Questions about playing songs from a CD for Mass


I am a “commentator” at one of our Masses where there is no choir.

Recently we have had the music always prepared by a parish assistant and set up to play from a CD.

This works very well, in principle, and the congregation seem to appreciate that this provides an opportunity to sing where otherwise there would be none.


When to start the communion song? There seem to be three places: when the priest starts to receive communion; when he starts to distribute communion to the EMHC’s; or when the starts to distribute to the congregation.

I have some objections to the regularly selected music. It is strongly oriented to recent and unfamiliar “songs”, performed by an individual singer, rather than familiar “hymns” (or even “Eagles Wings” style music). Particular objections I have are that the communion song is never Eucharistic, and the opening hymn is often slow and reflective, and more of a modern “song” than a hymn.

I prefer a Eucharist communion hymn.

I prefer a joyful and familiar opening hymn.

I am interested in any information about whether my “preferences” have objective support in guidelines for liturgical music. Are my preferences important enough to make an issue with the person who prepares the CD? I am happy to make the CD myself, with my own choices of hymn.

(I want to avoid to taking this to the priest, in the first instance, and will only involve him if I am unable to sort it out with the other person, and if I feel that there is an objective case here, rather than my preferences.)


Masses are not to have recorded music. It’s either live or bust. You’ll have to do low Masses until you have a choir.


Thankyou. I don’t doubt it, but if you have a reference then is an important issue to take up with the Parish. I am quite serious. :yup:


It’s in here, for one reference.


Here is another article that explains about why prerecorded music is not preferable in the liturgy.


Pardon me for asking off topic, but, what is a “commentator” at Mass and what does he do?


That’s the designation in our parish. The “commentator”

  • announces the hymns
  • Leads the psalm
  • reads the intercessions

He/she reads from a set format.

He/she doesn’t provide live commentory during the liturgy. :slight_smile:


[quote="Usige, post:5, topic:312982"]

Here is another article that explains about why prerecorded music is not preferable in the liturgy.



I personally prefer the choir immensely, or, if no choir, then unaccompanied singing. I have attempted to lead the the parish in unaccompanied singing myself but most other "commentators" are unwilling to do this.

Your article is not a recent, authoritative reference, but it is useful. I say this not to question it, but just to remind us that we cannot use it as if it were "end of argument" resource. I am thinking, particularly, of the situation that I might need to raise this with my parish.

Three quotes from the article stand out to me:

Simultaneously, a correspondent from Wisconsin reminded me of the 1958 instruction "De Musica Sacra" issued by the Congregation of Rites, which states: "Finally, only those musical instruments which are played by the personal action of the artist may be admitted to the sacred liturgy, and not those which are operated automatically or mechanically."

According to the above documents it is preferable to sing without musical accompaniment than resort to artificial means.

every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people is not absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on holy days of obligation."

I note the overall theology is that the liturgy is to be performed entirely by those present. The use of a CD introduces an anonymous third party into the congregation.

It could argued from the last quoted item that it may be preferable to have music on a CD to no music - but only to facilitate the congregation in singing. Recordings by a solo singer or of unfamiliar or difficult music should be avoided.

In my particular congregation we are facing the problems that: there are few people willing to sing in the choir, or lead the singing as cantor; the congregation is unwilling to sing unacommpanied; the congregation does want to sing. This is the long term problem we are faced with. Either have no music at most Masses, or use a CD to lead the congregation.

My impression is the both our priests prefer this recorded music to none at all, so I would have a large problem convincing them to stop this practice (in the absence of a more authoritative document), however I am confident that I can argue that the recorded music must be used strictly to assist the congregation in singing.

This (the use of the CD) has been one of those things which was just introduced "by stealth", from week to week before anyone realised that it was a permanent fixture. I am actually on the Liturgy committee, which hasn't met for 6 months, and by the next time we meet it will be difficult to question this practice.

Maybe I'll just argue for unaccompanied singing, or none at all. I'll think about it. :)


The 1958 De Musica Sacra has never been abrogated so the prohibition of recorded music is still in effect. It seems to be ignored in many parishes.

It seems to me that it encourages people to be lazy. If a congregation likes to sing, pick traditional hymns and go with those. They’re more likely to sing those a capella than some of the newer stuff.

This is what the GIRM says about the Communion Chant.

  1. While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the “communitarian” character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.[73] However, if there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion Chant should be ended in a timely manner.


In charity, the date the legislation was issued is not in play whatsoever, unless it is subsequently abrogated by more recent legislation. That is why so much of what we’re now discerning vis a vis documents such as the post-conciliar *CSL, IGRM *and Musicam Sacram, are still standing on the foundation of the 1903 motu proprio of St. Pius X, Tra le sollecitudini.
This edict banning recorded music at liturgy (not necessarily devotions in some cases) is, in point of fact, argument ending. Technology changes along with modern attitudes, but those aren’t the principles at stake. Authentic worship requires authentic (ie. “living, believing, professing, in the moment…”) worshippers present and participating, whether by singing themselves or listening actively to others (not once removed by recordings) singing on their behalf.
Again, there’s nothing to “argue” per se, if only one person (in such a case I’d hope for the celebrant) chants the antiphons, psalm, verse and collects, you’re good to go.


Yes! The full, conscious, and active participation talked about in Sacrosanctum Concilium…


Thankyou for all the helpful and interesting posts. :slight_smile: You have helped me discover liturgical principles I was not aware of.

I have seen a misleading aspect of my OP post: The CD is not for listening, but is used to lead the congregation in singing, when without it there would be no singing.

