Role of Music in the Holy Mass.

**I am on another thread that is speaking of a Jazz Mass.

How has the role of music become so primary in this Blessed Sacrament of our Catholic Faith?

Music does not “make or break” the Mass ~ though it can and does enhance.

If music is so essential to one’s experience of Mass – please explain.

BTW - I never clap at the end of Mass to applaud the music. Do you?**

I do not think music is primary. It might make the top ten list of things at Mass though. Music should always be used as an aid to prayer, or a type of prayer, and fit in harmony with the Mass. Just as the elevation of the Host allows us to lift our eyes , so music can allow us to lift our emotions in accord with the prayer. I do not see anything wrong with an appeal to our senses. What must not happen is for the sensual, which is only a tool to aid our faith, become the focus our our faith.

If the Church banned all music tomorrow, while I would consider it a loss and miss it, I would accept it with relative equanimity. It simply is not all that critical.

I never believe in clapping for music. We do not clap for lectors or altar servers. Musicians are the least important of those who serve at Mass, in my opinion.

However the music is presented at Mass; organ, multiple instruments, a capella, etc. I participate and focus on the words and meaning of the song. Basically, make a joyful sound unto the Lord. I’m there to celebrate the Liturgy of the Word and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. Little things like the style of music just don’t matter that much to me. And if they did, I should then step up and offer my services.

And, I also abhor the new thing of applauding after the Recessional Hymn. But mainly, I think it’s reflexive rather than actually meaningful. Which, in a way, is kind of worse?!?

I love music. I came from a very praise and worship oriented Baptist church. We sang praise songs and then the music would slow down and more spiritual as we prepared for the Scripture readings and the sermon. When I converted one of the things I loved about my church was the praise and worship Mass. There is another Mass at night, but it’s too late for me. Anyway, in the past 4 months it’s starting to get on my nerves. I still love the opening praise song, but the communion hymn is getting to me. To me that should be the most reverent time of the Mass. The loud rock music with one of the singers doing her own thing is really getting to me. At my Baptist church we showed more reverence and it was just crackers and grape juice.

As you can tell this is really bothering me tonight. I’d hate to leave. I like my Priest and I’d have more opportunities to serve the Lord here.

If music were primary, then the Mass should properly be termed a concert.

I think that many music ministries do not realize the place of music in the liturgy, and - perhaps in a well intentioned effort to “give their all” - often overstep their boundaries.

Perhaps it is because I am cantankerous and very sensitive to music, but I don’t quite understand people who are ok with any style of music at the Mass.

You wouldn’t say that the music at a wake is primary, but if it is patently inappropriate, it quickly becomes a primary concern.

I think liturgical composers should focus on writing music which conveys reverence and respect for the sacred. We have the warm and fuzzy side of Jesus nailed, now let’s write for the King of Kings.

The Eucharist is THE focus of the Mass. The music should aid in affirming the Eucharist as the focus. The music itself should NEVER be the focus. I am a long-time music minister, and I cannot stand it when people clap at the end of Mass for the musicians. I do not do it, and I will not do it.

There are parts of the liturgy which are specified to be sung, such as the gospel acclamation, and that if it cannot be sung, it should be omitted. I don’t know if that’s still true in the new GIRM. Sung means SUNG, as in chant at the least, and doesn’t mean a full ensemble is needed. One of the most moving “readings” of the Psalm I ever experienced was chanted by a single nun, a capella. Almost 10 years ago, and I still remember it.

The music at the Mass should be unremarkable. It is not performance time. It must be muscially correct and of the proper tone and reverence. When the music is bad, it is horrid, and detracts from the Mass. When I go to a liturgy and the music is poorly or thoughtlessly executed, I find it hard to “ignore” the bad music and focus on the Eucharist. I’d rather there be NO music at all than poorly presented music. I don’t think that electric guitars, drum kits and angst-ridden microphone-hangning young-adult “rock band” style ensembles should be permitted. Then again, I’m a bit opinionated on the subject, if you couldn’t tell!

[P1] The Mass itself is not a sacrament. The Blessed Sacrament is the actual Body and Blood of Christ, which is consecrated by the Priest during the Mass (of the Faithful, after the Mass of the Catechumens). Music should not be the “primary” factor of any part of the Mass. It is an aid, which should always be reverent IMHO. The Mass, after all, is a Holy Sacrifice of our Blessed Lord. The focus should be God, not a jazz concert.

