Start teaching Gregorian chant to parishes before the new translation starts

Latin is not, as some claim, tooo haaard for parishes.

From a priest reader:

I’ve been thinking about the new translation of the Novus Ordo.  Suddenly, all of the old music will be out, of no use.  I wondered what to do about it, when it struck me that this is the time to teach the parish Gregorian Chant.  We will begin with the Sanctus this Lent and continue slowly making additions until the new translation comes; we’ll be prepared.  They won’t be adjusting to everything all at once; and in some sense will be very well prepared to accept the new translation!
I shared this with the chair of the diocesan liturgical commission, and he thought it was a wonderful idea.

I would add… start forming a schola cantorum.

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  1. Felicitas says:

    This is a great idea and I hope many priests take this initiative! But, your priest reader is incorrect about the old music going away entirely. Some of the worst but most-used Mass settings have already been re-done for the new translation: Haugen’s “Mass of Creation” among them.

  2. smallone says:

    While I am wholeheartedly enthusiastic about the “old music” going away, is this really going to happen?

  3. HighMass says:

    Get Idea, but as we all know they will argue tooth and nail and avoid at all costs using Latin. :( Sad but true…..

  4. Oneros says:

    I wonder about this “gradual introduction” stuff we hear so much. “Oh, the parish needs time to adjust…” Is ‘the parish’ a conscious entity with its own learning curve?

    A convert comes into the Church and, pretty much, just has to learn by immersion. Just has to sink or swim, but they tend to pick it up over the course of a year or two.

    Why must pre-existing congregations be spoon-fed? Couldn’t you just introduce it all at once and, like a convert, know that they’d get it eventually? Most parishes aren’t singing the other songs anyway, at lots of places it is just “listen to the cantor sing” or “vaguely hum along” because people are lazy.

    Well, if it’s just going to be the cantor or choir singing anyway…why not have them singing all the chant all at once.

    I’m not really sure the rationale, when analyzed more carefully, behind introducing things slowly. In my experience, that leads to them never being fully implemented at all.

  5. Frank H says:

    Oneros, I agree wholeheartedly. And I’m confident that within two months we’ll be fully acclimated to the revised prayers.

  6. An American Mother says:

    Rats – I thought we would be rid of the Massive Cremation at LAST.

    Well, it will make a good excuse anyway, we’d have to buy all that new sheet music.

    We already ditched the Haugen (I hope permanently) for a chant-based setting composed by our choirmaster for the English. It can be sung either as chant or in four parts. In effect we are introducing chant to the congregation already. I’m sure he can easily adapt it (because of the flexibility of chant – and because he is a first rate musician) to the new translation. And he just runs a few more copies off the printer for us.

    I’ll ask him about it at choir practice tonight.

  7. An American Mother says:

    And when we sing the Ordinary in Latin on First Sundays, our rector has printed handouts (words and music) for the congregation. He makes a point of taking out a copy of the handout before Mass begins, instructing everyone who doesn’t have one to get one from an usher, and reminding everyone to ‘join in’. It’s starting to have an effect.

  8. Henry Edwards says:

    Way out front on this curve is WDTPRS poster “southern orders”, Fr. Allan McDonald, pastor of St. Joseph Church in Macon, GA:

    A LATINIZED MASS IN THE LATIN RITE: who would disagree with that?

    This past weekend at St. Joseph Church in Macon, we began to eliminate the “lame duck” English translation of the Mass for the people’s parts. As Latin Rite Catholics, we are learning the Latin parts. We are doing this incrementally. Currently, all of the “Dominus vobiscum” responses as well as the preface dialogue will be in Latin. During Lent we will say goodbye to the English Sanctus and Mystery of faith. St. Joseph already knows the Sanctus and Agnus Dei in Latin. During the Easter season we will teach them Gloria. ….. I think the use of Latin for these lame duck English parts will make it easier for us to change over to the new English when it is finally allowed.


    At St. Joseph Church, we are beginning what the Catholic Church in all English speaking countries will be doing–we are making a course-correction. I have decided as pastor, that we will follow Vatican II by first honoring our Latin Rite heritage by learning what the “standard” language of the Latin Rite Mass is, Latin!….. Eventually, when it becomes licit to do so, we will implement the new English translation of the Mass.

  9. Henry Edwards says:

    Oneros: I wonder about this “gradual introduction” stuff we hear so much.

    From Fr. McDonald:

    A LATINIZED MASS IN THE LATIN RITE: who would disagree with that?

    “I think the use of Latin for these lame duck English parts will make it easier for us to change over to the new English when it is finally allowed. I hope the Bishops will allow us to do it as soon as possible. If the priests of the parish are positive about the new translation and convey that to the people and show them where they can find it and study it, it will go more smoothly. But so far, changing overnight to the Latin parts I mention above went extremely smoothly. I can’t imagine changing the English would be more difficult. I didn’t have a lengthy catechesis for the people for the Latin transition. We won’t really need a lengthy one for the new English–let’s get it done and soon!!!!!”

