Proper attire in and proper liturgical music

You should be checking out The Chant Cafe with some regularity.   I saw this over there.

I thought it was apt, considering I have also lately seen a few posts out there in the blogosphere about proper attire in church.

Let’s say I have a restaurant and I hope for people to be dressed properly so I establish a rule.

To eat here, you can wear: 1) black tie and traditional evening wear, 2) a suit and tie or long party dress, 3) a very nice sport coat and tie or cocktail dress or suitable woolen pants, or 4) some other neat clothing that is suitable to the atmosphere and culture of this restaurant.A couple shows up. He is wearing torn jeans and flip flops. She is wearing a bikini and sandals. They both claim option 4. The argument ensues. You can imagine the rest.

Now have a look at the description of the entrance rite for Catholic Mass from the General Instruction. Please read carefully.

When the people are gathered, and as the Priest enters with the Deacon and ministers, the Entrance Chant begins…. This chant is sung alternately by the choir and the people or similarly by a cantor and the people, or entirely by the people, or by the choir alone. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another setting; (2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.Now think of what happened this past week in your parish. Do you recognize any similarities between that and the description above? Oh yes, option 4.

Check out The Chant Cafe and visit their combox too.

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  1. nanetteclaret says:

    Chant? You’re kidding! The ususal “entrance hymn” is “We Gather Together.”

  2. Young Canadian RC Male says:

    I said this on another blog, I believe Vox Cantor, but that 4th option is a pure cop out for Bishops to keep doing what they want.

  3. Nathan says:

    I think Mr. Tucker is making an interesting observation here, and I’m aware of his previous thought on Option 4 in the GIRM. I would add that, to make the analogy more, well, analogous to the current state of the OF as celebrated widely in the US, the element of time and custom needs to be introduced.

    What if, for thirty years people have come to the resturant in torn jeans and swimwear under option 4, 98% of patrons currently in the restaurant are wearing torn jeans and swimwear, and someone (obviously well educated and well-intentioned) shows up in black tie and claims that option 1 is what the owners of the establishment have preferred all along? How meaningful, at that point, is the plaque at the door outlining all four options? What would it take to change the behavior of the patrons or the restaurant staff? Would it cause surprise if the patrons who were seeking a “more suitable atmosphere” would frequent instead the restaurant next door that never allowed anything other than eveningwear or suits and ties, especially if they were belittled by the first restaurant’s staff for years for not wearing the jeans and swimwear?

    In Christ,

  4. Peggy R says:

    I wish we’d at least sing “We Gather together to sing the Lord’s praises…” instead of “Gather Us In” or “We gather together to get the Lord’s blessing” Going to mass is all about getting stuff, you know.

  5. What message does swimwear give to our worship? “I want God to nibble my toes like the little fishies?”

  6. AnAmericanMother says:

    What’s wrong with “We Gather Together to Ask the Lord’s Blessing”?? [Outside of Mass? It’s fine!] At least, with the original words — when I’ve heard it at Mass it’s been messed with by somebody who didn’t grasp the rhyme scheme.

    We gather together to ask the Lord’s blessing;
    He chastens and hastens His will to make known.
    The wicked oppressing now cease from distressing.
    Sing praises to His Name; He forgets not His own.

    Beside us to guide us, our God with us joining,
    Ordaining, maintaining His kingdom divine;
    So from the beginning the fight we were winning;
    Thou, Lord, were at our side, all glory be Thine!

    We all do extol Thee, Thou Leader triumphant,
    And pray that Thou still our Defender will be.
    Let Thy congregation escape tribulation;
    Thy Name be ever praised! O Lord, make us free!

    It’s a pretty old — 1597 originally, in Dutch. The English translation dates from the 1890s. It made it into the 1940 Episcopal hymnal, which is a pretty good guarantee of quality. Very little deadwood in that hymnal, what’s there is just sentimental Victorian treacle, nothing heretical.

  7. nanetteclaret says:

    AAM –

    Same tune, different words:

    We gather together to sing the Lord’s praises
    To worship the Father through Jesus, His Son.
    In this celebration
    All sing with jubilation.
    We are His holy people whose freedom He won.

    We greet our Lord present within this assembly
    To hear His good news announced clearly to all.
    With songs of rejoicing
    our praises we are voicing
    As we invoke God’s blessing and answer His call.

    Sung like a dirge. You would not like it. Trust me.

    It is especially irritating in that the original was written as a Dutch Protestant hymn celebrating the victory of the Dutch over the Catholic King Phillip II of Spain. The Protestants had been forbidden to “gather” to worship, so this hymn was written to reaffirm that they were indeed going to “gather.”

