Help a WDTPRS reader with music at LOW Mass in the Usus Antiquior


I received a question via e-mail from a reader.  It concerns the use of music at a low Mass in the usus antiquior.

Can we have some knowledgeable people help this nice person?

Hello Father;

I have a question. My pastor is planning on adding the 1962 Mass to the weekday schedule. He is going to say a low Mass every Thursday, and has been training with the priest who does our monthly diocesan indult Mass.

I direct the choir that sings chant and sacred polyphony at one of our Sunday N.O. Masses. Our organist, who directs the Polish choir says that the proper antiphons cannot be sung at a low Mass, only hymns. So, that sounds like, on Thursdays we will have a lot of Polish hymns and maybe a couple of Latin Hymns sung almost continuously while Father and the servers say Mass in silence.

Is this true? I would like to prepare to sing the proper introit, offertory, etc, but if they are not permitted at a low Mass, then what we are going to have is a Mass filled with (I hate to say it) the same shlocky Polish hymns we sing at our daily N.O. Mass.

I understand that this music would be fairly continuous throughout the Mass, so there will be no silence, no chant, nothing that makes the 1962 Mass attractive to people.

So that’s my question. Is this true? Are the proper antiphons not permitted at a low Mass?

(I’m hoping that in the future Father will feel confident enough to attempt a high Mass.)

Thank you Father.


I can see a couple problems.

It really sounds like you need to do a Missa cantata rather than a low Mass.

Low Mass moves along pretty quickly.  I don’t think you would have a lot of time for the proper chants. 

A Missa cantata without sacred ministers can be done in two ways, a simpler and a more solemn form.

In the first case, you pretty much follow the rubrics for low Mass.  The priest sings all that is sung at a Solemn Mass, including the Gospel and the Ite, etc.  He can sit while the choir sings the Gloria or Sequence or Creed.  A server who is a cleric in surplice could sing the Epistle and then the priest would not say it himself but only listen.  The choir could sing pretty much everything they would sing at a Solemn Mass.  There wouldn’t be incense but there could be torchbearers.

The fancier form is like the above, but… well… fancier.  This would be the form that was often used in places instead of a Solemn Mass.


I am sure some of the readers here will have some personal experiences of this simpler form of the sung Mass, so close to the low Mass but with music.

I think there can be a little flexibility in light of the music notes of the Holy See from the Second Vatican Council and after.  For example, I think we could tolerate also that women might be able to sing in church in a choir even without the explicit permission of the local bishop.  I think we could permit that they sing Gregorian chant or there could be women in a schola cantorum.  I think we might be able to allow women to stand also near where the men are if there is a mixed choir when women must substitute for boys as sopranos and altos.  It would be nice if people attending might also sing the Ordinary in Gregorian chant, as is recommended by Pius XI in Divini cultus, Sacrosanctum Concilium 36 and 54 and by Benedict XVI in Sacramentum caritatis 62.


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  1. AlexB says:

    The topic of a Low Mass With Hymns is discussed on pp. 437 & 602-606 in the 1964 edition of O’Connell’s “The Celebration of Mass”. Most relevant: “The singing of Latin texts from the Ordinary of Proper at low Mass is undesirable; it gives the impression of a hybrid form of the Mass rite and creates confusion between the high Mass and low Mass rites.”

    The topic of a Simple Missa Cantata is best addressed on pp. 159-160 of the 2003 edition of Fortestcue/O’Connell/Reid’s “The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described.” I agree with Fr. Z; this is the form you should target if you wish to sing the Propers.

  2. Stephen M. Collins says:

    The Low Mass is said by the priest, with the option of the people responding to certain parts. Any music sung by the people is considered “music sung AT Mass”. OTOH, the High Mass IS the Mass — SUNG. At a High Mass all of the parts must be sung – in Latin. At a Low Mass virtually anything may be sung, but it is not to impeded the progress of the Mass since it is not a part of the Mass. So, the Propers may be sung by a schola – but the priest will still say the same Propers in the Mass. But no part of the Ordinary may be sung at a low Mass because that automatically turns the Mass in to a High Mass. I have been chanting the Introit as Prelude music, and the Communion Antiphon at the beginning of distribution of Communion at our weekly Low Mass for some time now.

  3. fr.franklyn mcafee says:

    I would have no problem with women singing with men.My father was achoirmaster in Detroit in the 50s and had been a prof at the Archdiocesan liturgucal school and he had a mixed choir besides having a boys choir.I watched a youtube missa cantata done by a SPPX priest in Paris and they had a choir with women.Surprisingly about 25% of the women in that packed church had no head covering.

  4. Brian Mershon says:

    From my travels between indult, FSSP, ICR and SSPX places of worship, dare I say that a smorgasboard of options exists and everyone can find documents that point to why it should be done the way they do it.

    For instance, at one indult (mixed parish with FSSP priest) and another strictly indult parish, the priest “highly recommends” (insists) that all of the congregation respond as a “missa recita” (dialogue Mass) and also stand and kneel and sit according to the rubrics for clerics in choir. He insists that a dialogue Mass (with or without background organ and sometimes hymns, is not a “low Mass.” The congregation also sing the the Pater at both the FSSP-mixed parish and at this indult parish. This violates the fact that the Pater is part of the canon, which only the priest should sing. the FSSOP insists that the priest ONLY sings the Pater, except at this mixed parish. I think there is a PCED document stating that singing the Pater (and basically any other innnovation a priest wants to add) is OK, which complicates matters.

    Another one I just attended last week has a bulletin announcement (non-indult) that explains that each person has his “proper part” to play in Mass. The Priest and the servers, the choir sings (NOT the people) and points to Mediator Dei as to why this is so. Also, at this particular parish, low Mass is low Mass with no music whatsoever.

    At another indult parish, during High Mass, the priest sings the Gospel, but recites (does not sing) the lesson. He is now reciting the lesson in English (thanks to the motu proprio) and sings the Gospel in Latin. Doesn’t make much sense to me, but it is not spelled out anywhere as far as I know.

    I think that all of these practices can be found to be explicitly tolerated by some document or another from the 1950s to the early 1960s. To add to the confusion, there is much official private correspondence from the PCED that allowed many of the innovations of the Novus Ordo type thinking (the people singing the Pater for instance)that are official, but maybe were not the best theological/liturgical reasoning.

    The official books for the 1962 missal point to the Solemn High Mass being the NORM, with a low Mass tolerated as necessary. Everything else in between (missa cantata with or without incense) became allowed and tolerated, but not ideal.

    I understand that prior to Vatican II, it was common practice in France to have the organist play throughout low Mass, bthis was not widely done throughout the U.S.

    Also, at one

  5. Brian Mershon says:

    The propers should not be sung at low Mass, period. Low Mass is low Mass. Why everyone wants to attempt to do their version of “sugn” Mass for low Mass is beyond me. Many times, it is the priest who wants to do this for some reason. In the vast majority of cases I have found, the laity would just prefer to be able to quietly meditate at low Mass like the Blessed Mother or St. John at calvary.

    Let’s concentrate on getting an overflow of young men to serve and potential and current seminarians and priests so that every Mass can be the NORM of a solemn High Mass.

  6. chris K says:

    As I remember, our everyday low masses for our elementary school student body + whomever else attended, contained the simple, regular Latin responses – by all – with the addition of a known hymn in Latin during communion – by all.

  7. Mary Jane says:

    Thank you, Fr. Z, for your kind words toward women singers. We’re really not that bit a threat.

  8. Jim says:

    The missa cantata was common before Vatican II. I remember it in our parish. All the propers were sung by the choir, in gregorian. But there was only the celebrant and one or more altar boys, no deacon, no subdeacon, no incense. The missa cantata would take the better part of an hour. The priest and altar boys always sat on the sedilla during the singing of the gloria.

