QUAERITUR: Recessional Hymn – to sing or not to sing?

From a priest:

Last Sunday at the end of Mass the musicians chose a song that just wasn’t striking a chord with me. I couldn’t muster the energy required to pretend to be gleeful and sing along. As I looked at the congregation I noticed only a handful were joining in the song. Most looked irritated and bored. I know the GIRM does not require a recessional hymn (90), but and I’m wondering if it’s time for my parish to change our thinking about the “closing” hymn. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

 

It seems to me that a lot depends on the hymn.  Holy God We Praise Thy Name always gets people going.  On the other hand, perhaps ACDC’s Highway To Hell isn’t such a good idea.  It is nice to have a Marian antiphon appropriate to the season, followed by an organ piece.

What do you think?

 

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82 Responses to QUAERITUR: Recessional Hymn – to sing or not to sing?

  1. Titus says:

    There’s no obligation to sing as a congregant.

  2. iPadre says:

    Almost two years ago, we began using the propers for the Mass. Although we are told they are not “required” in the US and a hymn can replace the chant, the propers are The Liturgy, while the hymns are not. We do a few verses of a hymn while the priest processes to the altar and upon reaching the altar, the Introit is chanted. At the offertory, the antiphon is chanted first and then a hymn sung. The same is followed for the Communion chant. When the priest receives the Precious Blood, the Communion chant is started and then a hymn is sung. May I suggest you look to the “Vatican II Hymnal” or the new “Lalemant Propers,” both available from http://www.ccwatershed.org The chants are beautiful and give us the Church’s them for the Mass, not that of the Music Director’s search for a theme.

  3. Pingback: The ideal recessional hymn? » The Curt Jester

  4. APX says:

    Titus, tell that to our priest. He’s insisting we sing in order to “actively participate. He’s going to make us practice…during Mass…during Latin Mass.

  5. wolfeken says:

    The answer to this question is: Johann Sebastian Bach.

    There is nothing more powerful than a Bach toccata and fugue on the pipe organ for a recessional. My personal preference is when a good organist is able to improvise after (or even during) the Last Gospel starting softly and building gradually. Then when the clergy and acolytes turn around to begin the recessional from the sanctuary to the narthex, he begins the Bach piece. Give it a try and see what the congregation says afterward.

  6. Sandy says:

    Rather than the recessional hymn, which is ok with me, my pet peeve is the hymn during Communion. As I am trying to pray in such an intimate way with Jesus, it would be so much better to hear an instrumental, organ vs. piano, rather than the cantor announcing some hymn for all to sing. I don’t want to hear other people when I’m trying to pray in a meditative way.

    I hope you’re right, Titus, because I won’t carry reading glasses to church just to sing. And I don’t need glasses to pray all the prayers that I know. :)

  7. Catholicity says:

    Ite Missa est. The Mass is over. Recessional: Complete silence, fostering a wholesome atmosphere for personal prayer.

  8. robtbrown says:

    APX says:
    Titus, tell that to our priest. He’s insisting we sing in order to “actively participate. He’s going to make us practice…during Mass…during Latin Mass.

    Active participation refers to the liturgy. By definition, the recessional is outside the liturgy.

  9. Trinitarian Dad says:

    This is making me think of a related question. How many of you have had to experience a parish without hymnals, where they project the words to the songs on the wall? (I had this experience a couple years ago while visiting a parish other than my own because the local Sacred Heart group rotates the location of their special feast day Mass each year. ) Because of this, I coined my personal maxim: “I refuse to sing songs off the wall or off-the-wall songs.”

  10. APX says:

    Oooh, Trinitarian Dad, I grew up with that! Actually, it was my job to control the overhead projector and point to the words with the pencil so everyone knew where we were and could sing along, or change the transparancies back and forth for those extra long songs.

  11. Sandy says: Rather than the recessional hymn, which is ok with me, my pet peeve is the hymn during Communion. As I am trying to pray in such an intimate way with Jesus, it would be so much better to hear an instrumental, organ vs. piano, rather than the cantor announcing some hymn for all to sing.

    Even better than an instrumental would be SILENCE. I’d like to have a secret remote control that I can kill the juice to the organ and sound system with after Communion.

    One of the very best parts of the TLM is that it is full of SILENCE.

  12. DFWShook says:

    Since the Church is under attack from all sides, may I suggest “Faith of Our Fathers”.

  13. yatzer says:

    I have gotten so irritated by the current offerings of church music that I mostly just don’t sing them in order to keep my attitude in bounds. That being said, I don’t mind a good recessional hymn that is singable, about God, and not faux 1970′s folk music. If I were to get rid of one it would be the one during Communion. It is intrusive and useless even if it is good otherwise.

  14. Kathleen10 says:

    wish there was a ten foot high font.
    MUCH prefer an organ piece. Bach is always lovely. I’m sure Fr. Z. has the right idea with something Marian! I really dislike singing hymns, and want to love it. they are just so banal and horrible. what i really don’t understand is why we can’t sing traditional Catholic hymns, which are often the most beautiful and the most reverent? I love protestant hymns but not in a Catholic church. sitting quietly in prayer? what is that? the other day passing through our local field while a baseball game for 10 year olds was going on, you couldn’t miss the blaring rock music that was being played BETWEEN INNINGS! We have become a nonstop musical world. Silence is considered boring. Gotta keep those neurons firing. in church that becomes “participation”.

  15. KosmoKarlos says:

    I am a pianist and director for one of our parish choirs, and Fr. Z is right, something fitting the season is a nice way to end Holy Mass. We are in the process of building a new church, and I pray we will get an organ, as an organ has a very solemn tone.
    Anyway, although most people are gone by the second or third verse, some stay to worship God in song. I prefer silence in the recessional for the Lenten season.

  16. BLB Oregon says:

    When I read “Most looked irritated and bored”, I hoped that maybe whoever chose that piece might have seen the same thing and decided that it would be good to let the dust settle on that one for awhile. One can only hope.

