What do Catholics Sing/Read?


I’m a protestant. Never attended mass. Curious about several things:

  1. What do Catholics sing in church/mass?
  2. What kind of everyday books would be found in a priest’s library? In your personal library?




The Traditional music at Mass is Gregorian Plain chant, and sometimes sacred polyphony; these are still present of course in the Traditional Latin Mass and within some Novus Ordos. At the end or during a procession hymns may be sung, either the more modern 18th-19th C Hymns or the Ancient Latin hymns (Veni Creator, Christus Vincit etc).


Modern rubbishy hymns like kum by yah and Mary had a baby yes Lord, the same hymns as Protestants, like Guide Me O Thou Great Redeemer, some very ancient Latin hymns like the Te Deum, and a few more modern but distinctively Catholic hymns, like Faith of Out Fathers.
Also we sing the Mass setting sometimes - Kyrie, Gloria, Agnus Dei and so forth.

  1. What kind of everyday books would be found in a priest’s library? In your personal library?

I am PhD student so I have quite an extensive library. I’ve got Marx, Nieztche, translations of the Greeks, most significant English literature, Dawkins, Dennett and EO Wilson, techncial stuff on neuronatomy and computer programming, a Hebrew Bible, a Koran, a few historical works.

A priest’s library would be much more slanted to theology. I’d expect Thomas Aquinas, St Augustine, Origen. Also more modern stuff like books on liberation theology, and modern academic theological textbooks with titles like “Jesus and the Rabbinical tradition”. Priests also read a lot of more ephemeral work like “Faith in the City” by the Anglican bishops, and they have to keep up to documents issuing from Rome.

Of course the academic attainments of priests vary. Some few are amongst the foremost scholars in the world, a handful are research scientists, a handful philosophers or writers. However I suspect that the majority see academic work as a necessary evil they need to do to inform their pastoral work.


I attend mostly Low Masses. Don’t sing anything but we pray a lot anyway.


Hymns, songs, and/or chant depending upon the individual parish’s song books, musical talents, and preferences.

This would vary widely by indivdual based on his tastes and interests.

My personal library is quite large and ever expanding. I have books of church documents (such as the Catechism, documents of Vatican II, various Encyclicals, etc). I have books by Catholic authors. I have books by some non-Catholic authors. I have numerous books on pro-life topics.

I have several bibles and a boat load of bible study commentaries

I have some CD/audio tapes, and some DVDs.

In fact, my husband thinks I need an intervention.


Many different hymns some in Latin, some in English, some written by Catholics some by members of other denominations. Some old and some new.

Most of the prayers and readings at Mass are based on Scripture. Readings on a typical Sunday include five to say a dozen verses from the Old Testament, same number from the Gospels, and the same for the Epistles. So on a typical Sunday we hear/read over 3 dozen verses from Scripture, a portion of the Psalms, and have a 15 to 30 minute lesson by the Priest on the readings.

Books in my library include several different Bible Translations, a Bible Dictionary, a Concordance, several books on interpretation and structure of the Bible, a Book of Mormon,numbers of books on world and church history including Judaism, early Israel, the Reformation, Biblical archeology, and the Ecumenical Councils including Vatican II, the Sacraments and the Mass, Ireland, Germany, Europe, and England. Biographies of several of our American founders and presidents, etc. Having been a Chemist, I have books on chemistry, physics, and mathematics. Last of all plain old novels, mystery stories, wood working, and fishing.

  1. Depending on the Church, probably a lot of hymns similar to what you sing. If it is a Traditional Latin Mass, it is probably hymns you have never heard of. Plus the Gregorian Chant for the propers and commons of the Mass.

  2. Priests probably have quite a few theology books. Perhaps their favorite translation of Scripture so that they are not forced to only read the NAB that is read at Mass. Really, it probably varies as widely as people do.

In my personal library, I like to read Fantasy. If I am reading Church related things, I like Bishop Sheen and the like. I also enjoy apologetics books. One of my favorites is “Born Fundamentalist - Born Again Catholic” by David B. Currie.


What we sing depends on where you go. We sing some Latin hynns like Ave Verum Corpus (my favorite), some modern songs that I mostly don’t like at all (Anthem) and some classic Protestant hymns too (most of which I like).

