
Resounding all the day
Hosannas to their King:
Then Crucify! is all their breath,
And for His death they thirst and cry.

They rise and needs will have
My dear Lord made away;
A murderer they saved,
The Prince of life they slay,
Yet cheerful He to suffering goes,
That He His foes from thence might free.

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my Friend, in Whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

And here is how it is sung: Please do take a moment to listen.



Look at an old hymnal. Many of these songs have been (and sometimes still are) sung in Catholic parishes. They’re simple but reverent melodies that any intermediate musician can figure out.



And yet I’m sure few of them complain about all of the Marty Haugen songs in their Missals. (For those who don’t know, Haugen belongs to the United Church of Christ).



Former Anglican here. And yes, it’s probably the music that I miss most. :heart_eyes:



Since the Pope really didn’t specify what songs he considers banal or mediocre, that’s tough to say.

And that’s probably the reason why the music hasn’t changed in the year and a half since Francis gave this message. It just isn’t specific what he wants to see



It’s been my penance over forty years of Catholicism.



From Pope Francis’s address.

At times, a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of the liturgical celebrations.

Sadly, it’s what many of the clergy and people want.

As others have noted, the modern, simple songs are often what is best suited to the capabilities of the musicians. To me, it’s always better to have some music than none, and I am always grateful to those who volunteer. The problem is that the Church (in general) hasn’t recognised the value of good music and highly trained musicians. I’ve seen priests and laity who push out the good musicians and good (ie. traditional) music, in preference for the “mediocre”. (I welcome good modern music, but it seems we don’t get much that stands up to the old hymns which have been forced out).



Another take on this from my perspective… In Anglican / Episcopal churches in the US and in the UK, music directors and organists are oftentimes gay men. Trained, talented, and devoted to making good music gay men.

I have noticed that RC parishes are not always welcoming to trained and talented musicians who happen to be gay men. This might be a factor in the quality of music in your churches. Just a thought.



His Holiness would not be pleased with the music at my parish. They seem to pick the absolute worst songs from the 70s. Gregorian Chant ought to be the music for the Liturgy.



That’s in your opinion, Pope Francis might be of a different opinion on that.



Interesting…as a female who is most likely a contralto (seriously, I can sing the tenor parts) I tend to agree that most parts are arranged too high. I’m eastern Catholic though and we sing everything acappella. I can’t harmonize easily so I am always switching octaves…lol!



And do you sing Gregorian chant?



In our situation here that is the case. We RARELY have music played or songs sung at our Masses at all. Only if the volunteers show up and want to do it. We’ve tried hiring and paying professionals numerous times for our 2 Churches but they move on to bigger and better things. I guess what I’m trying to say is any music we have we are thankful for. Sure some of it is TOTALLY WRONG and should not even be played or sung but if I can’t offer a viable solution who am I to complain?

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This idea that church music is too high really goes to a lack of education and musical exposure. 90% of the baby girls born in the world fall into a soprano range. It is acutally rare to have a naturally lower women’s voice. To sing high, people need air. To sing quietly, people don’t need much air, and thus they prefer lower pitches. If people use a lot of air, they can sing higher but they risk the exposure of singing louder. I have been in several churches that sing the “high” songs with gusto. Church music is and should be different than secular music. Pop songs on the radio are lower, people are used to singing with those in their cars, or wherever they may be. Church singing requires more intention and effort. People just have to get over the idea that someone else might hear them.

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I think most women fall into the mezzo-soprano range, followed by sopranos. Contralto is the rarest. I do agree that most people don’t know how to sing. I would also love to take lessons and learn how to properly transition from chest to head voice. It’s more apparent when you aren’t singing with an instrument.


  1. its over a year old and nothing has really come from it (at least in the United States)

  2. It’s also a little vague (unless one is familiar with Musicam Sacram) because it doesn’t define mediocrity, banality and superficiality in liturgical music. After all, while I would call everything by Dan Schutte mediocre and banal; some really love (for some reason beyond me) his music.

When you attend a Jewish liturgy (even a Reform one), they chant everything, there is no singing. We are an off shoot of Judaism, and we chanted the entire liturgy until Vatican II. I don’t think Vatican II called for the removal of Chanting. So personally, I would like us to return to more chanting of scripture and prayers and less singing.

God Bless


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