    I like organ when the organ is good and the organist is competent. When it is said that the pipe organ is to be accorded pride of place in Catholic worship, a poor imitation of pipe organ music rendered on a bad electronic organ by someone who has not been given the teaching support they need is not what is meant. Church organists don’t have to be concert organists, but it is unfortunate when the effect is more like a calliope. (If it would be Purgatory for Bach to have to listen to it, just don’t do it.)

    This may be the German in me talking, but Holy God We Praise Thy Name may be the best recessional song ever.

  17. frjim4321 says:

    Having a fight with a wedding couple about their recessional; “Don’t Stop Believing,” Journey.

    Gag me.

    Not to mention Wagner for the processional.

  18. rtjl says:

    Marian antiphons – what an excellent idea! I never thought of that before . And how appropriate. The Marian antiphon is supposed to be the last liturgical action of the day (said at the end of night prayer) and since Mass is most people’s last liturgy, why not a Marian antiphon. Besides – they need to be better known anyway.

  19. frjim4321 says:

    I don’t think the Marian antiphons are a good idea at all for recessional, because the Marian antiphons don’t traditionally cover an action such as recessing. If the Marian antiphon were to be done, properly everyone should stand in place which pretty much makes their use for a recessional inappropriate.

  20. As soon as the priest has left the church, I bolt, ite missa est = Mass over, no singing for me, especially if it’s a “that’s so 70′s hymn”

  21. PA mom says:

    LOVE a good Marian hymn! Then stirring organ recessional. We do the silence for Lent also, which seems appropriate.

    Another vote here for either organ music only or Latin for communion. It is so distracting to hear familiar songs then, th words go through my head even with head bowed and eyes closed.

  22. APX says:

    Having a fight with a wedding couple about their recessional; “Don’t Stop Believing,” Journey.
    That’s a gooder. You’ll get lots of congregational singing with that one. In my experiences at the bar, whenever that song is played everyone gets out onto the dance floor and breaks out into song, thought I don’t think the Church permits that one for weddings.

    As for recessional music, if you have a competent organist who knows how to use stops effectively, even your basic traditional hymn can make a great recessional followed by an epic postlude.

    It never ceases to amaze me how our organist can perfectly time when to pull out the stops during the Last Gospel at the genuflection. I can actually hear the stops in the pipes moving so they’re open just in time…not that I pay attention to these things.

  23. Jeannie_C says:

    I don’t sing well, and yes, our hymns and words of the Mass are projected on large screens. What I hate the most are the Communion hymns – our bishop has instructed the faithful not to pray after receiving Holy Communion, but to remain standing and sing. We go through at least three hymns by the time everyone has received. We may pray privately after the priest sits, which is long after having received due to the large number of parishoners in attendance. Last weekend’s recessional was “Lean on Me When You’re Not Strong”, the week before “This Little Light of Mine”. I’ve never heard our organ played, as all our music comes from a piano/guitar/occasional violin. Sometimes drums.

  24. APX says:

    Jeannie_C

    Are you in Canada? That sounds like something the Canadian Conference of Bishops came up with when the new translation came out. It’s one thing that really made it difficult for me to attend the OF until I read a worship aid that stated that if one is not able to remain standing they are not required to. I determined that I was not able to remain standing…on the grounds of my conscience…so I just kneel and pray after receiving when I attend the OF.

    I once remember a couple years ago at my home parish they sang…and I am not making this up…His Banner over Me is Love…complete with hand and arm gestures (no, not those kind). The other parish favourite includes a re-write of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah”.

    the week before “This Little Light of Mine”.
    I actually had a very realistic nightmare the other night in which our Saturday morning EF Mass’s processional song was “You Are My Sunshine” and there were guitarists in the sanctuary behind the communion rails while the priest and server were processing out of the sacristy seeming perfectly fine with it. It was bad.

  25. Jeannie_C says:

    APX, yes, yes, yes, in Canada. My husband and I spoke with the priest who wanted to know why we did not want to be in obedience to the bishop, as we stated we felt it was irreverent to stand while Communion was being distributed. We then wrote to the bishop and a liturgist replied swiftly and curtly that we were to remain standing and sing as a sign of unity, something about kneeling being an act of pennance. We tried this a few times but felt we couldn’t keep it up, so from then on we have knelt. About a third of the congregation have gone back to kneeling as well. It is a matter of conscience for us, not of disobedience for the sake of disrespecting the bishop. As Cardinal Arinze said “If you really believe it’s Jesus why don’t you kneel? Why don’t you crawl?”

    Though we are relative newcomers to Catholicism – received at the Easter Vigil of ’92, I grew up in a very faithful Catholic community where I saw people kneel in the snow as the parish priest brought Viaticum to a neighbour, knelt with others on the sidewalk during the Corpus Christi Procession. This reverence for and belief in the True Presence had a lasting effect and was what convinced me of the need to convert. As I said to our priest, imagine you’re having a birthday celebration, family and friends gathered ’round the table, a knock at the door, you open it, and there stands Jesus Christ – would you continue singing, your mouth full, or would you fall to your knees in adoration and worship Him?

  26. Ed the Roman says:

    “The answer to this question is: Johann Sebastian Bach.

    There is nothing more powerful than a Bach toccata and fugue on the pipe organ for a recessional. My personal preference is when a good organist is able to improvise after (or even during) the Last Gospel starting softly and building gradually. Then when the clergy and acolytes turn around to begin the recessional from the sanctuary to the narthex, he begins the Bach piece. Give it a try and see what the congregation says afterward.”

    wolfeken: that’s great for parishes that have a pipe organ and an organist who can improvise on Bach. What about the other 97 out of 100 parishes?

  27. robtbrown says:

    I don’t think a syllabus of errors is the answer to any of the Church’s problems.

  28. Mariana2 says:

    “As soon as the priest has left the church, I bolt, ite missa est”

    As soon as the priest has left the Sanctuary, I kneel, quite often stick my fingers in my ears, and try to pray.

    I should love to have a Miss Anita Moore organ zapper!

    Of course, MOST of all I should love to have the TLM!