  8. Peggy R says:


    Thanks for the full lyrics. Catholic “worship,” the mass in particular, is about “gathering” (if we must) to worship God, the Holy Trinity, three persons in one. We’re not there just to “eat the meal” and get blessed, punching our ticket as it were. We’re there to WORSHIP, first and foremost.

    The OCP hymnals, in which the “ask the Lord’s blessing” lyrics and other weakened lyrics are found, ought to be banned.

  9. AnAmericanMother says:

    They sure didn’t improve it. Ouch!
    I hate it when the organist and/or guitarist can’t keep up to tempo. Sure sign of a bad keyboard player when the tempo keeps s-l-l-o-w-w-w-i-n-g . . . .
    I have a sneaking sympathy for the Dutch, at least when they gave Philip a smack. His agenda and the Church’s didn’t necessarily coincide. Or maybe it’s all those years with the 1940 hymnal.
    But I can think of a lot of stuff that ought to be jettisoned first, even though the words are a bit militaristic and (especially given the original context) I can see how they aren’t really fit for Mass.
    I would still prefer that to the “We are Church, aren’t you lucky to have wonderful Us!” drivel that seems to be S.O.P. in far too many parishes. I took a word count one time on “Gather Us In” and the ratio of “I, me, me, mine” to “You” (God never being mentioned by name) was embarrassing. At least WGT is respectful.

  10. nanetteclaret says:

    AAM –

    I counted the “we, me , our, ourselves, etc.” in “Gather Us In,” too. It’s something like 25 or 26 times for “we, our, us,” 4 or 5 times for “you, your” (never a reference to who “you or your” is – could be anyone). It’s really pathetic.

    And by the way, we have no accompaniment at the Saturday evening Mass, so everyone just starts singing, even though the “song leader” begins. We are all usually in the same key by the end of the second verse…..

  11. AnAmericanMother says:

    That happened to us this evening. The priest started in on “Sanctus, sanctus . . . ” and there were a few disagreements about the key before everybody settled in. Didn’t last long though – just a bar or so, and he’s got a good strong voice.
    Really, honestly, folks! Chant IS easier!
    And I’m so glad this young priest didn’t let the old biddies intimidate him out of chanting the Sanctus! (I mentioned this before once, I think.) He chanted the Agnus Dei also. Hurrah!

  12. APX says:

    @Peggy R

    I wish we’d at least sing “We Gather together to sing the Lord’s praises…” instead of “Gather Us In”
    Blegh! I almost made it from the start of Lent until the second last Sunday of August without hearing Gather Us In. In all fairness from Lent to Easter I was attending the TLM, but once I moved home I was at the OF Mass. I was convinced I was safe from GUI because it wasn’t in the Glory & Praise and assumed the Catholic Book of Worship wouldn’t have something so terrible in it. Yeah, I was wrong. My last OF Mass before I moved…sure enough. It actually was in the CBW, and to make matters worse, it was played on the organ, which, as far as I’m concerned, should be a grave sin.

    I think the worst one for me is the communion song, “His Banner Over Me is Love” because it’s Biblically incorrect with, “Peter built his church on the rock of our faith”. That pretty much says the Catholic Church wasn’t instituted by Jesus, and that it’s a man-made religion.

  13. Part of the problem with Option 4 is that few bishops have actually approved any of the hymns typically used at Mass these days. Approval is interpreted to mean “the bishop hasn’t personally come and torn our worship aids to shreds, so he must not have any problem with them.” If each diocesan bishop actually had to sit and evaluate each hymn on its merits and have his name placed on the resulting collection as having approved it (wait– isn’t that– gasp– an old-fashioned imprimatur), I suspect that such bishops would be a bit more discerning in the choice of hymns. But instead, this responsibility seems to have been delegated to the publishers of hymnals.

    The other problem with liturgical hymns is “there’s no accounting for taste.” So many folks today simply have no taste. Maybe we should have Charlie Tuna pick hymns for Mass.

  14. MikeJ9919 says:

    I don’t see a problem with Option 4 in theory. When it is used, the hymns are supposed to have been approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. These are the conferences and ordinaries empowered to guide and govern the Church. The problem is that they simply haven’t been doing an adequate job of gatekeeping in this area.

  15. nanetteclaret says:

    OK. I’m having to revise my post at the top of this thread. Yesterday at the Vigil Mass, we did not sing “We Gather Together.” We sang “Gather Us In.” Gag! Or rather, I should say, everyone else sang it. (I refuse to sing a “hymn” to myself.) It was really weird to hear the congregation singing “we shall arise at the sound of our name.” It just was not a good beginning to Mass.

  16. AnAmericanMother says:

    It’s a conspiracy! WE had “Gather Us In” today, too. I sing it perfectly straight, because it’s my job, but I’m not happy about it. I always complain when I see it on the program, maybe somebody will hear me and take it to heart.*

    And will somebody PLEASE explain to me what “give us the courage to enter the song” is supposed to mean? I think the author (so called!) was just trying to fill out the verse, because it sure doesn’t make sense to me!