  9. Jon K says:

    In Sweden, we almost systematically have the sung Mass, with very few (and no dalogue) Masses.

    At a sung Mass, one may either have one-two servers and even incense (although incense is not the most traditional thing to do outside of the Solemn Hign Mass), or simply have a sung Mass with one server behaving as in a Low Mass. One may also let a cantor sing the epistle (facing the altar, donning clerical garb, of course), which we do.

    I think people often confuse two separate matters : 1. the difference between Low Mass (missa lecta)/Sung Mass on the one hand (which is a matter of whether everything is sung or not — mixing should not be done), and 2. on the other hand, the rubrics for the altar servers (a) at Low Mass and (b) at the different forms of more solemn masses with several servers more or less imitating the Solemn High Mass with deacon and subdeacon. These are two separate matters. (I my self do not favor going against the Roman spirit by adding extra altar boys and what not as decorum. A sung Mass should not mimic the altar service oproper to the Solemn High Mass.)

    The usus Wigratzbad (FSSP), which is not homogeneous, is a mixture of several influences among which, of course, the usus Ecône. And, alas, the FSSPX is notorious for its rather sloppy and very “pastoral”, pragmatic liturgy. However, there appears to be certain tendencies within the FSSP to move in the direction of what I consider sounder liturgical principles.

  10. Tom S. says:

    I agree with Brian. Low Mass should be Low Mass. My favorite Sunday mass at my parish is at 8:00AM Sundays – the ordinary rite in Low Mass style. No singing at all – and it is just amazing. Quiet, prayerful, reverent – it feels like Mass, not a Broadway show.

  11. Peggy Halpin says:


  12. Peggy Halpin says:

    Whoops! Sorry about the repeat,I must have pushed something wrong.

  13. Tom S. says:

    Why would you have “more or less constant singing” of apparently unrelated hymns throughout the mass anyway? That’s something I’ve never seen.

  14. Peggy Halpin says:

    P.S. As a result of our perserverance 4 generations know the Holy Mass in Latin. Our four year old great-grandchild knows the Gloria.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Observation suggests that on this subject it is good to steer clear of personal opinion. As I understand it, the applicable official Vatican instruction on music for the Mass of 1962 is

    De musica sacra et sacra liturgia
    Instruction on Sacred Music and Sacred Liturgy

    Sacred Congregation for Rites – September 3, 1958

    The pertinent instructions are in paragraphs 30-34 under At Low Mass. These paragraphs are discussed in Chapter XIX(C) of the 14th revised edition of Fortescue, O’Connell & Reid (2003). Nowhere is it contemplated that the congregation or choir will sing any part of the Mass, whether ordinary or proper. Only the hymns of paragraph 33 are indicated as permissible.

    My own observation that the only congregational (and perhaps traditional vernacular) hymns sung by the congregation at a carefully conducted low Mass — e.g., those of the FSSP or ICK — would be a processional and/or recessional. During the Mass itself, the only music one would hear might be a Panis angelicus or Ave verum corpus sung by the choir during Holy Communion, maybe something similar during the Offertory.

    There may be nothing in these instructions that excludes the awful 4-hymn sandwich ubiquitous in the Novus Ordo, but experience shows it is fraught with peril, and therefore just not done in the best places. The ancient form has now been liberated not only for celebration but for abuse. Would that this were the real concern of the most “vigilant” bishops we’re hearing from.

  16. Robert says:

    I’m the originator of the email we’re discussing. The reason for almost continuous singing of hymns at the Mass is this: My pastor grew up in a Polish personal parish(which is what my parish is now) and he has fond memories of low Mass in which the choir sang Polish hymns throughout. And as one reader said, the hymns might be unrelated to the Mass. Father will be expecting the same thing at his low Mass.

    I am dreading this, and I am certain that almost everyone else will hate it. As it is, many people at our regular N.O. Masses complain because there is too much music, and not enough silence. A typical daily N.O. Mass includes the following: A Polish entrance hymn, a recited Kyrie, a sung Alleluia, an English or Latin Offertory Hymn, a sung Sanctus, a sung Agnus Dei, solo organ while the priest, servers and choir receive communion, a Polish communion hymn, and during the cleansing of the vessels, a solo organ meditation, then an English or Latin recessional hymn, followed by an organ postlude.

    What I fear we will have during the usus antiquior is Polish hymn after Polish hymn, alternating with an occasional Latin or English Hymn; and NO silence. I don’t think this is not what people want from a Tridentine Mass.

    Our organist is convinced that we cannot sing the proper antiphons without violating the rubrics, and Father will NOT permit an entirely silent Mass. He hates the sound of shuffling feet and coughing. I would like to see one or two sung Gregorian proper antiphons, and a couple of well-chosen hymns, with some silence sprinkled in here and there, within the time boundaries of the Mass.

  17. techno_aesthete says:

    Henry, Thank you for pointing out De musica sacra. When there was some confusion at our TLM, I consulted it and also found out that a sung Mass (Missa Cantata) or solemn Mass (Missa Solemnis) must have BOTH the propers and ordinary sung. If one is going to have the ordinary sung or chanted, then the propers must be sung/chanted as well.

    From the point of view of the choir, there is not much difference, if any, between the Missa Cantata and Missa Solemnis. Most of the difference occurs in the sanctuary.

  18. techno_aesthete says:

    Robert, it sounds like your pastor wants a high Mass (sung or solemn). However, in a high Mass all of the music MUST be in Latin during the Mass. Vernacular pieces can be used for the processional and recessional, but NOT during the Mass.

    The low Mass is mostly silent. Sometimes there are hymns during the offertory and Communion, but certainly not continuous singing during the Mass.

  19. Daniel Muller says:

    I think that the question of liturgical musical formation — musical formation of the choir and of the congregation — is of paramount importance. The choir needs to learn and sing Gregorian chant for Sundays and other occasions, and the congregation needs to hear it as well. It is not easy to get these things started, even less so when it is an occasional thing (one set of propers only sung once a year), and praxis makes perfect. So if the choir or schola can make it to church at that time, singing the propers on Thursday will be a great reinforcement of the Sunday music; the set of propers is often the same.

    I would also like to make the point that allowing vernacular devotional songs at Mass, while allowed by the 1962 Missal, is an innovation, historically speaking. Vernacular liturgical hymns did not “exist” before the 1950’s and, now that they are allowed, remain almost exclusively the domain of the Liturgy of the Hours. So allowing the congregation to sing non-liturgical and non-scriptural “hymns” during Mass is a historical cul-de-sac and a formational dead end. Before or after Mass, of course, all kinds of appropriate devotions can and should be encouraged.

    There is a possible combination, too. The congregation could sing or chant, in Latin or the vernacular, part of the psalm that is the basis for each proper. This could be a through-composed paraphrase, like a hymn (all the Sunday introits have been set this way in English), or it could be the straight psalm text chanted to a tone. Properly proper, scriptural, formational, liturgical, participative: what is not to like?

    One further option: sing the hymn assigned in the Liturgia Horarum, in Latin or in the vernacular.

    A final comment: to sing a complete hymn ought to take longer than most proper chants.

  20. One comment on the readings at Sung Mass, Solemn or Missa Cantata. According to the provision of Rubricarum Intructum (15 Dec. 1960), n. 514, the priest (at Missa Cantata), deacon and subdeacon (at Solemn Mass), and the lector (at Masses with more than two readings, such as Ember days) may recite rather than chant their readings.

    Much as I dislike this, and think that they should at least recto-tone the readings if they cannot learn the proper melody, this provision was certainly in force at the promulgation of the 1962 Missal.