  29. Geoffrey says:

    I love how the singing of a Marian antiphon according to the liturgical season made its return to the end of Mass during the reign of Benedict XVI. This is still done at papal liturgies, and it is done at my local EF Mass. Is there any document that specifically endorses this practice?

    What I cannot stand is when the recessional hymn is referred as “the sending forth” hymn, song, etc.

  30. Norah says:

    I love Faith of Our Fathers but you couldn’t sing it today because it’s no PC. What about our mothers people would shout! A CD called Faith Of Our Fathers contains all of those lovely theologically rich hymnns now consigned to the dustbin. Holy God We Praise Thy Name is another favourite of mine.

    I can remember Firmly I Believe and Truly and We Stand For God lifting the rafters after Mass.

  31. APX says:

    I spoke with the priest who wanted to know why we did not want to be in obedience to the bishop

    “Because we prefer to be in obedience with Rome. Rome has addressed this and stated that the postures for after communion are not to be so rigid to prevent the congregation from kneeling or sitting if they prefer. Why does the bishop not want to be in obedience with Rome?”

    that’s great for parishes that have a pipe organ and an organist who can improvise on Bach. What about the other 97 out of 100 parishes?
    I’m fortunate to attend one of those three parishes. Most parishes don’t even have an organist, and contrary to popular belief, it’s not one of those instruments that if you can play piano, you can play the organ. That’s like those crazy people who think the oboe and clarinet are almost identical, so it should be easy to switch from one to the other. Two.completely.different.instruments. Just as the oboe and clarinet each require their own respective technique in playing them because the embouchure for each is distinctly different, not to mention the engineering, so too is playing the manuals on the organ different from playing the keys on the piano. They don’t function the same, thus require different technique.

    I think what’s going to have to happen is in order to keep having organists for church, the parishes are going to have to support congregants who wish to learn either financially by paying for organ lessons, or those parishes with competent professional organists being willing to teach for either free or reduced rates. Organists don’t grow on trees and can’t be produced overnight.

  32. edm says:

    Folks,

    First, in the interest of full disclosure: I am an Anglocatholic…so some of you will right away say this is coming from a “Protestant”. So be it.

    Please forgive me, but it seems like some people enjoy a storm in a teapot.

    If you have had a reverent and decently celebrated Mass, something that does not happen too often around my neck of the woods, rejoice! Christ has made himself present to you in the Eucharist. A good hymn, after the Blessing and Dismissal is not in any way against the rubrics. The Mass is OVER. For those of you who wish to pray, may I suggest you stick around for a few minutes? Most likely the building will be totally yours with all the silence and stillness you want. Our Lord is always there for you.

    I know that some persons are completely opposed to hymnody during the Mass as a Protestant intrusion which does not allow the Mass to be prayed. I would like to suggest that they are not mutually exclusive. The following is the model we follow in our parish ( usually but not always in English) in addition to the sung Ordinary
    Organ music for Entrance
    Introit
    Gradual
    Alleluia/Tract/Sequence
    Offertory always followed by a hymn (longer music needed because of altar preparation, censing)
    Communion usually followed by a hymn during the ablutions
    Recessional hymn during which the sanctuary party leaves
    On Sundays after the Sung/High Mass the Celebrant, having removed his chasuble, returns and makes the weekly announcements, then leads the congregation in singing the Angelus/Regina coeli
    Organ Postlude during which the Choir leaves and people either greet the priest at the door or make their silent devotions in their pews or at a shrine.

    I must add that I have never felt deprived of prayer time because of a Recessional Hymn. We do not have “ditties” but if you do, and it bothers you, offer it up and stay around to pray an extra Hail Mary or two.

  33. APX says:

    The problem with bad music at Church is that the Church has spoken numerous times what is and what isn’t appropriate, yet people blatantly ignore what the documents say because Gregorian Chant and Polyphony, etc doesn’t make them want to get up and clap their hands together and do a little dance.

  34. Phil_NL says:

    To sing or not to sing, that’s not the question. Since there’s no obligation to choose hymns/motets/antiphons etc. that are 1. actually singable by an untrained member of the congregation, 2. appropriate to the time and place (ok, here there is a theoretical obligation, but even in places where the reins have substantially thightened, as they have in Holland, there remain some questionable hymns on the books, and one can still mismatch otherwise fine hymns to the wrong period of the year / mood of the feast) and 3. of any inherent beauty, I see no reason why I should sing along with those.

    I’ll try when the aim of the song is to praise the Lord, but will just as easily remain silent. Nothing sents as clear a signal that whomever chose the hymns should do a better job then when no-one from the congregation is actually singing. [In my parish, which is quite heavy on latin in the NO, I've heard people sing along more and better with latin sequences than boilerplate Dutch hymns. Tantum Ergo? No problem. Huub Oosterhuis? Meh - they don't know, and don't want to know]

    In case of a recessional hymn, the question is more ‘to bolt or not to bolt’, as discussed in another entry a couple of weeks ago.

  35. Cantor says:

    Most people seem to treat recessional music like closing credits at the end of a movie: they’re up and gone but for a few lone holdouts.

    I’ve surveyed a number of churches, both locally and across the country, and found almost universally that 1 in 6 leaves during Communion; of the remainder, 1 in 4 bails between the dismissal and the time the celebrant physically leaves the church, and 95% are gone by the end of the hymn.

    The only times I see people remaining longer to sing the recessional are on Christmas day, Memorial Day (Battle Hymn) and Veterans’ Day (God Bless America). That seems the case regardless of the musical genre.

  36. jaykay says:

    Our choir rarely sings more than 2 verses of the recessional hymn, but on the other hand we generally use the “old standards”. Currently, it being June, month of the Sacred Heart, we’ll be using “Sweet Heart of Jesus” or “To Jesus Heart all burning”, although last Sunday we sang “Faith of our Fathers” which is traditionally sung as the closing hymn of the Corpus Christi procession… so it was a “warmer-upper” in a way for the procession later. Our more-than-competent organist then plays for about 5 minutes, Bach, Schutz, Vierne, Widor etc. etc. Quite a few stay to hear.