A priest’s personal library is probably as individual as he is. My own is filled with novels, mostly mysteries and romance and books on history. I have several Bibles, several Bible commentaries and books on the Catholic Church by David Currie, Scott Hahn, Thomas Howard and more.


Since you asked…:

Bibles, Catechisms & References
Lots of Bibles (KJV, NKJV, NIV, RSV, NAB, Jerusalem)
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Compendium of the Catechism
U.S. Catechism for Adults
Dictionary of the Bible - McKenzie,
Commentary on the Whole Bible - Jamieson Faucett Brown,
Dictionary of Biblical Theology - Leon-DuFour
Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words
Dictionary of New Testament Theology - Colin Brown
Catholicism for Dummies

The Faith of the Early Fathers Vol 1-3 - Jurgens
The Fathers of the Church - Aquilina
The Great Heresies - Belloc
How the Reformation Happened - Belloc
Characters of the Reformation - Belloc
Characters of the Inquisition - Walsh
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization - Woods

Mere Christianity - Lewis
Theology for Beginners - Sheed
Theology of the Body - John Paul II
Theology of the Body for Beginners - West
Theology of the Body Explained - West

Apologetics – By Author
The Salvation Controversy - Akin
A Biblical Defense of Catholicism - Armstrong
The Catholic Verses - Armstrong
More Biblical Defense of Catholicism - Armstrong
The Essential Catholic Survival Guide - Catholic Answers
Where We Got the Bible - Graham
Catholic for a Reason - Hahn
Catholicism and Fundamentalism - Keating
Answer Me This - Madrid
Why is that in Tradition - Madrid
Where is that in the Bible - Madrid
Pope Fiction - Madrid
Any Friend of God’s is a Friend of Mine - Madrid
Does the Bible Really Say That? - Madrid
The New Evidence That Demands a Verdict - McDowell
Why Catholic Bibles Are Bigger - Michuta
Upon This Rock - Ray
Catholic and Christian - Schreck
By What Authority - Shea
Queen Mother - Sri
Nuts & Bolts - Staples
Not By Faith Alone - Sungenis
Not By Bread Alone - Sungenis
Not By Scripture Alone - Sungenis
How Can I Get to Heaven - Sungenis

The Catholic Church and Conversion - Chesterton
Rome Sweet Home - Hahn
Lead, Kindly Light - Howard
Evangelical is Not Enough - Howard
On Being Catholic - Howard
Crossing the Tiber - Ray

Church & Sacraments
The Eucharist - Cantalamessa
The Lamb’s Supper - Hahn
What Went Wrong with Vatican II? - McInerny
Surprised by Canon Law - Vere & Truman
A Key to the Doctrine of the Eucharist - Vonier
In the Presence of Our Lord - Groeschel
7 Secrets of the Eucharist - Flynn
St. Thomas Aquinas - The Dumb Ox - Chesteron

Protestant Authors
Jerusalem Countdown - Hagee
The Battle for Jerusalem - Hagee
The 10 Most Important Things you Can Say to a Catholic - Rhodes
Reasoning from the Scriptures with Catholics - Rhodes
The Purpose-Driven Life - Warren
The Prayer of Jabez - Wilkinson

Other Faiths
This Holy Mystery - A United Methodist Understanding of Holy Communion
The Book of Mormon
Doctrines and Covenats
Pearl of Great Price
Luther’s Small Catechism

Periodicals, Pamphlets & Encyclicals
Catholic Answers
This Rock
Too many to mention

Lots of books on JW’s, Mormonism & Freemasonry

I didn’t check the attic. :slight_smile:


I was evangelical Protestant for over 40 years.

When my husband and I first started attending mass, it wasn’t because we wanted to become Catholic. We had no choice because our daughters’ figure skating practices were Saturdays and Sundays from 5:00 A.M. until around 1:00 P.M. Back in the early 2000s, no Protestant churches our city were offering Sat. night services. (Now many do.)

During the first few weeks of mass, I was determined not to be led astray by “twisted” readings of the Bible. (I had heard that the Catholic Bible is different.) So I brought my New American Standard Bible and compared the readings word for word.