    Sadly, it was also accepted in the Dominican Rite (Analecta S. O. Ff. Praed., 35 (1961), p. 89), in spite of the Order’s choral tradition of Sung Mass. I have discussed this in the series on the Dominican Liturgy, 1946-1969, now in process over at New Liturgical Movement.

  21. Henry Edwards says:

    Robert: I’ve been in a position roughly like (but worse than) yours now — starting out with a 1962 Mass in a 1970 parish, and wanting to attract the interest of both old and (especially) new Mass devotees. If someone had suggested the musical cacophony you describe, I’d have suspected his goal was to sabotage the whole thing.

    People can (and expect to) participate prayerfully at a Tridentine Mass, either at a low Mass where they may or may not make verbal responses, or at a high Mass where they sing the responses and the ordinary of the Mass (while a choir or schola sings the propers). But I cannot believe there are many people with the power of concentration required to pray the Mass despite the din of a potpourri of miscellaneous selections, some appropriate and some not. Sounds awful!

    Good luck in forestalling this. New abuse of the old use is not what we need now.

  22. Paul B says:

    I’ve never actually been at a Low Mass with constant singing of hymns, but I’ve read that this was indeed the custom in parts of Eastern Europe for centuries. The hymns were vernacular paraphrases of what the priest was saying at the altar at various points during the Mass. Some Polish parishes in the US before Vatican II kept this custom. I don’t see any problem with reviving it at parishes where it makes sense to have such a custom (e.g. people in the congregation and/or choir know and want the hymns. Of course, I’m presuming the hymns in question are theologically suitable and not too kitschy.) It does somewhat go against the tendency in the 1958 instruction, but I don’t think it’s forbidden. (The “four-hymn sandwich” which is so often derided is actually implied by the 1958 instruction — it’s a way of allowing hymns at Low Mass without getting in the way of the congregation’s ability to hear, read or recite the texts of the Mass. I think the following hymn arrangement is pretty common at TLMs in the US that use hymns at Low Mass: vernacular processional – Latin offertory – Latin communion – vernacular recessional. That’s what we usually aim for at our church.) It would be nice to include some traditional Latin hymns among the Polish hymns. But I wouldn’t recommend trying to mix the Propers in with all of this. I would say let them have their Low Mass with Polish hymns on Thursdays, but work for at least occasional High Masses that would be sung entirely in Latin. As we can see from this thread, many valid musical traditions had developed around the Holy Sacrifice before Vatican II, and as long as they are in harmony with the nature of the sacred liturgy there’s room for all of them at parishes that use the extraordinary form.

  23. Paul B says:

    Robert: I hadn’t seen your post when I wrote mine. I see your problem. I was basing my comments on the assumption that people in the congregation _wanted_ to revive the Polish hymn custom. I was just pointing out that it was indeed a valid tradition in some areas before Vatican II. But if it’s something that the pastor wants in opposition to most of the people who would attend the TLM, then yes, that is a problem. Unfortunately, I don’t think mixing in parts of the Proper and Ordinary into a Low Mass is really a valid solution. But maybe reducing the music to a few Latin hymns in the appropriate places would work.

  24. Robert says:

    My Pastor does not have a high estimation of his singing abilities, and has chosen the low Mass in order to avoid HIS having to sing. I think he actually sings well and only needs more confidence.

    I honestly don’t believe anyone is trying to sabatoge the 1962 Mass, least of all my pastor. The suggestion made to have an entrance and a recessional hymn, and hymns at the Offertory and Communion, sounds practical; could be two Polish and two of either Latin or English.

    The choir that I direct sings at the 8 a.m. Sunday N.O. Mass, and we usually sing unaccompanied a couple of 16th century polyphonic pieces, occasionally a Latin hymn from Liturgia horarum or an English hymn, and also occasionally a Latin Proper. The last couple of years we have sung some of the Tracts that are still permitted during Lent, Easter and Pentecost, so our congregation, at least at this Mass, gets a taste of the Latin texts.

    For instance, this Sunday we are planning on singing Palestrina’s Confitebor Tibi, and Oculus Non Vidit of Orlando di Lasso. Confitebor tibi belongs to the 5th Sunday of Lent, but it is a prayer that is suitable at other times. Oculus non vidit seems to relate somewhat to Sunday’s first reading.

    As regards my original question, I am going to try to push for a balanced mix of silence and hymns at the four places mentioned above. Thanks for everyone’s help.

  25. Brian Mershon says:

    “So if the choir or schola can make it to church at that time, singing the propers on Thursday will be a great reinforcement of the Sunday music; the set of propers is often the same.”

    Daniel, Can you elaborate on this? The propers for the normally scheduled Mass in the 1962 missal, even when it is a feast day of a saint or martyr, is often the same as the propers for Sunday Mass? This might help us here in South Carolina for practicing our propers.

    Do you have some examples of this, and can you elaborate. Thank you, Fr. Augustine, for the document on allowing for a recited lesson (epistle). I guess that with the motu proprio, the priest can certainly recite the lesson in the vernacular now as well–even if it is a High Mass.

  26. caeremoniarius says:

    Dear Fr Augustine,

    Actually, n. 514 of the 1960 Codex Rubricarum does *not* at all say that the Deacona nd SUbdeacon at Solemn Mass are free merely to read the Epistle and Gospel. It refers only, as its opening words indicate, to what may be done “In Missis cantatis, scilicet sine ministris.” We cannot and must not extrapolate from this that the Deacon and Subdeacon are permitted to read their lessons without chant at a (Roman Rite–can’t speak for the Dominicans here) Solemn Mass. (Whew!!)

  27. caeremoniarius says:

    Amendment to my previous comment:

    That snippet of NCR, n. 514, should have said “In Missis cantatis, scilicet sine *sacris* ministris.” This does make a difference! Sorry for the omission.

  28. Claud says:


    Vernacular liturgical hymns existed before the 1950s. In the Indian missions of North America, they were singing ordinaries, some propers, and hymns in Mohawk, Algonquin, Abenaki and other languages at High Mass.

    More info here:

    I’ve not been able to find out yet if or when permission was given for this from Rome, but it was going on with episcopal approval from the late 1600s right on up to Vatican II.

  29. Garrett says:

    Holy Mass without the use of incense is like going to the movies and not getting popcorn.

    A big mistake all around!

  30. catholiclady says:

    For what it is worth, the FFSP Mass I attend (when I can now), has only opening and closing hymns, no singing otherwise, during Low Mass. The people join in the hymns.

    During the Missa Cantata, the full choir sing the ordinaries and the men’s schola sing the propers. Some folks join in the chanting of the ordinaries but it is not encouraged or discouraged as far as I know at our parish.

    I prefer the Missa Cantata because I love the music and hearing the priest chanting as well. I love the incensing too.

  31. moretben says:

    Vernacular hymns are absolutely not permitted during Low Mass. In come circumstances it is permitted to sing liturgical texts, in Latin, during the offertory and communion, but non-liturgical material in the vernacular, never, never, never!

    You may sing a hymn in Polish, English or any other language ONLY AFTER the Last Gospel/Leonine Prayers

  32. Thanks to caeremoniarius for the correction about recited readings at Solemn Mass.

    As I was working on the O.P. my notes on the parent Roman documents were incomplete. The Dominican SCR rescript that followed RI does indeed allow deacons, subdeacons, and lectors to read their parts.

    As I said, I don’t like these practices, but frankly, if priests are going to recite the readings at a Missa Cantata the step to allowing other ministers to recite their readings follows easily.

  33. David Kubiak says:

    Vernacular hymns were indeed permitted to be sung at Low Mass. But the thrust of the “true” liturgical movement was to make people realize that the heart of the tradition is what in the US we call the Solemn High Mass. It is not elaborated up from the Low Mass, but vice-versa, a point that later rubricians did not always grasp. While one can certainly come to love the Low Mass, to me it is abusive to make it the end point of any community’s Sunday celebration. As to the vernacular hymns, I don’t have his book in front of me, but Fr. Fortescue says in a footnote something like “And the practice of singing bits of things in the vernacular while Mass is being celebrated is too awful even to discuss.”