    “I love Faith of Our Fathers but you couldn’t sing it today because it’s no PC.”

    Heh heh heh :) It is, and always has been, HUGE in Ireland, so much so that people tend to be surprised when remined that it’s actually an English Catholic hymn (Father Faber) – much as they’re surprised when reminded that St. Patrick was (Romano-)British. Our organist uses the 16′ stops at the last 2 lines, we sometimes have almost to shout above it. Great stuff!!

  37. rtjl says:

    Well. Liturgically there’s no such thing as a recessional anyway. Mass does not end with a procession (or a recession if you prefer). And nobody really treats it as if it does. I suppose if it were to end with anything like a procession it would end with a march since we are actually being sent on a mission. Maybe John Philip Sousa is the order of the day. (kidding of course)

  38. rtjl says:

    Incidentally – “recessional” is a horrible term. Is the Kingdom of God receding? Just what exactly is receding? After processing to the promised land, are the people of God going back to land of slavery?

    Some pundits have asked, if the opening song has been called the “gathering” song in modern parlance, what should the concluding song be called – the “scattering” song or maybe, more formally, the diasporal song?

    Maybe the inherent symbolic difficulty here is why the Church has never really prescribed anything beyond the final blessing and dismissal.

    What would be a better term than recessional? Perhaps the “missional” would be better. It would certainly better correspond with the very name of the Mass and the true concluding action action of the liturgy. “The Mass is ended, go now in peace to love and serve the Lord.” The word “mission” may well even be derived from the dismissal at the conclusion of the Mass or at least from similar military dismissals and commands.

  39. iowapapist says:

    I need to take EDM’s advice. He wrote that in his Anglo-Catholic parish “We do not have “ditties” but if you do, and it bothers you, offer it up and stay around to pray an extra Hail Mary or two.” I guess many times I feel that I have suffered enough so, after communion, I go to the vestibule and wait for the priest to dismiss the congregation and then bolt out the door. This caused a (now deceased) friend of mine to quip “This is a Catholic Mass, not an Iowa State Football game. You can’t just leave after the third quarter.” Oh Lord, spare us from the torture of lounge music.

  40. jflare says:

    Sadly, I can well relate to the original question as posed. ..And also to the concern about an organ being played decently. I’ve learned by experience that having an organ and an organist sometimes only guarantees..that the music program will not QUITE stink as badly as elsewhere.

    So the original question was..what to do during the recessional, right?
    Well..how well do you know others in the parish?
    If you know a few people, would you consider making the effort to organize your own small music group? Based on Chant?

    If you have access to a traditional Mass, I might suggest copies of the Campion Missal. Fr Z mentioned it not so long ago.

    Otherwise, for the Novus Ordo, you might try the Gregorian Missal or the Graduale Simplex. Those provide comparatively simpler chants that most can follow. Or if you look at..uh, ccwatershed.org, where they have weekly printouts you can download and print. After a time, you might try the Graduale Romanum, or even a Liber Usualis. Those both provide rather more complex chants.

    Beyond that, if you or someone you know have time and inclination, you might try aiding someone to learn to play an organ. Not an easy task, I know, but especially if someone has experience with a piano or even a plain old keyboard..it’s a start.

    Well, that’s my idiot two cents.
    I do wish you luck.
    I hate standing around in church while the congregation sings..whatever.

  41. jflare says:

    Erm, sorry Fr (original question). I rather forgot that Fr Z mentioned that this question came from a priest.
    I would suggest that you’re in an ideal position to begin liturgical (and catechetical) reform. Whether you’re the pastor or an associate, you could start recruiting folks to start a Schola Cantorum. They wouldn’t need to sing every week, but only once every few, just to keep from ruffling too many feathers amongst the parish.
    For the record, I believe my current parish has the music program it does because ..our pastor set a priority that he’d recruit a few particular people some 6 or 7 years ago. He better enabled a more workable regimen for liturgical music.

    It can’t hurt to try….

  42. Darren says:

    My OF parish uses Breaking Bread so you can imagine that there are MANY aweful “hymns” in use. Before mass begins (and while the choir is warming up for their “performance” and the music director is telling the “sopranos, do this” and “men, you need to ‘blah blah blah’” etc) I open the hymnal to see what was chosen. Typically, if it is from the 1800′s or earlier, I am happy. Anything from the l ast 50 or so years leads me to roll my eyes. If they make one more hymn to the music of Morning Has Broken (they have made many), I’ll go crazy. And, while I love Beethoven (my favorite classical composer), if they put any new hymns to the music from his Ode to Joy from the 9th Symphony, I think I will go bonkers.

    When I do not like the hymn/song/ditty that they choose, I just remain silent. If they choose a good old hymn, or the very rare but occasional good new one (VERY rare), then I sing along with joy.

    We have a really nice pipe organ at my church. I hate when it is used for these horrible modern or protestant hymns, or Quaker tunes like How Can I Keep fro Singing. I certainly can, when is that they have chosen!

    Re: Jeannie_C
    I don’t sing well, and yes, our hymns and words of the Mass are projected on large screens.
    mine tooWhat I hate the most are the Communion hymns – our bishop has instructed the faithful not to pray after receiving Holy Communion, but to remain standing and sing. We go through at least three hymns by the time everyone has received.

    Remember this fron a Q&A with Cardinal Arinze some years ago:
    Question: Does everybody have to stand until the last person has received Holy Communion?

    Answer (Arinze): There is no rule from Rome that everybody must stand during Holy Communion. There is no such rule from Rome. So, after people have received Communion, they can stand, they can kneel, they can sit. But a bishop in his diocese or bishops in a country could say that they recommend standing or kneeling. They could. It is not a law from Rome. They could – but not impose it. Perhaps they could propose. But those who want to sit or kneel or stand should be left reasonable freedom.

    If they are trying to force you to stand and sing, and it comes from your bishop, perhaps a letter to the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments at the Vatican is in order, so this abuse may be corrected from the right authority.

