Propers Vs. Hymns: The Final Showdown!

Ok. Maybe the title is a little over the top but you get the point…:stuck_out_tongue:

Does anybody know the church’s stance on Hymns and Propers. My understanding is that (despite common practice in the US) if you are able to do the propers, the are a better option, but hymns are ok. Does anybody know if this is correct?

I’ve also heard it explained that “singing the mass” (propers and ordinary) is superior to “singing at mass” (hymns) because the propers are usually scripture, and the word of God “trumps” the word of man, even if it is based off scripture.

I’m almost sure that this is correct, but does anyone have document references for people who would say otherwise? I don’t need ones about chant having the “pride of place”, already have plenty, just looking for ones pertaining to the propers and hymns (or lack thereof).


From the GIRM, para 48:

“In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.”

Undoubtedly, others will read it differently, but I read it as saying that the antiphon from the Missal or the Graduale Romanum is the first choice, the Graduale Simplex the second choice, some other antiphonal or metrical psalm the third choice, and a “suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop” the fourth, or last choice.

Hymns are meant to be sung during the liturgy of the hours; the propers are for Mass. I am not saying that hymns aren’t allowed. What I am saying is that the Church has expressed a preference, and we should move in that direction.

In most dioceses of the United States, in most parishes, there is absolutely no good reason not to be singing the propers, in some form. Especially given that so many different arrangements are available for free – in English, and written in modern notation, so one does not even need to learn Latin or learn how to read chant notation to get started.

Bingo, hymns have a long tradition in the Liturgy of the Hours as a sort of theological lesson. Alas I wouldn’t trust any of the modern hymns at Mass to teach theology. There’s no real tradition of hymns for the Mass. Those for the LOTH on the other hand, have been attributed to such people as St. Ambrose, St Gregory the Great, Venantius Fortunatus, St. Thomas of Aquinas, to name a few. Not exactly theological lightweights!

Thanks for the girm reference. I would also argue strongly that the order listed is the order of preference.

But most of all, this is exactly the confirmation I was looking for! I’m not that crazy catholic geek with the crazy, off the wall ideas!!

You guys have been very helpful. I’ve been tossing this idea around in my mind for a while, and on the one hand, practically no one is doing any form of the propers, on the other hand, my schola teacher, a few priests, and many people I trust are saying that hymns are not the best option for mass, the propers are. My choir sings the introit before the processional hymn, and that’s a good start, but I’d love to see them returned to their proper place (no pun intended).


Now all I have to do is go change the world!! :smiley:

It sounds like you’re off to a good start, at your own parish.

At my parish, we have started slowly. We do the communio each week, the antiphon in Latin and psalm tone verses in English.

May I suggest that you look at Richard Rice’s Simple Choral Gradual? I would not argue that it is the idea (and neither would Rice, I suspect), but it is a step in the right direction. English-language propers in modern notation. Free!

It used to be free, then the profit motive kicked and it was ratcheted up to $6.00 just to download. Now you can’t even find it. So much for open-source music, I guess.

Or the “feed-the-family” motive.:rolleyes: $6 is hardly an exorbitant amount.

Rats. Good point still, $6 is reasonable.

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