I apologise for the misdirection.

Overall, this has been effective and has been welcomed by the priests and congregation. From the material presented so far in this thread I don’t see clear evidence that CD for this purpose is illicit. It is clearly against historic liturgical principles, but that is not the same as being illicit.

Our priests, both of them, are not liturgical innovators, but they are pragmatists. The use of the CD’s is part of an overall process of liturgical improvement in our parish which has, for the most part, worked very well, (I’ll spare you the details), and they will not want to end this abruptly.

Traditional hymns, a capella, is definitely my first choice, and I have led the congregation with these in the past, however I was (almost) the only commentator who would do this, and as time passed it started to seem like my personal imposition on the congregation. We would still have half the congregation simply refusing to sing, with the younger ones glancing at each other and rolling their eyes, :(:mad:, and this is very disconcerting to the leader and those who are singing. (I was careful not to “perform” - I just started the hymns in tune, and restarted each verse)

Using the CD’s does, as you say, encourage laziness. In particular, it does not address the real problem of people simply refusing to sing a capella, and parish priests and liturgists not taking actions to overcome this. It also enables the members of the congregation to continue without offering to form enough choirs, or capable keyboard players volunteering.

Just as an aside on a capella singing, I mention that as a member of the congregation some of my most joyous moments in Mass have been when the congregation has joined fulsomely in an a capella hymn!

At this point, I am thinking that I will recommend that we commit that use of the CD’s will continue for one year only, while we work on better musical solutions. This is also consistent with it being part of a “package” of liturgical improvements, which, I emphasise, has overall worked very well.

If we continue with the CD’s then I will emphasise that this should only be done with music selected such which is suitable for leading the singing of familiar hymns.

Thankyou. :slight_smile:


I see no reason why you should need a CD. A low Mass can be quite reverent when done properly. The singing is not necessary. It is beautiful and moving, but having it from a CD would be a distraction for me. It's a missed opportunity to cultivate musical skills in the parish if CD's are used.


Sums it up nicely! :slight_smile:

(except for one of the quotes above which says that singing should be encouraged for Sunday Mass. )

And, yes, the CD is a distraction. I’d forgotten how distracting it was for me the first few times I heard it. I’ve become used to it since then - which is possibly not a good thing.


[quote="Phemie, post:9, topic:312982"]
The 1958 De Musica Sacra has never been abrogated so the prohibition of recorded music is still in effect. It seems to be ignored in many parishes.



The 1973 Directory for Masses with Children has in Chapter 3, n. 32:
"With these precautions and with due and special discretion, recorded music may also be used in Masses with children, in accord with norms established by the conferences of bishops."

In n. 19 of this document it has:
"Wherever the bishop permits, in addition to the adaptations already provided in the Order of Mass, one or other of the particular adaptations described later in the Directory may be employed in a Mass celebrated with adults in which children also participate."

It can be read at .


I am surprised that we have furnished the authoritative Church documents explaining that recorded music is forbidden and you still don’t believe that it is.

Actually, the commentator as envisioned by the GIRM does indeed provide live commentary during the liturgy. The person who leads the psalm is properly called the “cantor” and the one who reads the intercessions is a deacon, lector or reader.

[quote=“General Instruction of the Roman Missal”]105. A liturgical function is also exercised by:

b) The commentator, who, if appropriate, provides the faithful briefly with explanations and exhortations so as to direct their attention to the
celebration and ensure that they are better disposed for understanding it. The commentator’s remarks should be thoroughly prepared and notable for their restraint. In performing this function the commentator stands in a suitable place within sight of the faithful, but not at the ambo.

I have never been at a Mass with a proper commentator. Frequently, the cantor or organist is the person who announces the hymns.


Thankyou. That seems to say that recorded music is permissable in some circumstances, and, moreover, those circumstances include, at the bishop’s discretion, the typical Sunday Mass.

I checked the original in your link, and found in it a link and many references to

Musicam Sacram - Instruction On Music In The Liturgy - Sacred Congregation of Rites * March 5, 1967

This seems to be the authoritative and current application of Vatican II to sacred music - (subject to particular refinements, such as the the document you posted).

I don’t think we have any disagreement in this thread that a choir or a capella is preferable to recorded music. My particular reason for asking this question was pragmatic, namely to improve the actual music in my own parish, where the use of a CD has become established in Masses where there would otherwise be no singing. To attempt to stop this practice abruptly and by force of Church law I would have to take up a battle with two priests, the Liturgy committee, and most of the parish - which is a battle I would only attempt with an absolutely irrefutable documentary argument.


I stumbled upon something relevant to this discussion, and I thought I’d post it as when this thread was first raised we did have trouble finding documents which specifically addressed the issue.

The following is from Pastoral Notes for the Celebration of the Eucharist in Light of the Revised Roman Missal, by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops, 2012.

**The human voice always holds a primary place in the singing of the Church.
]Prerecorded music must never replace the singing of the assembly, nor should it
displace the ministry of music ministers. Only in cases of real necessity should
prerecorded music be used in liturgical celebrations and then only to support

and enhance the singing of the assembly.
]Instruments are intended to serve, not to replace or obscure the praise that
comes from the heart.44



[quote="Phemie, post:9, topic:312982"]
It seems to me that it encourages people to be lazy. If a congregation likes to sing, pick traditional hymns and go with those. They're more likely to sing those a capella than some of the newer stuff.


The same people who have trouble counting all the 16th notes in "Be Not Afraid" will usually belt "Holy God We Praise Thy Name" or "Jesus Christ Is Risen Today" with gusto!


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