After a few months, I stopped bringing my Bible. It was the same readings. And even more shocking, most of the mass was straight from the Bible. Believe me, after 40 years in evangelicalism, we knew our Bibles. We recognized all the passages of Scripture, all the songs and responses.

It was actually refreshing to be in a church that read so much Scripture. What we had gotten used to was a short Bible reading, followed by a long sermon, not necessarily about the Bible reading (more likely a topic, like marriage or “the world”), and lots of singing of choruses.

I hope you’ll attend mass. Take your Bible. A lot of Catholic priests are encouraging their parishioners to bring their Bibles; in fact, we visited one Catholic Church in Michigan where there were no missals in the pews, just Bibles.

As for singing, if you visited the masses in my parish, you would find many of the same hymns that are sung in Protestant churches (or at least, USED to be sung. Now it’s often nothing but choruses).

Books in the library? Others have presented excellent lists. It really depends on the pastoral interests. One of our priests is very knowledgeable about the Old Testament. Another is interested in missions. It just depends.

But there would be plenty of Bibles and Bible commentaries, if that’s what you’re worried about.

One suggestion: if you attend mass, ask someone to help you find the “order of mass” in the missal. It’s in there, and it will help you to follow the responses and positions (kneeling, standing, etc.) if you know what’s happening. Note: you don’t have to do anything that makes you feel uncomfortable. If you don’t kneel, no one will think badly of you. If you don’t cross yourself, no one will assume that you’re “one of them.”

Another suggestion is to meet with the priest and ask him to explain the mass to you. It’s a good way to get to know the priest, too.

Finally, I assume you already know this, but just in case: please don’t take the Holy Communion. Somewhere in the missal you will find explanations of who may participate in Holy Communion, and suggestions for those who don’t (e.g., you may participate spiritually).

Have fun!


Regarding song selection, two things that you might notice at a typical mass, that one might not expect at a typical protestent service.

First of all, there is usually a serious systematic effort to make selections of music that directly relate to the scripture readings for that day. The scripture readings are published far in advance and are the same in different parishes (not selected the week before by the pastor). While some protestants do this also, others seem to select among favorite songs with no particular pattern, except for a few holidays such as Christmas.

Secondly, there are a few “special” parts of the mass which occur at every mass and are very consistent from week to week. These are not really “songs” in the usual sense, but certain parts of the mass which are commonly sung (although they may also be spoken). Some protestant groups have a practice of singing rather than speaking the Lords Prayer – this is like that except more extensive. For example, right before the reading from the Gospels, there is commonly a short “alleluia”, sometimes called a gospel acclimation. This part for example is usually only 30 seconds or so.


About seeing for one’s self what is sung and read at Mass: A protestant friend of mine has started with and dropped more churches than I can count, and I have several times suggested that in the meantime, when she is between churches, and because she would still like to worship on Sunday, or observe Good Friday, or something–I’ve suggested she could drop in at the Catholic church around the corner from her house. She never does, though.

Maybe she thinks she has to join, or give money, even be noticed–that she can’t just walk in and sit down and observe what is going on, maybe even find she can worship.

Well, you can just walk in without a word to anybody–if there’s someone doing the greeting, it’s a hi/hello. Nobody is checking. If you are a new face, no one notices, or if so it’s to assume you belong there in some way or other. If you are there to respectfully observe, then you belong. If one wants to observe rather than participate, then one wouldn’t be sitting/kneeling/standing with the congregation, but that’s OK. Just sit towards the back in order to feel more at ease not joining in.

I’ve walked into Catholic churches without a word to anyone all over this country and Europe. They all belong to me! They all belong to all Christianity, to our Protestant brothers even, if they but knew it.

Mass takes about one hour on Sundays. It is shorter on weekdays, without singing, and a teeny sermon if at all. The only restriction is not to take Holy Communion (see inside cover of missalette for reasonings).


This is a far cry from most Protestant services where visitors are often asked to stand and introduce themselves or fill out a card and drop it in the collection plate, etc.

Maybe she doesn’t want to be singled out like that…

OTOH, we Catholics could be a little warmer at greeting our guests. I’ve observed that smaller parishes or vacation area parishes typically are.


yes, maybe that’s it–don’t know why it took so long to occur to me…

OTOH, we Catholics could be a little warmer at greeting our guests.