[P2] Agreed. Music should never be the “make or break” aspect of any Catholic Mass. It is not the focus. If the music happened to be too much of a focus and irreverent, then it would become a “breaker”, at least for me. All thanks to “the spirit” of Vatican II. When we’ve got a former Baptist telling us the services he or she used to attend we’re more reverent than a Roman Catholic Mass, one must wonder what happened to authentic Catholic liturgy - the sacrifice. Anyone who even half understands what is actually taking place on the Altar during a Mass (the theology), the liturgical abuses one sees all over the world would come to an end. For Pete’s sake, we receive the actual Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity of Jesus Christ - let’s act accordingly and appropriately…

[P3] Not essential as stated above…

[P4] Clapping at the end of Mass? In traditional circles clapping at any point in the Mass - in the Church - would be unthinkable, frowned upon at best. It is still considered a sin by some. A Catholic Mass is not a concert. Clapping is inappropriate.

If I had my way I’d get rid of the guitars and trombones from every Mass and bring back the reverent gregorian chant used for centuries in Catholic liturgy. Just my opinion…


Gregorian Chant is supposed to have pride of place during Mass. We don’t sing at Mass, but rather sing the Mass. Gregorian chant is actual prayer. You get a better idea of music’s place and purpose at a EF High Mass because it seems to be one of the few times Gregorian chant is still used.

The most Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is the centre of Mass. Not the singing, our reception of communion, the homily, etc.

I really have no clue what the purpose of the current 4-hymn sandwich that is so common.

Well, music is essential to MY experience at Mass. Yeah, yeah, I know valid Eucharist = valid Mass and all that, but God gave us ears for a reason, as well as the ability to appreciate good music. And the Bible does say to “make a joyful noise” and whatnot.

Can an ex-Baptist say Amen?

My old Baptist church is very large. Singing praise songs was on for at least 10 mins and then the tone changed when the worship songs were sung. When it time for communion there was soft music…keyboard only. Communion time was prayerful with everyone thanking God for sending His son and counting our blessings.

I told a couple of people that I may get earplugs and discreetly put them in my ears after the Lamb of God and take them out when my Priest stands up to give the final blessing.:smiley: I was only half joking. I’m praying about it because this is where God called me to join His church. After I receive my Lord I want to reflect on the miracle and grace that I’ve just received.

Am I wrong for feeling this way?

I’m with you, except I would keep the earplugs in for the music at my current church. Ever since the new translation, they overhauled the music to make it even worse than it was before. It’s enough to make me try and find some time to be in the music ministry. After all, if you need something done right, you need to do it yourself …

Listening to the choirs of the Orthodox church, via Ancient Faith Radio, I’ve come to appreciate instrument free singing, and more so congregational singing. Like others here, I saw the mass becoming a mini concert, with potential to distract from what the real focus should be.

According to Musicum Sacrum Gregorian chant is supposed to have pride of place in "sung liturgical services celebrated in Latin, all things being equal " but I agree that it is sad that so few parishes have at least one Sunday mass where the Ordinary is sung in Latin to a plainsong setting.

I would suggest that hymns at mass (isn’t “hymn sandwich” a bit of a disrespectful description of the Mass?) are simply an extension of what happened before Vatican II at Low Mass where hymns were permitted from 1947 onwards. Where parishes don’t have the resources to sing the Propers chorally, I am not sure what the objection is to hymns to cover what would otherwise be long silent pauses between liturgical actions. What is important (and this is a problem at many Catholic parishes) is that hymn choices are completely random with no through or linkeages to the lectionary or the particular Feast being celebrated.

I agree with you Athena. More than what the Bible says this is what the Church says about music at mass:

*Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with the ministers of each degree fulfilling their ministry and the people participating in it.

Indeed, through this form, prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem.

Pastors of souls will therefore do all they can to achieve this form of celebration.*

and this

*The faithful fulfil their liturgical role by making that full, conscious and active participation which is demanded by the nature of the liturgy itself and which is, by reason of baptism, the right and duty of the Christian people. This participation

(a) Should be above all internal, in the sense that by it the faithful join their mind to what they pronounce or hear, and cooperate with heavenly grace,

(b) Must be, on the other hand, external also, that is, such as to show the internal participation by gestures and bodily attitudes, by the acclamations, responses and singing.

One cannot find anything more religious and more joyful in sacred celebrations than a whole congregation expressing its faith and devotion in song. *

This here is precisely why decisions as to the music part of the liturgy must be made as close to local as possible. Obtaining this desired end is totally a matter of prudence or, whatever works best that is still suitable. This simply must vary from parish to parish, culture to culture, and even within a parish from Mass to Mass.