  34. Daniel Muller says:

    Daniel, Can you elaborate on this? The propers for the normally scheduled Mass in the 1962 missal, even when it is a feast day of a saint or martyr, is often the same as the propers for Sunday Mass? This might help us here in South Carolina for practicing our propers.

    Do you have some examples of this, and can you elaborate.

    Sorry, sorry, sorry. What I wrote pre-caffeine this morning is usually NOT TRUE of the 1962 calendar. (Thanks for reading carefully and calling me out on that.) It would be generally true of the new calendar with so many ferials and optional memorials, especially with its relatively loosey-goosey musical rules. That is, as you know, there is no absolute prohibition on using any propers from a specific occasion for any other occasion in the Ordinary Form.

    Now then, learning the propers of saints is also useful for training. As is meditation upon these propers by the congregation if they are not singing.

    Again, I apologize for needlessly muddying the waters.

  35. mike conlon says:

    Uh-oh! Someone’s NewMass slip is showing.
    There are four types of Masses: (1) the low Mass (silent)(2) Missa Cantata
    (3)Missa Solemnis, and (4) Pontifical Missa Solemnis. The last is the normative
    Mass of the 1962 Missal, celebrated by the Pope or a bishop at the throne in his
    own diocese.
    Since the poster is the “choir director,” why can’t he teach his choir a few simple vernacular hymns, which can be sung at a low Mass?
    What does he mean by proper antiphons? I suspect he means the Propers taken from
    the Graduale. They cannot be sung at a low Mass, because then it wouldn’t be a low
    Mass. I might suggest the poster acquire a copy of Msgr. Hayburn’s Papal Legislation
    on Sacred Music. Try eBay, it’s not cheap.
    As for the suggestion that in light of music legislation post-VII, that women
    might be admitted to the choir; the answer is NO!!!! But one needs to define terms.
    When St.Pius X issued “tra la sollecitudini” AAS 1904 36:329, and refers to choirs
    he is referring to the schola. Since the schola performs a clerical function, “women
    therefore, being incapable of such an office, cannot be admitted to the choir (sic)>”
    Only men may chant the Propers. Following WWII, Pius the XII allowed women to
    perform the chant where men were not available (having been used as cannon fodder).
    There arises the problem of psalm-toning the texts or using the melismatic tones
    of the Graduale. Almost anyone can psalm tone. even the tone deaf. Most priestspsalm tone the Epistle & Gospel.
    That this or that practice was allowed in the 1950s carries no weight. Ignoring the rubrics just didn’t occur at the end of VII.

  36. mike conlon: There are four types of Masses: (1) the low Mass (silent)(2) Missa Cantata  (3)Missa Solemnis, and (4) Pontifical Missa Solemnis.

    There are two forms of the Missa Cantata.  Otherwise you are correct. 

  37. Daniel Muller says:

    Vernacular liturgical hymns existed before the 1950s. In the Indian missions of North America, they were singing ordinaries, some propers, and hymns in Mohawk, Algonquin, Abenaki and other languages at High Mass.

    I was using “liturgical hymns” in the very strictest sense: hymns of the Divine Office as found in the Breviarum Romanum, now textually restored in the Liturgia Horarum and the Church’s hymnal, the Liber Hymnarius. These hymns were extensively translated into English, probably for use at Low Mass, in the new Westminster Hymnal. Before that, vernacular Catholic “hymnals” were naturally pretty much devotional manuals.

    It is not clear from your citation whether these Indian “hymns” were related to official liturgical hymns, were scriptural, or were simply devotional songs. I understand that some centuries ago the Jesuits also obtained approval to use one or two Oriental languages in the Liturgy to further their evangelizing efforts. What implications that had for music, I do not know. But yes, I was being Eurocentric.

  38. Claud says:

    Thanks for the clarification, Daniel. I didn’t know that about the history of English hymnody.

    Sorry if I wasn’t clear…but near as I can figure out, what were sung were official liturgical ordinaries and propers during High Mass. Here’s the Mohawk Asperges:

    If you look through subsequent pages you can see the extent to which the Roman liturgy was translated. This book does not seem to have been devotional…it was made expressly for liturgical use. Here’s the Requiem Mass:

    And you’re right, I did see in the Acts of the Propaganda that permission had been given for use of the vernacular in China.

  39. David M.O'Rourke says:

    Fr. Augustine O.P. says: “As I said, I don’t like these practices, but frankly, if priests are going to recite the readings at a Missa Cantata the step to allowing other ministers to recite their readings follows easily”.

    I agree with Fr. Augustine. Readings in the natural voice were the earliest mark of the liturgical collapse that was to follow. AVOID THEM! In pre-Vatican II times at a Sung Mass (Missa Cantata) the priest normally said the Epistle in a low voice while the choir sang the Gradual. I believe that where it was the custom, he could sing the Epistle and this seems the most logical arrangement. He always sang the Gospel.

    It should be noted that a Sung Mass was actually a sung Low Mass and could be served by only one server functioning as in a Low Mass. Commonly there were two servers at either end of the steps as was also allowed for Low Mass especially on Sunday.

    It was also permitted to have an MC and acolytes at a Sung Mass on all occasions and if incense was used, a thurifer. Incense, however, was not a part of the Rite of Sung Mass which, remember, is a sung Low
    Mass. Thus when incense was used the correct term was Sung Mass with Incense.

    In Canada, (where I live) there was an Indult allowing Incense at all Sung Masses but this did not apply in the U.S. In the 1962 Missal Incense was allowed at Sung Mass everywhere, not simply where there was an Indult.

    In North America, because of the lack of priests, it was usual to celebrate a Sung Mass where the circumstances would normally have called for a Solemn High Mass and the latter was reserved in practice to accasions like Midnight Mass at Christmas etc.

    No doubt, for this reason the term “High Mass” became normally used for Sung Mass and a false distinction was made between High Mass and Solemn High Mass. May one hope that with the revival of the Usus Antiquior the Rite without Deacon and Subdeacon will properly be referred to as Sung Mass with terms like High Mass, Solemn Mass and Solemn High Mass being reserved for the Missa Solemnis.

    One note regarding vernacular Hymns. Such hymns were common as the Sacred Ministers processed out at the end of Mass. This was because the Liturgy ends with the “Deo Gratias” of the Last Gospel unless another Liturgical Rite is to follow e.g. Absolution over the coffin or a Corpus Chrisi Procession. The exit, no matter how solemnly done is NOT part of the Liturgy.

  40. Paul says:

    Interesting Historical Note: It’s said that some Polish servicemen in England during WWII walked out of their first Mass in that country, thinking it was some non-Catholic sect, because there was no singing at the Mass! Use of vernacular hymns during Mass in Central and Eastern Europe goes back to the Late Middle Ages at least, although the way they were used has changed–in the 15th century, for instance, they were usually sung before and/or after the sermon. Vice or virtue, it’s thought to be the Germans that started the practice.

    Of course, Robert’s concern is with the immediate Pre-Vatican II tradition. I would suggest maybe, if the Missa Cantata solution is not adopted, he might split the difference with his pastor (and congregation) and choose some of the more “chant-like” Polish hymns from the 16th-18th centuries, at least for opening and closing. Some (Like Chrystus Pan Zmartwychstal) suffered melodic sentimentalization in the 19th century, but there are, to my early-music attuned ear, still some wonderful ones esp. in the older collections published in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.

  41. Vernacular hymns are absolutely not permitted during Low Mass. In come circumstances it is permitted to sing liturgical texts, in Latin, during the offertory and communion, but non-liturgical material in the vernacular, never, never, never!

