From a reader:
There is a situation I would like to ask your (or your readers’) advice about.
If a man whose job was to be a music director at a parish with a serious sacred music program perceived a calling to the diaconate and eventually was ordained a deacon, would he be able to continue his ministry as a choir director in the choir loft? Or would he be required to serve as a deacon at the altar in every case? More particularly, if there was a time when the priest wished to distribute holy communion under both species, would the deacon be obliged to do so in preference to any extraordinary minister, even if it meant abandoning the music program that he directs?
I’m not quite sure I see the solution to this from the official sources I’ve read so far.
Thanks for considering fielding this question on WDTPRS.
No, the deacon would not be obliged to leave the choir loft in favor of the presbyterium (the proper name for the sanctuary).
First, consider that the sacred music for Holy Mass should be the proper texts the Church assigns for Mass. Other texts are substitutions. The choir for Mass was through the centuries perceived as an extension of the ministry of clerics, serving Mass, since they were singing the texts for Mass. This is one reason why there was a prohibition against mixed choirs. This is a reason why some people don’t want lay people in the congregation to be singing chant responses, etc. The idea is that the choir was an extension of service at the altar, even when not all the members of the choir were clerics.
Based on that, there is nothing incongruous for a deacon to be working in music ministry. That is to say, he finds a d good and proper place in the choir loft.
Second, it is pretty hard to ask for clerics to mix ministries, as it were. For example, consider the situation of a priest or deacon vested at the altar in the sanctuary who is simultaneously trying to act as the MC. It just doesn’t go very well. I would say that the same applies to the deacon who is in music ministry in the choir loft. One or the other.
Third, in my experience I have know cleric musicians who indeed stay with the choir and do not leave it except for rare occasions. For example, the great Fr. Perrone in Detriot stayed with the choir at Assumption Grotto parish. The legendary Msgr. Richard Schuler of St. Agnes in St. Paul directed the choir for decades in the choir loft. He would dress in his proper choir dress and remain there, unless there was a special reason – for example he also had to preach for a first Mass.
So, based on these points and my experience, I see no compelling reason why a deacon would be obliged to leave the choir loft for other duties during the course of a Mass. I think he could if necessary, but I don’t think he must.