Clergy and music revisited

Remember the question about deacons and music ministry?

Vultus Christi had an interesting photo of a group of priests of the Diocese of Tulsa singing Gregorian chant during a Mass.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. TJM says:

    God bless these young priests! You made my day, Father Z. Tom

  2. Precentrix says:

    Yay for them! And I will let them off on concelebration since there is a red hat present…

  3. They are truly martyrs for wearing those awful vestments.

  4. RichR says:

    Gregorian chant is in. 70’s mood music is in its twilight years. I suspect the new missal translations will be the final nail in the coffin. After that, new hymnals will have to be purchased, and none of the parishioners will fork over the cash if the hymnals aren’t somewhat traditional.

  5. J. Basil Damukaitis says:

    All very lovely and sweet, but the priests should not be concelebrating if they are going to be a schola or sing any schola priest. This is a blatant abuse of concelebration. Just because a priest is at Mass, doesn’t mean he should be concelebrating. It demeans the “concelebration”.

  6. nw says:

    This is great…I think there are good things going on in the diocese of Tulsa. One negative observation though–why can’t a schola of priests assembled for a Mass be just that?

  7. J. Basil Damukaitis says:

    or sing any chant or hymn as a schola. Sorry!
    PS: I am not against the effort, just the manner, which in liturgy is equally as important.

  8. Mark says:

    “why can’t a schola of priests assembled for a Mass be just that?”

    Because our modern priests are just SOOOO busy that it is unimaginable that they would have time to attend a Mass in addition to saying their own private Mass…

  9. pdt says:

    So a group of clergy does what is within its power to enhance the beauty and solemnity of the Mass by offering prayer in song. And 7 of the first 8 comments are critical and/or smarmy.

    Who here is going to write the check to replace the vestments? How many have formed a schola at their cathedral? How many here serve their dioceses as liturgists?

    These men have done what they can with what they have. It is no wonder so few priests I’ve worked with are willing to go down the brick by brick path. These men are to be thanked, not nitpicked.

  10. Okie says:

    To bring the point home, I personally know 3 of those Priests singing, and they are all great and holy men.

  11. Mark says:

    I dont think anyone is criticizing the priests for forming the schola. I think they are criticizing them for taking a “two-fer”…both singing in this schola and then also concelebrating. I mean, at that point, what happens to the concept of attending “in choir”??

    You may not know this, but every priest involved in a concelebration is allowed to count it for one of their Stipend obligations! I was shocked to learn this. When I pay a stipend for a Mass, I expect that to mean a whole separate Mass will be said.

    Finding out that sometimes hundreds of priests are fulfilling hundreds of stipends “industrially” through concelebrating the same Mass…is scandalous to me. How lazy can they get? Only the celebrant should be allowed to count the Mass for a stipend, especially since New Advent says:

    “the overwhelming majority of theologians incline even theoretically to the conviction that the satisfactory — and, according to many, also the propitiatory and impetratory — value of a Mass for which a stipend has been taken, is so strictly circumscribed and limited from the outset, that it accrues pro rata (according to the greater or less number of the living or the dead for whom the Mass is offered) to each of the individuals. Only on such a hypothesis is the custom prevailing among the faithful of having several Masses celebrated for the deceased or for their intentions intelligible.”

    I dont want the Mass I pay a stipend for shared with hundreds of other intentions seeing as the subjective fruits are divided pro rata. And I dont think the participation of additional priests changes that. The whole point of concelebration is they celebrate the SAME one Mass, it’s not as if they each have a separate Mass merely done “in parallel”. They all consecrate everything. One Mass. Should be only one stipend. But it isnt. It is a modern form of corruption in the clergy. I might as well just put my intention in a prayer-wheel for all they’re going to do with it…

  12. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Whew! It’s gettin’ kinda noisy back here. Mark, buddy, set down here at the table with us, here’s a nice cuppa hot chocolate, why don’t you just relax and set a spell? This gettin’ all hot under the collar–and hot on an OT subject at that–it’s just not good. Raises your blood pressure, man. Not healthy at all.

    I think Father Z just brought out the fresh cookies. Lets all relax and enjoy them.

    And enjoy the lovely music provided by our dear priests, who offered their musical gifts to their fellow priests and the congregation. God bless them.

    Many priests are afraid to be heard singing, I think. If we all make a point to try and say something nice and thank them, maybe they will be less so.

  13. Tim Ferguson says:

    I had a much longer response written, which got zapped by a power outtage here. Too frustrated to recreate it in toto, but I just want to say – thank God for giving us priests – especially the good and holy kind – you know, the kind who study and practice Gregorian chant, and lead us in prayer at Mass. The kind whose hearts are attuned to the Church and who, with halting steps follow Christ as best as they can.