    You may sing a hymn in Polish, English or any other language ONLY AFTER the Last Gospel/Leonine Prayers

    Oye. This is not the case. At all Missa Cantata, Solemn Masses and Pontifical Solemn Masses, this is the case, that vernacular texts can only be used for the processional and recessional.

    However, at Low Masses, vernacular hymns are indeed permitted, even during the liturgy. According to the 1958 Instruction on Sacred Music:

    At low Mass the faithful who participate directly in the liturgical ceremonies with the celebrant by reciting aloud the parts of the Mass which belong to them must, along with the priest and his server, use Latin exclusively.

    But if, in addition to this direct participation in the liturgy, the faithful wish to add some prayers or popular hymns, according to local custom, these may be recited or sung in the vernacular.De musica sacra et sacra liturgiae, no. 14b

    Moreover, singing of hymns in the vernacular had a very ancient tradition in the Holy Roman Empire, and in several parts of Italy and France. It is not some Vatican II innovation, as much as I dislike the practice myself.

    The concern should be when we encounter things like hymn after hymn, after hymn, that the music is taking over the worship, not that the worship is utilizing the music. There is a lot of beauty to a silent low Mass, where one meditates on the saving action of our God, Jesus Christ, and a hymn at certain places may indeed help this. A constant row of hymns would not only overdo it, it would drown out the soul. Even the Solemn High Mass has moments of complete silence, so chalkboard scratchingly hideous to us moderns who have lived in Mr. Specter’s wall of sound since the 70’s. I would suggest to the fellow in the Polish parish that he make certain hymns are limited to processional, offertory, communion and recessional, so that the legitimate desire for hymns does not crowd out devotion to the liturgy. I realize that in some cases the vernacular hymns of Eastern Europe and of other traditions make meditation on the mysteries of the Mass, but if one wants to sing that much the Missa Cantata should be said. I have been to countless parishes where the ability to say a Missa Cantata minimum is present, a well trained choir, the servers, the priest, but for some reason they simply don’t do it. I know in other areas where they have both a Low Mass and a Missa Cantata that a lot of people will go to the low Mass while the MC will be only half full. That annoys me to death. There isn’t a Missa Cantata within 400 miles of me and I would give up everything I own just to go to one. I consider one such person who purposely never goes to a Sung Mass and makes certain always to go to a low Mass has a malformed sensus liturgicus. As for those who have the ability to say a Missa Cantata (if not a solemn Mass), but does not, it simply blows my mind. It is the most amazing experience one can have.

  42. dad29 says:

    The Missa Cantata as done in Milwaukee for about 50+ years or so includes schola Propers, choral Chant (or polyphonic) Ordinary, and sung Gospel (Epistle was sotto voce–not silent, not sung.)

    The little I recall of the “Dialog Mass” (in Missa Cantata) included congregational ‘short’ responses, and congregational singing of (Chant) Ordinaries, with schola singing the Propers.

    From the beginning of Mass through the Last Gospel, there was NO music which was not in Latin. That was a big no-no.

    IIRC, women were allowed to sing in choirs by Pius XII’s 1957 “Christmas Letter.”

  43. Scandicus says:

    At a Missa Cantata — in the absence of a schola or choir (or, for that matter, chant-competent assistant ministers and/or Lay Faithful) — is it permissible for the priest celebrant himself (i.e., alone) to chant the Propers (e.g., where, at the altar, he would normally recite or read them)?

    Where I live the likelihood of ever having a schola or choir to sing the Gregorian Propers is so remote as to be virtually laughable. Is the priest — who is competent in plainchant — perpetually sentenced to having to celebrate a mere Missa Recitata (Low Mass), or may he substitute also for the schola, as he substitutes for the missing deacon and subdeacon?

  44. David says:

    There seems to be quite a bit of confusion in this discussion as to what elements make a mass low or high. According to Fortescue the essence of high Mass is not the music but the deacon and subdeacon. Fortescue quote follows:

    “THIS HIGH MASS IS THE NORM; it is only in the complete rite with deacon and subdeacon that the ceremonies can be understood. Thus, the rubrics of the Ordinary of the Mass always suppose that the Mass is high. Low Mass, said by a priest alone with one server, is a shortened and simplified form of the same thing. Its ritual can be explained only by a reference to high Mass. For instance, the celebrant goes over to the north side of the altar to read the Gospel, because that is the side to which the deacon goes in procession at high Mass; he turns round always by the right, because at high Mass he should not turn his back to the deacon and so on. A SUNG MASS (missa Cantata) IS A MODERN COMPROMISE. IT IS REALLY A LOW MASS, Since THE ESSENCE OF HIGH MASS IS NOT THE MUSIC BUT THE DEACON AND SUBDEACON.”

  45. Written Under Correction says:

    With regards to the question of women singing, in most situations it will be entirely permissible for women and men to sing in harmony in the choir’s natural abode, the loft. If there is no loft and the choir is visible to the congregation, then a screen or bars can be used to protect the choir from the temptation to consider themselves as performers on a stage, or the star of a show. Only in the rare case, when the choir is actually sitting in stalls inside the Communion rail wearing cassock and surplice, would it be inappropriate in the extraordinary use for the women to be located near the men.

    Women in the choir can sing all the parts of the Mass for which congregational singing is encouraged, which is to say all the parts of the Mass. However, if there is a competent men’s schola which is capable of singing the melismatic Propers like the Gradual and Offertory, and the women in the choir are not, there is no reason to “dumb down” the music to psalm tones or recto tono just so that women will have a place.

    Only in the rare case where there is a competent men’s schola and the music director does not choose any sacred polyphony or modern multi-part sacred music for a Mass, or if there is a competent boys’ choir capable of singing the treble parts, would it be unnecessary for women to sing in the choir.

    The preference for male voices, even if it only rarely has any practical effect, reminds us that the role of the choir at Mass is clerical in nature, like the role of the altar server. To abolish it entirely would diminish the role of the choir to that of mere technicians.

  46. mike conlon says:

    The more things change, the more they stay the same.

    There has always been a certain tension between liturgists and performance artists.
    Musicians want to fill the “lacuna” of silent reverence with music. As for the original poster in this thread, he is stuck with the four hymn sandwich, i.e., Processional, Recessional, Offertory hymn and post-Communion hymn. They may be in the vernacular or not.
    The problem here, and in general, is that most people don’t what a “High” Mass is. David above, is correct. The degree of solemnity is dependant on the presence of deacon and subdeacon. Actually, there is no “high” Mass. There is either a sung Mass or not. I cannot give the cite, but in my formation days, I heard the “low Mass” referred to as the Irish indult.
    The normative parish Mass is the Missa Solemnis.

  47. M Kr says:

    Mike Conlon:

    I agree that the normative parish mass on Sundays and Holydays is a Missa Solemnis, but I’m confused what you mean when you say there is either a Sung mass or not and then go on to say the low mass is an Irish indult. Low masses have been around for a lot longer than the penal times in Ireland.

  48. mike conlon says:

    Either the Mass is sung (Pontifical Missa Solemnis, Missa Solemnis, Missa Cantata) or it is not (low Mass).
    I fail to see any connection between the foregoing and THE Irish indult. The latter was a term used by Prof. of Liturgy, Msgr. J. Koenig. Are you trying to make a point?

  49. M Kr says:

    Mike Conlon:

    Perhaps we are misunderstanding each other. My question is what is meant by the “low mass” being the Irish indult? I have never heard of the Irish indult.