    *I am told we have to have it occasionally for the superannuated hippies in the congregation, we throw them a bone in the hymns so they won’t demand anything nasty for the anthems. I think they need to get over it.

  17. benedetta says:

    I can’t complain…We had a couple of the favorites of the 70s and 80s but they were sung so beautifully and with a value for reverence and dignity that I didn’t mind at all. They sing them so sweetly. No winking. And it was not Gather Us In but coming from then I would obey, if they suggested it. Sometimes credibility makes a big difference as far as that goes.

    I actually think Gather Us In was rather appropriate (this may be the only time I would ever write this)…today given the readings. Give us the courage to enter this song. Truly.

    But mainly it was a beautiful day because of the community of the faithful gathered around me filled with hope. Where I was the homily was offered in two languages and I was really kind of pleased that I was able to understand a good amount in the one I only have a tiny bit of knowledge of. It was a very helpful homily. Heading out I overheard three sort of 30s aged young people discussing it and how impressed they were as well. Really great to see.

  18. amenamen says:

    @ AAM “give us the courage to enter the song”

    I wonder if it is supposed to mean anything at all. It sounds like filler. Or maybe, it sounds as if the choir director is trying to get people to sing a song that they would rather not.

  19. AnAmericanMother says:

    I’m sorry, but I’m still not getting it. Other than Ps 95 (but so many of the psalms are about singing). How does fraternal correction mesh with ‘courage to enter the song’? Especially on the part of the “rich and the haughty/the proud and the strong”? Sure you need courage to correct your brother . . . but how is that about singing?
    At least in our parish we never, ever, ever sing the last verse, which is the most offensive thing I’ve run across in a hymn in a long time.
    With that said — of course a faithful congregation and a good homily are more important. It reminds me of a parish I attend when I’m visiting my parents — it’s in a 60s time warp, not just the building, the decor, the vestments, even the chairs etc. but the priests as well. The music is what you would expect, but not well sung by either the congregation or the pickup choir. BUT . . . they really believe. Priests and people.

  20. AnAmericanMother says:

    I think you’ve hit on something here.
    The author, thinking to himself: “I know this hymn is so awful that anybody who has any pride in good music or is strong enough to resist GroupThink is not going to sing it . . . so maybe if I ask them nicely . . . . ?”

  21. benedetta says:

    AnAmericanMother, Oh I quite agree with the song, standing alone, for sure. And agree entirely about the words and the last verse. But worse still after the choice of it is that it is sung with winking irony and a strange sort of triumphalism. Like somehow ‘the rich and the haughty’ are ‘those people’ over there and not, us. So for once, with the readings of today with the Gospel of today, I think, yes, give us the courage to enter this song, the song of today, today’s liturgist ‘theme’ which is, fraternal correction straight from the words of Our Lord (and not from some ‘evil magisterium’, not in ‘some heaven light years away’). Give us the courage to enter this song. This one, in unity. Accepting the yoke of obedience to our Church and each other as fellow Christians, together. And sometimes correction is going to need to be applied, for good reasons, and, it is not all relative. It’s not, sing whatever you feel like at the moment and whoever sings loudest wins, and it’s not, it’s easy and fun and delightful to have fraternal correction and it may take some courage and if we sing about ‘the proud and the haughty’ I guess that would be, us and not, them…

    Ordinarily I would sympathize at anyone being forced to undergo singing that, again. I’m talking, today only.

    But it is interesting to me that honestly when some intone certain ditties it make skin crawl and when others do (and it does not relate to technical proficiency which is excellent in any case) one is able to pray it even if it is one of those. Of course I do think there is something to the notion that if one is praying themselves as they support the sung prayer of others, and they also are attempting (granted it’s not ever going to be perfection on the earth) to live this prayer out through some explicit loyalty to it, well, that is something very different from the instance of one paid to perform it isn’t it, and it is also different from one who invests the choice of song with all sorts of pre judgments of others and expectations from them ‘in return’ for that choice which may or may not be valid but are certainly dependent on whim and sort of arbitrary. I am sure that those who sing to support the prayer of others will have interesting opinions and experiences on this which I would be very open to hearing.

  22. benedetta says:

    AnAmericanMother, I quite agree with YOU about the song for sure. Standing alone, totally agree. But for yesterday’s reading, a one time only exception…and opportunity for all of us…

  23. AnAmericanMother says:

    I think you’re right! God speaks to us when He will . . . even through (shall we say less than optimal) hymns and prayers.
    We ought to always do our best.

  24. benedetta says:

    Happy Labor Day, AnAmericanMother!

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