    In this year dedicated to priests, I’m going to make a pledge (and ask my Guardian Angel for the grace to stay faithful to it) – every time in the next year that I feel compelled to say or write something critical of a priest, either because he’s wearing vestments I don’t like, or doing something I disagree with liturgically, etc., I’m going to say a Hail Mary for him.

    That doesn’t mean that priests are above criticism, but this next year, at least, I’m going to try to develop a habit of gratitude and prayer for these good and holy men who have been called and chosen. We’ve learned so much in the past half century about being critical of our priests and our Church (and yes, there is certainly much to criticize). I’m going to try to develop a habit of gratitude and prayer instead.

    Thanks Fr. Z for your priesthood, thanks to these fine young priests and the Bishop of Tulsa, and thanks for sharing this beautiful picture of our priests at prayer.

  14. EJ says:

    Nobody is criticizing these priests for singing – the critique is for what Fr. Peter Stravinskas has called “erector set liturgy.” I’m sure that these priests had the best of intentions – but it’s fair game to hope that this abuse be explained to them and then hopefully we can all move on. I have seen before myself, curiously also done by a conservative priestly institute born in Argentina trying to restore more chant and polyphony to the liturgy – very well intended and innocuous but just wrong to keep doing.

  15. Henry Edwards says:

    Granted that the members of the schola might better be vested in surplice and cassock, is it clear that in this Mass they “doubled” as concelebrants? The second photo at Vultus Christi shows them standing outside the sanctuary, where one would not ordinarily see concelebrants standing.

  16. Thank God that priests are leading the Gregorian chant! Weird though that they were not in their cassocks and surplices. Nevertheless, brick by brick…we’re getting there!

  17. RichR says:

    I can only assume you lumped me in with the smarmy comments. To answer your question, I have, in fact, started a schola in my deanery. See my link on my name. We’re enjoying our 6th year and are almost a dozen men strong. I was being supportive of these priests, and I hope their tribes will increase. I know from personal experience that sacred music need not be perfect, it just needs competence. The rest will take care of itself.

    These men know the 70’s mood music is about as timeless as discotechs.

  18. RichR says:

    Oh yeah, and I’ve written the check for good vestments at our parish from Holy Rood Guild. Awesome chasubles!

  19. Patrick Finley says:

    I have to agree, it is truly wonderful to see a chant schola, ESPECIALLY in the confines of a Novus Ordo Mass. Normally you are lucky not to have a guitar, and in all fairness I have been in both ends of the spectrum personally. My point, appreciate the richness of tradition.

    Regarding Liturgists – Thats not always an option, depending on the home parish one is in, and the entrenched group that might be there. Again, speaking from experience. Though that is probably why many who frequent these boards attend an Oratory somewhere, and not the parish up the street, that they might even have had their wedding in. I dont like the “L ” word. What we need is people to just say the black, do the red. It shouldnt ever be different from the Ordo. Why do parish’s and cathedral need “liturgy” teams. Its overkill that just gives people a special job.

    I digress . What I will offer one more thing from my experience, I can understand, any intimidation a person might have with chant, especially if they are a musician. Case in point myself. For two years I have wanted to sing with the schola at St Francis De Sales. However, I stopped myself short. Why? Because I am 29, post vatican II, and know only “In paradisum” the Pange Lingua, and a few mass parts. But I dont understand yet the finer details of chant. Now I out of my own effort am attending classes. Maybe we can give some of these priests the benefit of the doubt.

    Some might say “well jump in get your feet wet”. Doesnt God deserve a better effort?

    In the end, it comes down to “One Brick at a time”. Tradition will spread folks, its just going to take time. People had 40 years to mess things up. The only person who can fix things faster then they are, isnt in anyone’s zip code, and HE doesnt work that way either. Be thankful for the small things. The other stuff will come.

  20. pdt says:

    RichR – My apologies for lumping you in. Should be 6 of 8, not 7. I will hope that your eulogy for the 70s music is correct (tho I was part of the herd instinct back then myself). And many thanks for helping out on the vestment department as well. Sadly, most purchases around here are from Vestments R Us Discount Center. And look it.

    Patrick – If you can sing the kids’ songs from Sound Of Music, you can sing (and are singing) Gregorian Chant. Check the Do-Re-Mi song and then go look up Ut Queant Laxis if you doubt it! So get ye to St Francis de Sales and tell the schola leader that you’d like to give Chant a test drive. You’ll be surprised how manageable it is.