  43. Imrahil says:

    Let’s have both of them. A recessional (instrumental), but before (yet after the Ite missa est, and even after the Final Gospel when it comes to the EF), a final song, sung by anyone standing at their places, including the altar service.

    I instinctly reserve Holy God we praise Thy Name for the most solemn occasions: First Communions, Confirmations, the end of the Corpus Christi procession, the 150th anniversary of the Veterans’ Club (with Blessing-of-the-Flag of course!), and these kind of thing. (Not Easter and Christmas, not because they weren’t solemn enough, but for another reason: there’s plenty other things to sing… and Christmas has the use of Silent Night as final hymn written in invisible rubrics.)

    A Marian anthem (or song), a good battle song (Ein Haus voll Glorie schauet and potential English equivalents), or one of the songs the songbooks have for either the ending of the Mass specifically, or about the sanctification of daily life, or about the day’s saint or the content of the Gospel etc… that’s just fine. In some places with a fitting national anthem, you could even sing the national anthem. (The Star-Spangled Banner: no, but America the Beautiful: yes; the German anthem: no, the Bavarian anthem: yes.)

    I agree to the importance of silent prayer (at best before the Postcommunio), but there’s hardly another time within Mass* where you can be so affirmative, jubilating than here. And this is certainly something not to be missed. [*What is not in Mass, is not in the Church's collective experience, hence "then do so in a private devotional service" is not, imho, the answer.]

  44. Imrahil says:

    Note about that national anthem thing: I meant occasionally. It would certainly be excessive patriotism to do so always.

  45. Nathan says:

    Thankfully, the good priest who proposed the question doesn’t seem to want to impose “participation” on his congregation, but rather seeks to propose something to provide spiritual benefit at the end of Holy Mass. A couple of thoughts:

    –I think Father should try and figure out the question, why couldn’t I “muster the energy required to pretend to be gleeful and sing along” and why did most of the people look irritated and bored? Is this a common occurrence? Does the parish (especially musicians) need instruction in “prayer vs performance?” If it is a matter of fostering a continuing prayer, then Father Z’s recommendation of the Marian Hymn and organ is excellent. I know that sometimes organists have used a “pull out the stops” postlude to cut down on the post-Mass socializing in the church itself.

    –Sometimes, as a person in the pews, I’m irritated and bored at the end of Holy Mass (God have mercy on me, please!) because of things completely unrelated to the music or the ars celebrendi of the Mass itself. To use a mundane example, if I’m thinking about just how bad the parking lot is going to be when we’re leaving, then I might appear to be quite irritated. Or, more commonly, that would happen if my children (when younger) were difficult, or when the air conditioning just isn’t quite doing the job. My point is, Father, that it might not be the music itself that’s causing the problem.

    Whatever applies in this particular parish, I would encourage Father to instruct and propose to his congregation the practice of staying after for a few minutes, kneeling in thanksgiving for the incredible, ineffable gifts of the Holy Sacrifice and Holy Communion. If that’s what I’m looking to do next, then I can often put up with less-than-stellar music during the recessional.

    In Christ,

  46. pmullane says:

    “I love Faith of Our Fathers but you couldn’t sing it today because it’s no PC.”

    My Son is being baptised next Saturday and we are going to sing Faith of Our Fathers afterwards. I cant tell yo how devistated that I am to hear that i’m not PC (smileyface!!)

  47. L. says:

    The only time I ever heard my father utter what might have been a pious exclamation was at a Mass in my anything-goes rural home parish. The very nice older lady who led the singing at Mass but who had a voice the resembled fingernails on a blackboard, instructed us at the end of Mass that we’d sing some 1970′s dreck as the recessional, then enthusiastically added “ALL FOUR VERSES!” at which, my father loudly exclaimed, “Oh, God!”

  48. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “…perhaps ACDC’s Highway to Hell isn’t such a good idea.”

    Well, what about AC/DC’s “Sin City” for those who may be heading to Vegas? ;)

    Um, no.
    Nevermind!

    MSM

  49. Lepidus says:

    1) With respect to “Faith of Our Fathers”, it’s still in our song book. However it’s been gutted of things like “if we like them could die for the”. Verse 2 start with “Our mothers too….”. I think Verse 3 is “Our animals also,…”, but I could be mistaken on that one. :)

    2) With respect to the topic, I’ve pretty much given up singing most of the ones that are played in my parish, regardless of whether or not they are the recessional hymn. I don’t really have the desire to look through them ahead of time to pick out the various things not in line with my beliefs as a Catholic.

  50. The Masked Chicken says:

    The idea of a recessional hymn isn’t really up to speed with the sexual ethics of the day. There should be a choice of recessional hymns or recessional hyrs.

    The Chicken

  51. Midwest St. Michael says:

    “There should be a choice of recessional hymns or recessional hyrs.”

    Shame on you Mr. Chicken. That is just… fowl.

    MSM

  52. anilwang says:

    “…perhaps ACDC’s Highway to Hell isn’t such a good idea.”

    Although a slight modification might be. Suppose after each verse “I’m on the highway to hell” an additional verse is added such as “Repent while there’s still time!”, “Go to confession now!”, “Lord have mercy on me a sinner”, or “Go and sin no more”:-)

    Seriously, the recessional hymn might be an opportunity to bring a part of TLM into NO, namely use a hymn based on The Last Gospel.

  53. wolfeken says:

    Ed the Roman wrote: “that’s great for parishes that have a pipe organ and an organist who can improvise on Bach. What about the other 97 out of 100 parishes?”

    Then get involved with your parish “council” and start producing documents from Vatican II and beyond stating: ” In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man’s mind to God and to higher things. ”

    Then question, to the pastor and council, why a “worship coordinator,” “pastoral associate,” “social justice chairhuman,” “children’s ministry director,” and all of the other paid positions at the parish are more important than the “high esteem” mandate by Vatican II.