  50. Ruth says:

    I find this discussion fascinating. I teach singing at a Catholic Seminary and am getting requests from my students to teach them what they will need in order to chant as priests for the Tridentine Mass. Having become a Catholic after Vatican II the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite IS a “New” Mass to me. Our pastor, who is a well trained musician, plans a sung Mass (High?) on Sundays after Sept. 14th. We already have a Latin Novus Ordo with sung Propers by the men’s schola on Sundays but I believe this is the Mass Father is planning to switch to the Extraordinary Form. I also have seminarians who are asking that I teach them the Latin chants they will need to Celebrate a Novus Ordo and of course some also want the vernacular Prefaces. So, if it wouldn’t be too much bother could I ask some questions of all of you who are so knowledgeable? I would like to help these young men as best I can because at this time there is no Latin Mass offered them at the seminary. God bless and thanks in advance.

  51. berenike says:

    About dumbing down the chant to give women a shot; I think in most places it’s finding enough men to sing wiggly chant that is a problem, certainly that’s one of the reasons I had a sort of women’s schola at one point!

    Essay question – How “clerical” is the “role of the schola”? Discuss. My vague memories of patristic references seem to be that they talk about psalms and so on being sung theoretically by everyone, but mostly led by a group or groups of the enthusiastic/zealous. This in the liturgy.
    I also have a vague hunch that, refinement of liturgy being mostly the province of monastic or collegiate (in the ecclesiastical sense) environments, where there were many clerics, perception of the *actual* nature of some things may be somewhat coloured. The sitting-in-the-sanctuary question aside, why would the singing of the Proper of the Mass be a clerical-as-opposed-to-lay function?

    About the vernacular being sung at Mass. Schubert is one of the composers whose settings of vernacular translations/paraphrases of Mass Ordinary texts can still be found in, e.g. Gotteslob, a/?the standard Catholic music/prayer book for churches in the Deuschesprachraum.

    Maybe the vernacular was not permitted during Mass in some places, but it seems to me that this can have been only a pastoral provision. In a Low Mass no-one bar the priest and a server or so have any “rubricated” part. Us punters can, particular regulations aside, pray our proverbial rosaries, mentally trace every word along with the priest, read the Catholic Herald or whatever. Any regulation is not going to change this basic structure. Singing a hymn from the Divine Office, in Latin, to chant, is not more “liturgical” than singing “Accept O Lord from Priestly Hands” or ‘Blest are you o Living Host In which Christ His Godhead hides”.

    Or have I missed something?

  52. berenike says:

    Singing said Office hymn at a Low Mass, I mean.

  53. Royce says:

    I am somewhat disturbed by the desire of some people to totally repress outward participation in the liturgy. Clearly, outward worship can be dangerous in so far as it sometimes leads people to neglect inward worship, and covering the Mass up with other music hardly seems desirable, but this hardly seems to justify the gut reaction some people demonstrate on the issue of participation in the liturgy. To me, the desire to imitate higher forms of worship, such as Solemn High Mass, is admirable (especially keeping in mind, as pointed out above, that Low Mass is really an imitation of the real thing). In fact, it might be necessary. I doubt there is a single indult parish in the US that has three priests every weekend for High Mass. To deny the faithful the genuine liturgical experience, then, puts Low Mass purebloods on the same level as bishops who have allowed 1 indult Mass per month. I am positive I wouldn’t have fallen in love with the old rite if my first experience was with Low Mass (though I’ve sense come to appreciate it, but mostly as a means of escaping bad choirs and poor Latin). Certainly, no one should be forced to chant responses, but I don’t think that there’s any significant reason to prohibit those who want to.

    I think one important, unresolved issue here is what exactly is the choir? I had always thought that the choir was thought of as a part of the congregation, having no special designation apart from it with regards to the rubrics. If that is the case then I don’t think one could prohibit anyone in the congregation from responding with the choir. Or perhaps I am totally off the mark. It does seem significant to me, though, that the choir is positioned at the back of the church, not up front with the ministers (well, at least in most churches).

    Really, it’s too bad we can’t import this concern over exactitude in when to sing or not to the ordinary form and end the ridiculous and all-too-common-practice of chanting only the minor doxology. Why is it that priests who have sung nothing else in the Mass feel the need to pipe in at, “Through Him, with Him, in Him, …”?

  54. In the event that everyone is not clear, a low Mass is the recitation of Holy Mass by the priest and altar boys, (and under dialogue Mass rules the congregation, although rubrically they don’t exist as was pointed out above). A Missa Cantata is a low Mass with music, which mimics a solemn Mass but has only one priest, it was offered as a compromise for parishes that could not meet the rubrics necessary to offer a Solemn High Mass. It is still technically a “low” Mass. A Solemn High Mass makes use of all the Church’s ceremonies, 6 candles on the altar, and has three ministers, a priest, a deacon and a subdeacon (even if the latter two are priests operating in those roles). A Pontifical High Mass is with the Bishop, plus extra ceremonies and a seventh candle.

    The reason for the confusion is because most indults or SSPX Churches have offered low Mass, and comparatively few offer a Solemn High Mass. When it is done at all, usually it is a Missa Cantata which is not a Solemn High Mass, but is often advertised as such. Which leads people into thinking that it is a High Mass. Few among us have ever seen a pontifical High Mass, because .001% of the world’s Bishops will offer it.

    Another part of the problem is that Bishops or other authorities have not and do not make sure things are done correctly (usually they are loath that it is done at all) and as such the priest is left to his own to figure things out. I once met a priest who chanted the “Ite Missa Est” when Exposition occurred immediately after the Mass. After I made mention to him that rubrically he is supposed to chant the “Benedicamus Domino”, and after he went and checked he realized this was correct and adopted the practice. This is why in principle the idea that Bishops are checking into rubrics and the celebrations of priests would be great, if the Bishop actually knew anything about the rubrics and was not just posturing to neuter the provisions of Summorum Pontificum.

  55. “What I fear we will have during the usus antiquior is Polish hymn after Polish hymn, alternating with an occasional Latin or English Hymn; and NO silence. I don’t think this is not what people want from a Tridentine Mass.”

    What people seem to be ignoring is valid ‘local custom’. It seems clear that the parish in question will not be having a Misa Cantata of either form for the moment. It also seems clear that the pastor has his heart set on having hymns at the Low Mass. Every pre-VC II liturgical author from Fotescue to O’Connell to Wapelhorst had their own take on what should be going on at Low Mass and frequently cite various sources.

    However, one has to work with one’s pastor in this matter and if he wants hymns at Low Mass, then that is what he should have. It is a valid Polish and German ‘local custom’ to do this. Thus, it should be done well.

    Now depending on how the priest says Mass, there are two says to do this.

    1.) If he is of the mid-20th century Liturgical Movement mindset, he will most likely say the Mass in an audible voice so that the congregation can follow (and I DON’T mean a Dialogue Mass). If this is the case, then it would appropriate to have a hymn only during the offertory, and perhaps Communion (depending on which liturgical writer you consult). It is also appropriate to have a hymn AFTER the Mass at some point (after the Leonine Prayers would make the most sense) since this hymn is not within the confines of the liturgy. The priest can pick the hymns himself and one would hope that they are appropriate to the day.

    2.) If the priest is of the more old-fashioned school andsays Massin such a voice that he is inaudible to the congregation and one cannot follow along very well, then you coul have something like the DEAUTSCHE SINGMESSE. The DEUTSCHE SINGMESSE was common in Germany, Austria, and German national parishes abroad (like those in the U.S.). The Polish had a similar custom. Essentially, it is a Low Mass where there is congregational singing throughout. The hymns sung were paraphrases of the different parts of the Mass and the tunes were changed with the season. The easiest way to do something similar in Polish would be singing one of the tasteful modern, Mass-settings in Polish at the appropriate parts of the Mass. Normal hymns could then be sung at the Offertory, at Communion, and then one at the end of the Mass.