  10. Antioch_2013 says:

    With regard to the “overnight change” method I believe I might be able to add something to this conversation. I’m the newish organist at a small Orthodox Western Rite parish. When I first started I was a bit apprehensive when I suggested to the priest that we introduce a Gregorian Chant setting (in a beautiful and accurate Elizabethan English translation as approved by our Archdiocese) of the Mass, but I was sorely mistaken. Our priest thought it was a grand idea, he’d been wanting to do it for a while but they didn’t have someone who was musically up to it. We started my second week. Everyone came to church on Sunday, we handed out leaflets with the mass setting on it, and we went through the whole of the mass together before the service started. Its been a glorious success and we haven’t looked back.

    This was an instant overnight change with almost no warning and the only complaint came from someone of that “certain generation”, but even they’re singing now. The parish now knows two Gregorian Chant mass settings by heart, and we’ll be starting a third for Lent. Deo gratias!

    My suggestion is don’t wait, just do it.

  11. JaneC says:

    Already done! At the Mass where my husband and I are in charge of music, they already sang the Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei when we arrived. We taught them the Gloria last year. Our congregation will not have too many adjustments to make in their parts when the new translation finally comes.

    As for the three Masses where they sing in English…I dunno. Not sure if that choir director even knows there’s a new translation coming.

  12. RichR says:

    Forming a schola isn’t all that hard. A friend and I started one 6 years ago. It’s now thriving and well-received. In fact, our 2009-2010 season is booked solid.

    Most people are appreciative. Never have I gotten any word from pastors or parishioners that is negative. The organists in town drool whenever we come, because, as the Events Coordinator, I stipulate that they can’t play anything written after 1900 A.D. (it clashes too much with the Latin chant). They love this excuse to play well written, traditional hymnody, Latin ordinaries, and polyphony.

    Use the Liber Cantualis to start with, and consider graduating to the Gregorian Missal when you feel proficient. This is book should be in every pew. However, it has the ICEL translations across from the Latin, so it will be due for an update. However, knowing the Monks of Solesmes, they will get on that task ASAP.

    Once you get good at it, try branching out into polyphony. Tomas Victoria has some well written pieces that most choirs can sing, and there are websites that have recordings and scores available for free.

    Also, as far as worship aids, consider Ignatius Press’s “Mass of Vatican II” worship aid. It has the people’s parts in Latin ,adn goes for about $4 each. This is a cheap way to “test the waters” with a Latin Novus Ordo Mass.

  13. Oneros says:

    “My suggestion is don’t wait, just do it.”

    I head someone say the other day, “Do it ‘brick by brick,’ and the wall will only be half built when the enemy arrives”.

    I think we need to start being a little more bold, set our sights on something like “Wall by wall, roof by roof”. The “counter-revolution” needs to pick up a little more steam and start snowballing a bit faster. I say, use the momentum while we have it.

  14. Salvatore_Giuseppe says:

    Lent is a great time to switch to Latin chants, which on the whole are a much more prayerful, solemn tone than most mass settings we have been given today

  15. Father S. says:

    One of our parish musicians started a chant group here last year and it made the local paper, the regional news and national NPR. I join them when I can and we have a great time. Few things engender such a love for the Holy Mass. Plus, chant is easy to learn!

  16. Henry:



    Hard to imagine!

    Latin for the Latin Rite for subjects of the Latin Church.


  17. nhaggin says:

    Already got a schola here. Folks, if you read Fr. Z and are in Champaign County, IL, consider joining us:

  18. Philothea says:

    I would echo smallone’s question: Is this really going to happen? I mentioned it to our parish’s music director, and she had heard nothing about a new translation. I asked my pastor about it (he is not anti-Latin), and he is skeptical that it will really happen, certainly not this year. Is it truly official yet? If so, is there some documentation I can show him? I don’t want our parish to be caught unprepared.

  19. TonyLayne says:

    I’ve been scraping through the sites looking for a schola in the D-FW metroplex, but have had no luck. And if either diocese waits on me to form one, they’ll be waiting awhile … I can’t organize a food fight! If anyone else knows of one, let me know!

  20. TNCath says:

    It will be interesting to see how our diocesan liturgy office approach this, but I can assure you that they won’t be pushing chant.

    Our parish is extremely small (less than 200 families), made up of mostly retired blue collar workers with high school educations. Our choir is made up of about 10 very elderly ladies who sing in Latin better than they do in English. We have been singing the parts of the Mass in Latin for about 10 years now, and the people have become well accustomed to it. We began singing the Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei every Sunday until our new pastor decided that we should drop the Kyrie and alternate the other parts: Latin one week, English the next premise that “we don’t want to go too far right or left.” I am grateful we have what little we have as it could be much, much worse. I am hopeful that at least when the new translations are implemented, more parishes will discover the beauty of chant.

  21. Bressani56 says:

    This video seems to address this issue:

    [taken with permission from: ]

  22. This type of activity is needed on a global scale if we want to get back to having at least some Latin in Mass which will be considered normal or regular, rather than extraordinary. The Catholic culture has to support it.

  23. The Corpus Christi (texas) Cathedral parish council is currently
    agitating to just scrap the
    old ICEL translation altogether and go with the latin responses, Confiteor,
    Gloria, etc. as per the wishes of Paul VI.