  54. ocleirbj says:

    The recessional hymn has changed from 35 years ago when we first moved here [S. Ontario], and so many people went up to receive, turned around and walked straight out the door that there was no one left to sing it. Patient gentle chiding from the priests has ended this, and most people now stay until the hymn is over, even if not everyone sings. It was put to us as a matter of courtesy and respect to wait until the priest had left the sanctuary before heading out.

    I think that the Catholic use of hymns depends on what we think hymn-singing actually is, liturgically speaking. For Protestants, a hymn is an offering of praise by the congregation to God, and takes up its own liturgical space. It is unthinkable to stop in the middle of it and not sing the whole thing. You would also never find the priest continuing the prayers on his own without waiting for the people to finish singing, as often happens at the Offertory. I think Catholic liturgists see hymns as just something to keep the congregation occupied while something else is going on. So, for the entrance and recessional, we only ever get the first two verses, since that is how long it takes the priest to go in or out. For the Offertory, on the other hand, the organist might keep on playing the hymn over and over until the priest is ready to continue, regardless of the meaning of the words. To my mind this makes a mockery of the concept of “participation”, since the part given to us [singing] is so little regarded that it can be interrupted or modified on the fly at any time.

    I think it would be more honest either to respect the congregation and take the time to sing all the verses of all the hymns, or to drop hymns altogether and use the antiphons, which are clearly meant to accompany a liturgical action rather than being a liturgical action in their own right.

  55. Steven Surrency says:

    Just a note about obligation. I think it is the wrong attitude to enter into liturgy (Mass or whatever) with a “what am I required to do” kind of attitude. While it is true that the recessional hymn isn’t part of the official liturgy, I don’t think we should dismiss it. Moreover, while it is true that you can participate actively just by listening, there is a long tradition of Christians praying by singing. In the early Church, before Vatican II, and in the Vatican II documents, people are encouraged to sing to participate. So, all things being equal, I think recessional hymns are fine. I think if an orthodox, reverent hymn is sung, then I join in as best I can. Recessional organ pieces are also fine, as are silence. I try to not go into every liturgy with the “I would like to change this so it is perfect for what I want” idea. If it is in adherence to the norms of the Church- and unfortunately so few liturgies are- then I try to be happy with that.

    If I had it my way, we would end Mass with a Marian Antiphon and then organ postlude. People would stay to pray a while then walk into the vestibule where they would socialize with their brothers and sisters in Christ.

  56. Lepidus says:

    The other more general comment I have about the recessional hymn is that it would nice if it were used solely for the function it was intended. Namely, to get the priest out the door – as the opening hymn is to get the priest to the altar. Unfortunately, there are a number of priests that think it has some other purpose, so they will stand there before making their final bow until a couple of verses are done. This does very little other than encourage people to just start walking….

  57. APX says:

    1) With respect to “Faith of Our Fathers”, it’s still in our song book. However it’s been gutted of things like “if we like them could die for the”. Verse 2 start with “Our mothers too….”. I think Verse 3 is “Our animals also,…”, but I could be mistaken on that one. :)

    I just checked it in Breaking Bread, and it has been seriously lamed-down. It’s not even the same hymn! Maybe there is still some good use for projecting hymns on the wall…

  58. anilwang says:

    wolfeken says: “why a ‘worship coordinator’,….and all of the other paid positions at the parish are more important than the ‘high esteem’ mandate by Vatican II.”

    Simple reason, lack of direction. If all these positions were required to abide by the documents of specific magisterial texts, there would be a lot fewer of these issues.

    As it stands now, because of this lack of job description, these committees do what is right in their own eyes or “what’s cool” in pop culture, not necessarily what is the mind of the magisterium. And because Pastors don’t read these job descriptions either, they just go along with what the committees decide, since they believe the committee has more authority (as the voice of the people) than they do.

    Case in point, there’s an indult for children’s liturgies (for pre-first communion children), but few people read it. The indult does not grant lay people the authority to say the gospel or preach, yet this is usually how its implemented. People here the word “children’s liturgy” and assume that it’s just the Catholic version of “Young Life” or “Gospel Light” any of the many Protestant children services, and just run with the idea.

  59. pseudomodo says:

    My liturgical philosophy is:

    1. When in Rome, do as the Romans do. and
    2. When you’re NOT in Rome, do as the Romans do!

  60. pseudomodo says:

    Our Priest once intoned, in chant, the following:

    “Go in Peace!”
    Rsp. Thanks be to God.
    “But not before the Priest!

  61. monmir says:

    Miss Anita Moore, OP
    I agree with you, I need silence (and I usually carry earplugs). After Mass I agree with Father Z. Marian antiphon and maybe organ music. After Mass I want to continue my prayers for a while.
    I do not like most hymns, except the ones in Latin.

  62. tealady24 says:

    Been offline awhile because I moved. Back to civilization, and hopefully back to my old parish in Lakewood. The singing is awful; I really wish there was only a small group doing sacred music and nothing else. Why oh why do we have to Protestant????

    You love it so much, go join them!

  63. ocleirbj says:

    Lepidus, I have noticed the opposite: when the priest waits for a verse or two before leaving the altar, the people actually pick up their hymnals and sing, rather than more of them walking out. Maybe it just depends on the mood of the congregation?

  64. FranzJosf says:

    Several years ago, I was in charge of music for closing mass at a state-side reunion of the North American College. We did not have a communion hymn; the choir sang Faure’s Cantique. After the closing versicle and response, we sang the Salve, Regina in place. For the retiring procession there was an organ improvisation on the Salve. It worked beautifully.

    Because of the nature of the Catholic liturgy, closing hymns as ‘moving music’ just don’t seem to work in most places. The only place I’ve seen it sort of work is at the National Shrine, but even there it seems like a “Big Moment”, with organ fanfares, etc., for it’s own sake, drawing too much attention to itself.

  65. Elizabeth M says:

    @APX, – I hope when your parish sings Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” it has completely changed the lyrics. That’s the problem with modern music. Melodies pull at the emotions and you fall for it so much that you ignore the words. Anything sung by any Catholic or Christian for that matter with the lyrics of “Maybe there’s a God above” is insulting.