  21. Precentrix says:


    I assumed that they were concelebrating from the fact that they were vested in stole and chasuble… and I think it is a reasonable assumption. On every occasion when I have sung with major clerics, they were in choir dress; likewise on every occasion I have seen them in choir on their own, they have been in choir dress. It is logical, no? Frankly, I can understand concelebration with one\’s bishop, concelebration with one\’s religious superior… etc… and am therefore not totally opposed – but I can\’t understand the obsession with concelebrating all the time rather than assisting in choir. Or, indeed, serving another priest\’s Mass.

  22. Henry Edwards says:


    Unless someone who was there can testify otherwise, I think it most likely that they were not concelebrating, but were simply vested in chasubles and stoles in the mistaken impression that this is how priests should vest when participating (in any way) in the liturgy. (For what it’s worth, I note that their chasubles look different from those of the priests who are clearly concelebrating.)

    Like you, I don’t understand either the obsession for every priest in sight to concelebrate nor their general reluctance to dress properly in choir.

  23. Concelebrating and chanting is normal. it is done daily in Solesmes (S. Peter abbey) :
    have a look on this photo :

    This is different for the deacons : they should not serve as deacons in the presbyterium AND participate in a choir. This is a very old tradition insituted by S. Gregory the Great. While reforming the roman rite to suppress a pretty good number of ancient Gallican / Greek ritual usages, he prevented in the same time the deacons to sing the responsoria. (graduale and alleluia).
    At this (ancient so called “Carolingian” time), all the bishops had their own “chanting deacon maestro” at the time of the old Gallican chant (“chant franc”) and competitions occured between bishops to see who will be the best, for example during national Councils or Synods. It partially explanes the vey melismatic composition of a certain number of gregorian pieces, which were designed as music for soloists.

    S. Gregory the great wanted to halt this kind of “competition”, which sometimes turned bad and were even source of lack of unity inside the college of bishops… But the tradition of a very ornated repertory for the “romano-franc” chant remained (because in fact the melodies of the so called gregorian chant” were fixed and for a good number of them composed after St Gregory the Great).

    By the way, I would dream to find for my Parish a permanent deacon able and volonteer to sing the Exsultet… they are generally so poorly trained in chant and liturgy…

  24. Praise the lord! Laudetur Dominus ! Any step in the right direction is good. Some of the comments, like the one about stipends, totally miss the point and show the great need we have for catechesis. As far as the vestments are concerned, give it time: “brick by brick”, right.

    It does look “different” to see vested Priests in “huddle groups”. It’s not like they are using one giant old hand-writtrn and illumintaed manuscript as of Old. We do have copiers nowadays. So I would change that.

    In any case, I am glad to see some good news once in a while. God bless them all and you Fr. Z.

  25. Tulsan says:

    The picture is from an ordination Mass of two transitional deacons, if anybody would like to know that. Those are the vestments that are used for the Diocesan celebrations – I guess they purchase one for each priest when they’re ordained. If somebody wants to give for new vestments, I agree, go ahead – I’m sure the good Bishop Slattery would love it! Tulsa is a small Diocese – eastern Oklahoma is only about 2% Catholic. We’re very blessed to have Fr. Mark Kirby here.

    These are indeed some of the younger priests of the Diocese, the youngest in that picture being I think 27, (and there’s a few in the schola who weren’t there that night), and are learning chant. It is wonderful. Brick by brick.

  26. irishgirl says:

    I think that picture is wonderful!

    Would love to hear how they sounded!

  27. Maureen says:

    Our deacon has a bad memory, mispronounces easily, has difficulty carrying a tune, and gets nervous easily. But by gum, he learned the Exsultet by heart and rendered it credibly,simply by dint of listening to recordings all the time in his car, for months and months, and working with our music director. It was better the second year. He’s got a decent voice in there.

    So it’s not really whether the deacon is capable of singing the Exsultet, or even particularly wanting to volunteer for it. If he has any reasonable kind of voice and is willing to put in the effort, he can do it if he’s motivated and gets help where he needs it.

    Of course, with all that effort he spent on the Exsultet, our deacon still had a little difficulty singing “Christ, our light”. :) (Wasn’t kidding about the carrying a tune thing.) Oh, well. If we were perfect singers, we’d be bodiless angels.

  28. Maureen : you proved it is possible !!!

    For your deacon still having some difficulties : perhaps it will be easier in latin : Lumen Christi !

  29. G says:

    Okay, here’s MY “criticism” — why aren’t they all at the CMAA Colloquium?

    Seriously, I think that is wonderful, kudos to those young priests.

    God send us many more such!

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

  30. Ejames says:

    since someone brought up Solemes, is it correct that monks in thier after Lauds, some have ‘private’ Masses, they are Celebrating the ‘Extra-ordinary’ form? look at this recent phto, abo6t midway through the video, 3:09 sec. mark, taken at Solesmes Abbey.last year.


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