    Some of you may think this against the rubrics, but as a friend of mine pointed out to me: THE RUBRICS ONLY APPLY TO THE SACRED MINISTERS, SERVERS, AND LITURGICAL CHOIR (as opposed to the musical choir). Any instructions that a liturgist writes for a CONGREGATION are merely prescriptive and are not binding like the rubrics. Thus the DEUTSCHE SINGMESSE is completely legal. Until such time as a High Mass (Misa Cantata) or Solemn Mass can be had, this is the best option.

    Personally, I prefer having some hymns rather than complete silence Sunday after Sunday after Sunday. Though I suppose the latter choice would appeal to many ex-Quakers…

  56. Father A says:

    I would like to help these young men as best I can because at this time there is no Latin Mass offered them at the seminary.


    Contact me [“hermitage (at)”] off-line regarding this.

  57. mike conlon says:

    A choir is a singing aggregation of mixed voices, whereas, a schola according to Tra le sollecetudini and De musica sacra (SRC 1958) is made up of men who take the place of priests, much the same as altar boys take the place of men in minor orders. A choir should NEVER “be up front with the ministers.” A schola should always be in choro, that is, within the sanctuary. Women are not permitted in the sanctuary, unless they are a member of a canonically erected Altar Society. Ideally, the congregation should sing the Ordinary of the Mass as well as the responses. Only men may chant the Propers, unless the Mass is a conventual Mass. If you can’t have altar-girls, then you can’t have “schol-ettes.”
    Some of this is can be confusing, but it is important that we get it right. We cannot be sloppy in our terminology. There has to be some clerical authority who says, “OK folks, this is what is meant by…” and some of us may have to swallow our pride and accept the definition. Even De musica sacra confuses the issue by an indiscriminate use of the word “choir.” Someone said above that the Missa Cantata is a sung low Mass. That’s true. However, the vast majority think that the lowest “degree” of a high Mass is the Missa Cantata. I don’t think it useful to refer to the Missa Cantata as a sung low Mass, most people won’t get. Let’s agree for the sake of amity that the Missa Cantata is the lowest “degree” of the high Mass. Are ye confused yet? Incidentally, the use of incense at a Missa Cantata is an indult; however, in North America it is accepted as the norm, and while not codified, is certainly an example of organic growth in the liturgy.
    As we all should know, the Liturgical Movement was hi-jacked by the Modernists like Lambert Beauduin and the rest of that crowd that followed, which resulted in the banality presented today as NewMass. IMHO, the only “novelty” introduced in North America was the congregational singing of the Pater Noster. It should be retained as part of TrueMass. After all, it is the prayer that Jesus taught us. It was a common practice in German speaking countries before WWII. That to me also represents organic growth.
    I was interested to read somewhere above that at least one FSSP is encouraging the congregational chant of the Pater Noster. Where is that?

  58. Written Under Correction says:

    The questions asked regarding the nature of the choir are very important. Is singing in the Church by nature a clerical role?

    “[T]he liturgical chant belongs to the choir of levites, and, therefore, singers in the church, even when they are laymen, are really taking the place of the ecclesiastical choir.
    “[S]ingers in church have a real liturgical office…
    “[O]nly men of known piety and probity of life are to be admitted to form part of the choir of a church, and these men should by their modest and devout bearing during the liturgical functions show that they are worthy of the holy office they exercise. It will also be fitting that singers while singing in church wear the ecclesiastical habit and surplice…

    — Pope St. Pius X, motu proprio Tra le Sollecitudini (1903)

    “In the primitive Church the singing was done by the clergy.”
    Catholic Encyclopedia (1911)

  59. Robert says:

    Original questioner here again:
    This is all very confusing, and dismaying in it’s confusion.

    It seems that even where there are specific rubrics, there are a variety of practices. And a variety of opinions about the rubrics and the practices. What’s a lowly lay choir director to do when there are as many opinions as there are posters, and when sincere priests aren’t even sure what to do and when?

    I suspect that the multiplicity of rubrics and clarifications of rubrics and documents from Rome are due to the fact that, as clear as they may have been intended to be, the rubrics are not transparent, and cannot take into account each and every situation in which the liturgy might be celebrated. I also think this is something of a scandal, and probably one reason why so many went off the deep end after Vatican II. I believe that what Vatican II WANTED to do, liturgically, was simplify the existing Mass, and make it easier to celebrate correctly in a variety of circumstances and amongst a variety of people.

    Instead what we got was the almost entire removal of the then-existing Mass from the church’s liturgical life, and a new Mass that many seemed to feel they could celebrate in any manner they wished. And now we’re having restored to us, the older Mass, with all of it’s confusion and apparent contradictions intact.

    I personally think the Novus Ordo needs a few more clearly written rubrics, and the 1962 Mass needs fewer.

    Or maybe somehow the two Masses could be merged into one Mass, using the best of both!

  60. mike conlon says:

    Why are YOU still confused? Your answer is very simple. You’re stuck with a four hymn sandwich. Your priest will celebrate a low Mass (forget about the Missa Cantata being a sung low Mass. Only a few litniks know that. The great trad Catholic unwashed don’t know that.) Your Polish organist is correct. There are rules here you know. Again the constant tension between the liturgist and the artist. A simple rule to remember: music is the handmaiden to the Mass. I’m sure that we can all agree that Mozart’s Coronation Mass is a great orchestral and vocal work. Yet it this type of composition which St. Pius X proscribed because of the musical ornateness and vocal repetitions. The are great gaps if this work is employed as a Mass setting wherein the celebrant must stop the liturgical action and wait for a section to conclude. I recall a NO sung Mass offered by Cdl. Schoenborn of Vienna at St. Jean Baptiste in NYC some years ago. It was listed in the NYTimes as a free concert. Doncha know all the sons of Abraham who were Mozart fans and fans of FREE kulcha turned out. It was sad to see them all run out after the Credo for fear they somehow might be tainted, but I digress. The cardinal and his 25 concelebrants had to stop and do nothing but stand on the foot pace facing the crowd for 5 minutes, while the Sanctus ended. A break in the liturgical action of the Canon.

  61. mike conlon says:


    O ye of little faith, doubt no more.

    There are 2 quasi-parishes in NJ that have 3 priests available for a Missa Solemnis. They are OLFatima in Pequannock, every Sunday depending on retreats and a commiyment to help out someplace nearby; and St. Anthony’s in W. Orange, almost every Sunday, depending on 1 priest’s course load.

  62. mike conlon says:

    Robert said: Or maybe somehow the two Masses could be merged into one Mass, using the best of both!

    I almost missed this. This is why music directors must be subject to the celebrant. I’m sorry, but this is just ignorant. You REALLY need to get that copy of Hayburn and adopt a little humility. You appear to be overwhelmed. No, I think you can’t deal with not having your way. Artistic conceit, at the least.

  63. mike: Let’s have a more civil tone.

  64. mike conlon says:

    Mea culpa

    It is this type of fuzzy thinking that allowed NewMass to come into existence and force me out of Dunwoodie. This type of thinking leads to a slippery slope which brings the sublime down to the banal. The greatest mistake IMHO was allowing laymen to become capellmeisters, schola directors, choir directors without a sound foundation in liturgical practice. That is why we in NY area had the St. Pius X School of Music. It was suppressed with the introduction of NewMass because no one had to follow any rules. There was one underlying rule for NO ; it had to be nice, bland and banal.Whoever Robert’s Polish organist is, he should be given the Michael Davies award for sticking to tradition and not allowing novelties to be introduced. Viva saccarhin Polish hymns. I have to tell you that the author of “Why Catholics Can’t Sing” is absolutely correct. The past 2 weeks I have been subjected to a ladies’ choir that managed to turn Tantum Ergo into a dirge. A new organist/capellmeister will fix that right soon. You betcha!

