The Year of the Eucharist and Music
During this year dedicated to the Eucharist, we have reflected on so many aspects of the Eucharist: its celebration, its source, its purpose and how we celebrate it. We’ve tried to make some improvements in the way that we celebrate Mass. This includes making some minor changes to serving, utilizing chalice veils, and adjusting some of the processions. Some of these adjustments, we are still working on and some need to be more fully communicated to our ministers. Sorry if we’ve caused any confusion.
One integral aspect of the Mass is Sacred Music. Over the years we’ve increased the amount of singing at Mass. This follows the idea that the Church encourages to “sing the Mass” not simply “singing at Mass.” The difference is subtle linguistically but enormous in practice. The Church encourages us to sing the parts of the Mass like the Gloria, Holy, Holy, Holy, dialogues, Our Father, and even the Creed. In the list of importance, according to the universal Church, hymns are near the bottom.
This is somewhat contrary to our mindset. All of us (myself included) have favorite hymns that we have grown up with. There are certain hymns that remind us of moments in our lives, like first communion or a parent’s funeral. When utilized, hymns are important. They are theology and poetry set to music. They instruct and catechize us in our faith. They are to express and instruct in the authentic Catholic faith.
Unfortunately, at times hymns fall short of the authentic faith. For example there is a hymn entitled “Sing a New Church,” which is just ridiculous because it states that the Church is our creation and there is a new Church replacing the old one. Also sometimes the music for the hymns is borrowed from secular music. If you’ve ever heard the start to the song “We Are Called,” it is hard to ignore that the first line, “Come, live in the light” sounds a whole lot like the Styx’s “I’m Sailing Away.”
Recently the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops Office of Divine Worship published a document entitled “Catholic Hymnody at the Service of the Church: An Aid for Evaluating Hymn Lyrics.” This document is helpful in deciding which hymns are appropriate for Mass and which ones are better for other events.
Here at the Petersburg Parishes, we are applying the insights and principles to our music. With this in mind we are also looking into the possibility of using a different publisher for our annual missalettes. We may utilize a different publisher beginning in Advent. Here are the criteria we are utilizing for any proposed change:
- Beauty: everything about Mass should be beautiful to elevate the soul to God and communicate the beauty of the mass. Is it a beautiful publication?
- Settings of the Antiphons: the Church encourages us to sing the entrance, offertory, and communion antiphons. Our current missalettes don’t have any options for these. Could we find something with settings of the antiphons?
- Hymn selection: Is there a sufficient selection of high-quality, theologically sound hymns?
- Cost: Is it cost effective? Some are less expensive than our current missalette.
- Easy transition: Could it be a relatively smooth transition for musicians, cantors, and parishioners?
Please pray that any decision we make, even if it is sticking with Breaking Bread is the right decision. As always we will try to do everything for the glory of Almighty God.
Sincerely in Christ,
Fr. Sean Wilson