Well, I know, people seem to feel this way. I don’t. I know it sounds off, but I feel about it as I would if I arrived at my house and found a greeter at my front door, welcoming me into my own house. It’s just inappropriate. I belong in that Church, in fact I am commanded to be in that Church, and any fellowship which is important will take place inside, where we all reenter together the Sacrifice on Calvary, unite ourselves to the Perfect Offering, and then unite physically with our Savior–and thus with each other. How much more cosy can it get???

We have oneness with each other in His Body. The other, at the door, well, that’s what Protestants have, they have a meeting hall, they have fellowship. I imagine that we have so many reverts and converts among us now that they bring with them a certain expectation on this kind of fellowshipping…

Don’t worry, I smile humbly at the greeters…


Music; some songs, some hymns, some chant… all related to the order of the Mass or the scripture of the day. It is neither a concert nor a break between sermons. It is prayer that enriches the Mass but does not replace any part of it.

Books in the priest’s library? I imagine he reads whatever he chooses; some for reference, some for enlightenment and some for entertainment.

My library is tiny because I buy books to read and then pass them on to someone else who will benefit from them in one way or the other. I have read more than I can count, I have owned more than could fill a bookstore. The ones I keep are the ones that I could read any number of times and never tire of, and hardcover collections from my favorite authors.


This sounds exactly like me. My husband also thinks I need an intervention. LOL


Our church is in a hispanic dominated area so even the english songs have a spanish flavor to em, but of course we have the old standby’s that most church’s have. Never been to a latin mass before because there are none in our area.

I have alot of books in pretty much all areas but my favorite is still Screwtape Letters by CS Lewis:thumbsup:


My parish has Sunday school after Mass. It is Bible study. I have been going for the past 6 years. We also have coffee hour after Mass once a month. It is not just Protestants who have these things available. Some Catholics have them also. If your parish does not have these available and you would like them, perhaps you should talk to your pastor.


Depending on which Catholic church you go to, some of the music we have is similar to what is found in Protestant churches, others use Gregorian chant, still others flat out rubbish.

In my personal library I have a Bible and the Book of Divine Worship (a resource for prayer and worship). I also study privately (not in an academic program) works on bioethics, theology (including apologetics for the non-theologian) and canon law, chiefly online works of printed versions (I don’t have enough money to pay for all the books I want). Add to this, psychology (I am an undergraduate psychology major) textbooks.

As for what is in my pastor’s library, I don’t know.


Catholic answers recently had a show about liturgical music.

At our Parish the songs usually reflect one of the readings for the day, and we sing the Psalms.

I haven’t looked at the Priest personal library, but our Parish has started a library of books and audio programs, It is still somewhat small, but it is growing as they purchase new items and people donate things.

My personal library includes

Bibles and commentaries
NAB - RSV - NIV - NASV - The Message
Navarre New Testament text and commentary
Making sense out of scripture - Shea
You can understand the bible - Kreeft
Catechism of the Catholic Church
Catechism for Adults
Encyclopedia of Catholicism
Theology for beginners - Sheed

Fathers / Church history
Faith of our Fathers - Jurgens
The fathers of the Church - Aquilina
The Mass of the early Christians - Aqilina
The teaching of the Church Fathers - Willis
Early Christian writings - Staniforth
The history of the Church - Eusebius
Where we got the bible - Graham
Daily life in the time of Jesus - Daniel-Rops

What Catholics really believe - Keating
Catholicism and Fundamentalis - Keating
Why is that tradition - Madrid
Answer me this - Madrid
Where is that in the Bible - Madrid
Mass Confusion - Akin
Radio replies - Fathers Rumble and Carty (from the 1930’s and 40’s - Catholic Answers wasn’t the first Q&A on the radio)
The essential catholic survival guide - Catholic Answers
Rome sweet home - Hahn
A father who keeps his promises - Hahn
Lambs supper - Hahn
Letter & Spirit - Hahn

Many books on the Saints, prayer and Christian living

(Someday when I have time, I might read one):smiley:

Plus many audio CD’s including the Bible on CD, Apologetics and debates.
and Video programs ( Steve Ray’s “Footprints of God” series), and Our Fathers Plan - Hahn and Cavins.

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