If we take the case of Gregorian Chant, we find that many simply can not engage internally and externally in singing this for various reasons. The two extremes are to abandon it altogether, or to do nothing but chant and ignore the effect on the prayerfulness of the parish. The path I take is somewhere in the middle, but more to the first. This is because my parish was totally zeroed out on chant. So, I am incuding more and more as I note people start to “get it” and are able to pray along with the chants. The Church has helped folks like me with Jubilate Deo, giving us a simple place to start. Yes, I am using the Latin version.

Now my solution will not work for others. It is for me and my parish. If I need to change I will. The point is, I would rather have no music than for the music become either a distraction or the focus of the Mass. I have never mention to people in the parish what I am doing just so it does not become an issue. This was a strategic desicion.

An excellent strategy. Keep it up!!! :thumbsup:

In terms of music in mass, I think music should be included in every mass if possible, with the caveat that I will expand on below that any music used should be appropriate. How many references do we find in scripture (particularly the psalms) to singing praise to God and playing instruments to praise God?

I’m certainly not against hymns in mass (as opposed to just chant, although I do love chant :)), and I even quite like the guitars as an accompaniment, but I think that all music should be appropriate to the mass in question, and to the stage of the mass. For example the communion hymn should be quiet and reverent, as people will be praying and or/receiving our Lord; whilst the opening and possibly the recessional should link to the readings of the mass if possible (or perhaps be a marian hymn for the recessional).

There are some beatiful guitar-accompanied hymns about, that wouldn’t sound right on an organ - I don’t think these should be excluded just on the grounds they are not played on an organ - there was a time when church’s didn’t have organs, and the best they had was stringed instruments.

What I do object to is the use of ‘inappropriate music’ as a way of making the mass more interesting - this is an oft-cited reason for having jazz-y music in masses aimed at young people (this ‘shine, Jesus, shine’ nonsense). If people knew and appreciated what the mass was about then we wouldn’t need to ‘jazz it up’ in any way.

All the best


That’s very strange–I consider *Shine Jesus Shine *written by Graham Kendrick (this is the hymn you’re referring to, right?) a modern hymn written in a traditional style.

There is nothing in the hymn that would make it a “jazz” hymn–no blue notes or chords, very little syncopated rhythm, no “swing” rhythm, no “improv.” The rhythm is written in a staid 4/4, almost a march, but usually it is sung slowly (too slowly IMO–it would be difficult to march so slowly unless the unit is marching at a funeral procession).

The words to the hymn are quite deep and stirring and certainly not trite or inclusive. I read through them just now and see nothing troubling for Catholics in the theology.

Maybe the group you listened to tried to “jazz up” this hymn. This can be done with ANY hymn; e.g. Hail Holy Queen, about as traditional and “Catholic” a hymn as you wish, but it was re-arranged in the movie *Sister Act *to make it quite lively (not jazz–more like light pop). Some contemporary arrangements of hymns work well, but some are dreadful; a few weeks ago, I attended a funeral for an elderly gentleman during which the musicians did a horrible contemporary version of In The Garden, with a rock-like syncopated rhythm and sliding up and down in the melody line–shudder. People really have to know what they’re doing to take a perfectly fine hymn and re-arrange it. I think that the Sister Act arrangement of *Hail Holy Queen *was quite nice, but the In The Garden made me worry that the dear departed would rise up from the casket and ask the musicians to please stop.

I think we need to be careful to be correct when using various music style terms like “jazz” or “rock” or “gospel.” It’s confusing otherwise. Music styles have particular traits, and just because a hymn was written after 1950, or just because we do not personally like a hymn does not make it a “jazz” hymn.

Music has a place, just not at the center of Mass.

As in the book “Why Catholics Can’t Sing,” our parish has a Caruso music director. Very talented gentleman, but the music dominates the Mass (in my humble opinion). Just this last week, the “band” was practicing right up until the beginning of Mass. For the life of me, I could not pray without the noise intruding into my thoughts. Maybe that’s my own weakness or lack of mental strength, but good grief. Why can’t we have a moment of silence to reflect and pray.

Dan Schutte clown car music assaults the ears in every part of the Mass. The words are bent around the music to make the music work. And then…you guessed it…thunderous applause at the end.

I know, I know. Go to another parish. The wife and I are researching that now.

Caveat: I am a professional musician. I have been singing for 50 years.

To me, chant is as natural to the Mass as breathing. I supposed that technically you don’t need music for the Mass but I certainly don’t like Masses without music.

I admit that the music makes or breaks my worship experience at Mass. It’s hard for me to concentrate on receiving Our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament when the communion procession music sounds like something I would hear in a cocktail lounge.

St. Augustine: “He who sings prays twice.”

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