  65. Written Under Correction says:

    But no part of the Ordinary may be sung at a low Mass because that automatically turns the Mass in to a High Mass.

    Is there a source for this assertion? Even O’Connell (1964), cited in #1, states only that this is “undesirable”, and there is no indication from that citation that this is anything other than an individual opinion.

    At the Indult Mass I attended, there was a long tradition of singing a Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei at low Mass. Incidentally these are the three parts of the Ordinary which do not require the priest sing the incipit. De Musica Sacra has this to say about the kinds of Mass:

    3. There are two kinds of Masses: the sung Mass (“Missa in cantu”), and the read Mass (“Missa lecta”), commonly called low Mass. There are two kinds of sung Mass: one called a solemn Mass if it is celebrated with the assistance of other ministers, a deacon and a sub-deacon; the other called a high Mass if there is only the priest celebrant who sings all the parts proper to the sacred ministers.

  66. Robert says:

    It was a little joke.

    And, this is not about what I want. It’s never been about what I want. It’s about trying to find out what the Church wants, what the Church expects of the Liturgy. That is ALL I care about. If I find that the Church expects continuous vernacular hymns from entrance to end, then I’ll be happy, and I’ll do my best to provide it.

    Maybe I didn’t make it clear in my first question. My pastor did not say he WANTED continuous Polish hymns. He said that’s what he grew up with. Our organist, who is a talented twenty-year old said we can’t sing the Latin propers, therefore we must sing continuous Polish hymns from start to finish. I want to find the truth. I want to know what the mind and the heart of the Church expects.

  67. Robert says:

    It is so sad to see the judgments you have made. You don’t know me. You don’t know my Pastor. You don’t know my Parish. It’s true, I’m not fond of some of the Polish hymns, but I’m up there in the choir loft, every day, singing them. I am doing exactly what my Pastor expects of me, but if he asks me, in our organist’s absence, to run the automatic organ from a MIDI disc, I can’t do it, because the Church forbids recorded music in place of live musicians. We either do it a capella with whoever is in the choir loft, or I run through the church to grab another organist who happens to be at Mass.

    And on Friday night, my wife and I open our home to the several families which make up the Saint Gregory Choir, (which by the way, was created specifically at my Pastor’s request, about 9 years ago) with their children, for a meal and rehearsal. We worked for weeks, for instance, to prepare the Confitebor tibi, and have now sung it twice, and while it may not be symphony hall quality, it was very, very good. A few years ago, when we had a soprano who could sing the high notes, we also prepared Allegri’s Miserere and sang it during Holy Week, and it was very, very good.

    If I decide that in two weeks we are going to sing one of the Gregorian propers at Mass, my choir patiently lets me teach it to them, and we sing it. They love the Liturgy, they love our parish and they love the music we sing.

    None of us in the Saint Gregory Choir is paid. We are all volunteers. Nor are we ignorant. I have read the documents, many of the others have as well. My Pastor sent some of us to a Gregorian Chant seminar several years ago. He fully supports the use of chant in our Masses, but also wants at least 2 Polish hymns at every Mass, and that’s what he gets.

    One of the many reasons that people come to this tiny, vibrant Church in Western Massachusetts, is because of the reverence of the Mass, and as regards this one Sunday Mass, the beauty of the music. And it is NOT a concert. Music appropriate to the texts is used. When possible, the actual verses are used, either in chant or polyphonic form. We always sing a capella, and there is nothing pretentious or conceited about the presentation. And I know, for instance, that Father’s offertory is almost exactly 2 minutes. He NEVER has to wait more than a few seconds.

    And if I started out this thread with a question about continuous Polish hymns, it is because, as I said before, our young organist, who is a little cocky, said that’s what we’d have to do. He wants it less than I do. But I didn’t assume I have the answer. I came here to find the truth. And if the truth is, as some of you say, the four hymn sandwich, that’s fine. I’ve already told him that, and he’s agreed, and we’re hoping that will leave some time for silence as well. And again, this is just for the Thursday evening 1962 Mass, if that even happens. So far, only 4 people have requested it, and two of them were my wife and I.

    Finally, is it really so unusual that I should be a little confused? I read a few different definitions of a Missa cantata, High Mass, low Mass, dialogue Mass, etc, with different explanations about what should be done at each. Obviously, I’m not the only one who is a little confused. If it was perfectly clear how the music at a low Mass should be presented, there would have been one clear answer.

  68. mike conlon says:

    Ah, this is what is so frustrating about the Internet, i.e., when people go off on their own tangent. Robert didn’t want to insert parts of the Ordinary of the Mass, but parts of the Propers, or am I totally wrong? (Wouldn’t be the first time.) I am not aware of any prohibition regarding singing parts of the Ordinary. What would turn a Missa lecta into a “missa in cantu” would be the singing (chanting) of the Propers.
    But Robert admitted confusion by all the “rubrics,” so rather than be nasty or snide let me try to explain as simply as I know how.
    1) Start with the premise that there are 2 kinds of Masses: Missa in cantu and Missa lecta. The Propers of the Mass are not sung at a Missa lecta.
    2)The degree of solemnity of a Missa in cantu is determined by the number and rank of the clerics assisting, not the music.
    3)Only men are permitted to chant the Propers of the Mass. (I have given the cites for this above.)
    These men form what is commonly known as a schola, and should be distinguished from the “choir” so as to avoid the confusion as has been exhibited here, which may have been abetted by faulty translation of papal and curial documents. Too, where confusing documents exist, it may be due to lack of training on the part of the author. Royce said he was disturbed by “by the desire of some people to totally repress outward participation in the liturgy.” This is nonsense
    The schola should be further distinguished from the choir by being in “choir dress” and by chanting “in choro,” that is in their proper place in the sanctuary, while the choir is ensconced in the loft, but never at or near the altar.
    4)Vernacular hymns may not be employed in any Missa in cantu, just so we’re clear that is from the beginning of Mass to the end of the Last Gospel.
    5)Vernacular hymns may be used for the processional and recessional anthems for a Missa in cantu: witness ” Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones,” the recessional for the 2000 FSSP ordinations in Scranton.
    6)As a matter of practicality, female voices are now used to cover the treble line. It was that great liturgical scholar, James Joyce, who gives a contemporary account of the effects of “tra le sollecetudini” in “The Dead.” Post-1903, only boys were used to sing the treble line. Interestingly enough, St. Thomas on 5th Ave., in NYC has a boychoir school and thus does not admit women… Oh yeah, they’re Episcopalian. No complaint there about anyone’s liturgical asperations being repressed.

  69. Written Under Correction says:


    I appreciate your opinion on the Ordinary. Again, I’m not sure where there is a prohibition against singing or chanting the Propers at a Low Mass. An obvious place where this might happen inadvertently would be when the offertory is “Ave Maria”.

    As far as women singing the propers, the citation you provided is from Tra le Sollecitudini (1903). Later disciplinary documents, including De Musica Sacra (1958), allowed women in certain cases:

    100. Wherever such a choir [a schola cantorum of clergy or lay men] cannot be organized, a choir of the faithful, either mixed or consisting only of women or girls, can be permitted. But such a choir should take its place outside the sanctuary or Communion rail. The men should be separated from the women or girls so that anything unbecoming may be avoided. Local Ordinaries are to issue precise regulations about these matters, and pastors are to see to their enforcement (Decr. Auth. SCR 3964, 4210, 4231, and the encyclical Musicæ sacræ disciplina: AAS [1956] 23).

    Again, though, this clearly does not allow the suppression or restriction of an all-male schola cantorum in favor of a mixed choir of lesser ability simply out of desire for inclusiveness. I reiterate this point because, although one poster suggested it isn’t a common problem, this is actually happening at my Indult parish right now. Please pray for us.

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