    Our parish always sings during Communion and recessional. It is usually a Marian hymn and I find it helpful if I haven’t had time to really mentally prepare to meet the Lord. (Like I’ve had to spend most of Mass keeping my 2 year old still).
    Isn’t there a Final Blessing at the end of OF Mass? Why would you leave at “Mass has ended”? It may have officially ended, but you don’t show up right when the priest starts Mass, so why leave early? I think this is why it is so important to have prayers after Mass. There you are still with Our Lord present, praying for peace, etc. I guess if the music was that bad it might be an occasion of sin to stay! I’ve got too much of a temper to put up with that nonsence!

  66. MarkJ says:

    Maybe it’s my Baptist background, but I find the hymns we sing (one before Mass begins and one after Mass is over) to be a beautiful and prayerful adjunct to the Mass. The choir chants the Introit after the first hymn is completed, and during the Introit is when the procession takes place. The rest of the music is chanted English by the choir. We use the “Vatican II Hymnal”, and the theology of the hymns is sound. Unfortunately most people leave during the final hymn, but I make a point of singing to the end because I am singing to honor my Lord, and I make this part of my final prayer after Mass. (An aside: the “Vatican II Hymnal” has the Canon of the Mass is in English and Latin, so if the English is unclear, one can follow along in Latin :-). Also, the EF Canon is included).

    In short, I’m not sure why a lot of Catholics don’t sing when the hymns are good (maybe that’s rare these days)… maybe they’ve been damaged by all the trite, non-theological and sometimes heretical ditties forced upon their parishes by guitar strumming bands and music leaders. I wish the bishops would step in and require truly Catholic music in the Liturgy. At least our parish is on the right track… and I am happy to sing along!

  67. MarkJ says:

    One minor correction to my above comment where I said “The rest of the music is chanted English by the choir.” Actually, we do usually sing (choir and congregation) the Gloria and Agnus Dei in Latin, and the Kyrie in Greek…

  68. Katylamb says:

    If I don’t like the hymn I don’t sing it. Instead I stand there and I pray for the priest as he goes past on his way out. If I know the hymn by heart I sing it but without reading along. I wait until the hymn ends to leave whether I’m singing or not. I would never jump ahead of the people sitting in front of me to hurry out of church. That is very rude and the sisters taught us the polite order to leave. I wait for them to go out first unless they kneel down as if they’re going to pray. Usually I’m going to kneel down and say some prayers after Mass anyway, so- no hurry. I consider it overly fussy to worry about the that closing hymn. There are too many other important things to fret over.

  69. The Masked Chicken says:

    Speaking music historically, the recessional hymn is a modern invention. The GIRM does not even mention it (article 90, part d):

    “d) the kissing of the altar by the Priest and the Deacon, followed by a profound bow to the altar by the Priest, the Deacon, and the other ministers.”

    Neither did the EF have one, although there were organ recessionals, but I wonder if that isn’t a Lutheran invention that didn’t exist via Trent, but was added in the German Churches. This is a musicology paper waiting to happen.

    Musicam Sacrum, no. 36 says:

    “36. There is no reason why some of the Proper or Ordinary should not be sung in said Masses. Moreover, some other song can also, on occasions, be sung at the beginning, at the Offertory, at the Communion and at the end of Mass. It is not sufficient, however, that these songs be merely “Eucharistic”—they must be in keeping with the parts of the Mass, with the feast, or with the liturgical season.”

    Note, the subtle words: end of Mass, not after Mass, which is when the modern recessional is sung. If, before the, Ite Missa Est, you want to sing a song, you might find sanction in Musicam Sacrum (and that is debatable, because the modern GIRM seems to override it), but there is no sanction for a recessional hymn in which the people in the pew participate. An instrumental piece played by a single musician or a small orchestra is okay, because it is not a part of congregational worship.

    Really, I don’t even know where the recessional hymn comes from, historically. It seems to have been invented, whole cloth in the 1960′s.

    The Chicken

  70. jenne says:

    From what I read above the issue is between a priest and his musicians. Why did the hymn irritate you? Are you able to pastor the musicians? I stuck my foot in my mouth big time at my parish when I criticized the music to a deacon only to find out he picked the songs. We already had a relationship albeit only from being barely active in the parish but he understood from my behavior that I am feisty but I would not reduce the deacon to a bad song picker. We had enough of a relationship to I tell him what I think and WHY. But without that (I have only been here less than two years), I am sure he wouldn’t have talked to me again and wrote me off as “one of them.”
    So, does the priest have enough of a relationship to pastor even the musician so as to not come off as “that guy again”
    Sorry if I seem a bit tough but it’s not the right song or attitude I am worried about with this question.
    JennE (your faithful reader and seldom poster to your very erudite blog – forgive my simple observation)

  71. Jim R says:

    Music is often very subjective…even when it has a long history of acceptance and accepted beauty.

    Some years back a local Protestant church had a fire. Their choir had been preparing a concert of a Palestrina Mass. Upon hearing that, the Rector of the local Cathedral asked them if they would like to sing the Palestrina at the 5PM Sunday Mass. The choir gladly accepted, and many choir members were thrilled to sing the music as part of the liturgy and not simply as a concert. Naturally, some parishioners did not get the word and came at 5PM expecting the 40 minute in-and-out special to watch the game on TV. After an hour and a half of beautiful music in a glorious Mass, basking in the warmth of what a liturgy could really be, upon leaving I hear a 5PM regular say, “I just hate that kind of music!”

    Of course for years I would leave Mass saying exactly those words concerning the garbage (and much was and is garbage) proffered at almost every Catholic Church – often having been angry the entire time. I often said I prayed twice at those Masses: one time to kill the “choir” and one time for forgiveness for wanting to kill the choir. :-)

    Things are looking up. More and more chant and classical polyphony are making a come back. Hope springs eternal, indeed.

  72. Elizabeth M says:

    Dear Chicken, “Really, I don’t even know where the recessional hymn comes from, historically. It seems to have been invented, whole cloth in the 1960?s”. Not sure about that. :) I remember a scene from The Quiet Man and as John Wayne’s character is leaving a Mass there is definitely someone playing, “O God of Loveliness”.

