Priests and Mass Settings

Hi everyone,

I have a cluster of related questions…I hope that is ok!

First of all, I was wondering who decides what Mass Settings are to be used in a particular parish. Is it the parish priest? The music director? Is it a joint decision? Will a bishop often look at a given parish that is used to having, let’s say, a more contemporary setting like the Mass of Light, and say, “Ok, I’m going to assign to that parish Father John Doe, because he has confided to me that he is a particular fan of contemporary Mass Settings?” Is that how that works?

Also, are specific Mass Settings (ranging from the traditional Missa De Angelis to the 80s Mass of Creation, etc.) taught to priests in seminaries? Could any given priest hypothetically celebrate a Mass with any setting at the drop of a hat?

Sorry if these are a bit strange…!
Thank you.


I think choosing the Mass setting is usually the music director’s job. Certainly I haven’t been in a parish where the priest did this.

From my chats with seminarians (and from the questions asked of me by a recently ordained older priest) it has become painfully obvious that they aren’t taught a lot about music and liturgy (at least at many of the seminaries in North America). While a seminarian who hears a setting he particularly likes may make a point of finding out what it is, they aren’t taught any in particular.

The priest could celebrate the Mass at the drop of a hat, but unless he reads music and can follow the setting that’s in the Sacramentary I doubt he’d be ready to sing anything else. The Ordinary can be sung by the choir without the priest intoning any of it so it’s not that important that he know the various settings.

It’s the choir/choir director. The pastor may choose to involve himself but more often than not, doesn’t.

The diocesan bishop doesn’t care and he probably has no idea what kind of music they play “over at Saint Such-n-such.”

No, seminary is not music school. They may learn/study a very little bit of Latin chant stuff there; if they indeed do teach that, it’s extremely limited.

The priest celebrant has very little, if anything, to do with whatever musical setting of the Mass ordinaries the choir sings. For some of the settings (e.g., Mass of Creation, Mass of Light, Mass of a Joyful Heart) there are specific parts of the Mass for the priest that are written out (like the doxology before the Great Amen) but ordinarily, it is way too much work and choreography for the choir director to teach the part to a priest (who more than likely does not care and probably doesn’t read music) and so they don’t bother with it.

DISCLAIMER: The views and opinions expressed in these forums do not necessarily reflect those of Catholic Answers. For official apologetics resources please visit