    The logic being, that after a few months the old ICEL will fade from
    people’s memories — as does the Gloria during advent and lent — and
    provide a more empty slate upon which to write the new.

    Whether the new bishop designate, MSGR Mulvey, will listen to the people
    on this, as well as their petition to have him follow the pope’s humble example
    in emphasizing kneeling Communion….remains to be seen.


  24. Henry Edwards says:

    Philothea: Is it truly official yet? If so, is there some documentation I can show him?

    Click on the link U.S. Roman Missal Approved – 2009 at upper left and you see the following:

    “November 17, 2009
    Final segments of the Roman Missal (third edition) approved by the U.S. Bishops.
    Concluding a lengthy process that began with the publication of the Missale Romanum, editio typica tertia in 2002, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops gives its approval to the final sections of the English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. (Other sections were approved in November 2008 and June 2009.) While the Holy See prepares and approves a final text, expected sometime in 2010, a remote catechetical period is underway to prepare clergy and lay faithful in the United States to receive the new translation.”

    Overwhelming approval by the U.S. bishops means Yes, it’s truly official. After Vatican approval this year (a lead pipe cinch), however, it surely will be next year (2011) before printed missals will be ready for parish implementation.

  25. Re: Dallas-Ft Worth scholas —
    Holy Trinity in Dallas

    Vox Feminae is running the Fort Worth Schola Gregoriana at the parish of San Mateo:

    Good luck!

  26. chironomo says:

    This has been the “bread and butter” discussion over at NLM for the past year or two. Along with the new translation, a complete set of English Language adaptations of the tradition Gregorian melodies has been compiled, known informally as the ICEL Kyriale. These will be included as the PRIMARY settings in all new publications where the Order of Mass is printed (disposable Missalettes, etc..). While many of us were very disappointed that the Latin settings would not be the primary settings included, it is at least a step in a better direction than Mass of Creation, etc..

    It is really quite an impressive project…it includes all of the Priests chants, The Ordinary, Eucharistic Prayers and Dialogues for the Mass. Rumor has it that these will be heavily promoted at the forthcoming “training sessions” for priests, musicians and catechists in the coming year…

  27. Dave N. says:

    I think your priest reader is absolutely correct. People are expecting a change in liturgical tone during Lent anyway and I honestly think Gregorian Chant will be better received than many people expect—as long as it’s well done and introduced in with the right spirit. Let’s not forget that Chant has been all the rage over the past couple of decades, to the point of being embraced by people of no religion as a tool for meditation. Regardless of what one might think of such practices, people find chant intriguing and “cool” and will probably be amazed and pleased that it’s something they can actually learn—imagine LEARNING something at Mass :) People intuitively know that there is a THERE there and will find it helpful for their spiritual practice and participation (in the best sense) in the Mass.

  28. Henry Edwards says:

    Chironomo: It is really quite an impressive project … it includes all of the Priests chants, The Ordinary, Eucharistic Prayers and Dialogues for the Mass. Rumor has it that these will be heavily promoted at the forthcoming “training sessions” for priests, musicians and catechists in the coming year…

    It is sometimes said that the entire Mass is supposed to be sung rather than simply recited or spoken, even though this is practically never seen in practice.

    So musical settings are provided for the 2002 Missale Romanum (3rd Latin edition), different chants appropriate to different parts, a more solemn chant provided for the words of consecration than for the rest of the Roman Canon, etc.

    For an introduction to the corresponding musical settings being prepared for the new English translation, you can go to

    Read this brief news announcement and then go to the Introduction link:

    This is a 20-page introduction to the music of the missal, but you can get an idea of what’s going on by reading just the first few pages.

  29. catholicmidwest says:

    “Suddenly, all of the old music will be out, of no use.”


    The only problem is that most Catholics are so tone deaf (from the tonal abuse?) they probably won’t pick up on that for at least 50 more years.

    We will probably have some changes in the common music, and then keep droning on with the Brady Bunch tune (and the like) for the foreseeable future, I’m afraid.

  30. Augustine Terra Mariae says:

    Sadly, my parish schola only sings once each month for our weekly Sunday EF/TLM. Most major holy days have only Low Masses. While we have a number of people interested in and very capable of doing more, the director comes from two dioceses away and the pastor won’t countenance any elaborations, including polphony or organ music, at the ‘schola Mass’. The schola only admits singers who already know chant notation and the ‘old’ Solesmes method fluently. There are no chant classes or instruction available, and the diocese would under no circumstances help sponsor such things. It’s an extremely demoralizing situation–one that has several of us actively seeking to relocate to a tradition-friendly diocese.

  31. An American Mother says:

    “The schola only admits singers who already know chant notation and the ‘old’ Solesmes method fluently.”

    Well, THAT’s a recipe for stagnation, unless the schola members are willing to teach the Solemnes method on the side. Our choirmaster spent quite a bit of time bringing us up to speed on The Chant According to Dom Pothier. Tough, but do-able fairly quickly if you have some music background already.

  32. TonyLayne says:

    @ banshee: Thanks!

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