  73. APX says:

    The Chicken,

    Here’s a solemn Mass from 1941 and there is clearly a recessional hymn being sung.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=R6AOvStZS64&feature=youtube_gdata_player

    We need to be careful not to assume something is an invention/innovation of the 60s/Vatican II merely because we can’t find a record of it in the few documents we know of. As much as we might like to think we know everything about these things, we really know diddly-squat.

  74. eulogos says:

    Recessional? In Dio Rochester, that would be “Our Sending Forth Song.” The last time I went to Sunday mass in my territorial parish the “Sending Forth” song was “This little light of mine.” That was about six years ago. An Ok song for camp, or for preschooler Sunday School, but not for mass.

    The Ordinariate people make very good use of hymns, using the 1940 Episcopal hymnal for the most part (easy to obtain since most Episcopal churches have a closet full of them) along with some more specifically Catholic additions. They always sing all the stanzas of any hymn they sing. And they all sing. No one moves before the end of the last stanza of the last hymn. After that there is organ music to leave the church by.

    On May 19th I was in Houston and attended mass at Our Lady of Walsingham, the principle church of the US Ordinariate. They were having confirmation so the church was absolutely packed, and the rafters rang with the singing, both of a good choir and all the people. Everything I loved about being Episcopalian, but Catholic.

    Susan Peterson

  75. Lepidus says:

    ocleirbj, Then again, maybe at your parish, you’re not “singing a new church into being” and are satisfied with the one founded by Christ :)

  76. The Masked Chicken says:

    Dear APX,

    You wrote.

    “We need to be careful not to assume something is an invention/innovation of the 60s/Vatican II merely because we can’t find a record of it in the few documents we know of. As much as we might like to think we know everything about these things, we really know diddly-squat.”

    Okay, you found a video on YouTube. I know the video, if it’s the one I’m thinking about, but my point stands. What I said, was:

    “Note, the subtle words: end of Mass, not after Mass, which is when the modern recessional is sung. If, before the, Ite Missa Est, you want to sing a song, you might find sanction in Musicam Sacrum (and that is debatable, because the modern GIRM seems to override it), but there is no sanction for a recessional hymn in which the people in the pew participate. An instrumental piece played by a single musician or a small orchestra is okay, because it is not a part of congregational worship.”

    What you saw in the video, if it is the one I am thinking of, was a large choir singing a song at the same time as the priests recessed with the congregation joining in, but it is entirely unsanctioned in Church music, except as an acquired custom – people just were used to doing it, but at that time, there was no sanction for people in the pews singing a recessional song as a mandated participatory event. There simply wasn’t. You can check all of the historical documents from the Holy See pertaining to music from the time of Trent until Vatican II and you won’t find any mention of a recessional hymn as a part of the sanctioned liturgical worship service. Recessional hymns are extra-missal events. There is some precedence for final antiphons in older versions of the Divine Office, which may have led some to make a parallel in the Mass, but antiphons are not hymns. Hymns, as such, as we think of them, today, really started with Luther (technically, a little later), so, I speculated that the recessional hymn might have started in Germany as a Lutheran invention that found its way into the German Catholic Church and spread from there, but, as far as I know, no one knows the origin of the recessional hymn (there were recessionals as far back as the 11th-century, but strictly for priests with no participation by the laity in the pews).

    When I said recessional hymns were invented in the 1960′s, I meant the commonly accepted practice of a mandated hymn to carry the priest out of the door. Yes, the practice existed, accidentally (by accidentally, I mean as an extra-missal event), before then, but the idea that one had to do such a thing really only came into universal practice in the 1960 when the Norvus Ordo Mass came into being (and, even then, it was a universal custom, not an actual liturgical prescription).

    I don’t, usually, make snap comments about musical matters. I know how to do research. I didn’t just say something about the origins of the recessional hymn because I wanted to make Vatican II look like it was innovating (they weren’t and the document, Musicam Sacrum must be read carefully, as I pointed out). I was speaking as an expert in music (I have a doctorate in music, with doctoral work in musicology, performance, and acoustics – my areas in music history are Medieval and Twentieth-Century music), not as a laymen. I know something about the history of Church music (there is a lot more to uncover, of course) and I have studied virtually every known music theory/ composition treatise from the eight-century to about 1750, as well as every Vatican document on music that is available. This is a professional comment and a question. I phrased my comments carefully. Of course, people have been singing, informally, as the priest goes out for a long time, but we do not know how it came about, nor is it really sanctioned in any Church documents. I would love to find articles on the origin of the recessional hymn. Perhaps, something is in the literature, but I haven’t come across it. I know how to do musical research and I have access to major university music libraries (not that I have had time to look into this question this afternoon in any more detail than what I know, personally, or can find in references on a fast search on the Internet and Goggle Scholar). I wasn’t just making a breezy comment. I may not know diddly-squat about this matter, but there are a lot of other scholars in the same boat. If anyone can find out the origin of the recessional hymn or trace its development, it would be a service to the musicological community. If I get the chance, I might do a database search, but I doubt I will find much.

    The Chicken

  77. patrick.lynch says:

    “ACDC’s Highway To Hell isn’t such a good idea.”

    No, but I suspect “If You Want Blood (You Got It)” would be an acceptable Communion antiphon in some parishes.

  78. The Masked Chicken says:

    I think my last comment in this post was prideful and I apologize.

    The Chicken

  79. VexillaRegis says:

    Chicken: Not prideful at all. Don’t appologise for being an expert. :-)

  80. VexillaRegis says:

    Sigh, I apologise for my spelling. Got to have dinner now.

  81. Imrahil says:

    I was thinking that after Mass – i. e. once the Deo gratias has been put to either the Ite, missa est or the Final Gospel, Mass is over and consequently, all are free to do whatever pleases them (except immoral things of course), including singing a recessional hymn, or for that matter leaving while such a hymn is sung.

  82. Imrahil says:

    Pardon the inverting mess.