Liturgical Music in the Catholic Churches of Australia: Crisis and Response – Reflections and Suggestions

I offer the following essay for consideration by all in the Church who have a role in determining what the Church sings during the celebration of the Liturgy of the Eucharist and who have responsibility for providing the Church with resources in accordance with this determination. The opinions expressed here are entirely my own; I ask only that they be judged on their own merits.

Liturgical Music in the Catholic Churches of Australia:

Crisis and Response – Reflections and Suggestions


By David Schütz


A. Personal Background and Expertise

Through experience in various roles in service of the Church, I have formed a broad understanding of Christian church music and hymnody both ecumenically and in the Catholic Church in particular.

In 1986, as a third year seminary student, I was invited to join the Department of Liturgics of the Commission on Worship of the Lutheran Church of Australia as their minute secretary. Over the years following, I was appointed to full membership of this Department, and to the Department of Hymnody and to the Commission on Worship which oversaw the work of both departments. From 1989, I worked as research officer for two major liturgical publications of the Commission: “Church Rites” (Openbook, 1994) and “Rites & Resources for Pastoral Care” (Openbook, 1998).[1] From 1995 to 2000 I was also a member of the Australian Consultation on Liturgy for the Lutheran Church. From 1997 till the time I left the Lutheran Church in 2001, I was the project manager for the Lutheran Worship Resources, a complete package of officially produced and sanctioned resources for liturgy and song to accompany the three year lectionary, produced electronically and provided free to all pastors of the Church.[2]

Of course, in addition to this, after my ordination in 1992 I served as a parish pastor for nine years, first in Adelaide, and then in Melbourne in a three congregation parish. This experience continually grounded and expanded my understanding of the role of liturgy and song in the pastoral context.

When I left the Lutheran ministry in 2001, I was employed part-time by Fr Gregory Pritchard as the Parish Music Coordinator of Our Lady of Perpetual Succour Catholic Parish in Ringwood. I had responsibility there for training and organising the choir and cantors, for coordinating the organists and music groups, for school liturgies and music, and for generally resourcing the parish in liturgical song. I held this position until 2004. Today I am a rostered cantor for one Sunday each month in my current parish (St Joseph and St Bernadette’s Parish in Boronia). I also serve at St Patrick’s Cathedral as the regular cantor for lunchtime Masses on feasts and solemnities.

B. My Lutheran Experience

When I came to the LCA Commission on Worship in 1986, they had just completed the production and publication of the “Supplement” to the 1972 Lutheran Hymnal. The Commission gained a great deal of expertise from this simple task and had to face directly the monumental changes that had taken place in English liturgy and song between 1972 and 1986, such as the change from archaic to contemporary English, the explosion of new hymnody, and the radical changes in style between traditional hymnody and the new material.

Several serious challenges faced the Lutheran Church in those years. Firstly there was a general “do-it-yourself” attitude toward liturgy among the majority of pastors. Home-made liturgies were fast replacing the Church’s traditional Divine Service. Secondly, the rise of “contemporary worship” was a challenge to the traditional musical styles and content of Lutheran hymnody. Contemporary composers had banded together to produce a collection of folk-style songs in the first two books of what became the “All Together Now” series. This was widely replacing the 1972 hymnal in many parishes.

In the 1990’s the “worship wars” escalated. No longer simply a battle between “traditional” and “contemporary” styles, the emerging Church Growth movement among US Evangelicals was challenging the very purpose of Christian worship and the Sunday service toward evangelistic goals. Hymnals and liturgy books began to be replaced by overhead projectors and photocopied worship sheets. Parishes were no longer bound by materials that they could find in published (official or otherwise) volumes, but were sourcing material more freely via means of the internet and subscription services.

At that time the proposal came for the production of a new edition of the Australian Hymnbook on broad ecumenical lines. The Lutheran Church of Australia realised that its resources for creating and publishing a new hymnal of its own were limited, and so joined this ecumenical effort. The Department of Hymnody undertook a complete review and revision of the traditional repertoire of Lutheran hymnody (including retranslation of older texts) as well as selecting the best of the new music that had emerged from the (ever expanding) series of “All Together Now” songbooks. These were submitted to the Australian Hymnbook Committee and most were accepted for inclusion.

“Together in Song” contained no liturgical ritual material as such, and so it became clear that the Commission on Worship had to resource the parishes of the LCA in some other way. By the late nineties there was a flood of materials appearing on the internet and freely being used in Lutheran worship services. The Commission realised that it had little real effective authority by which to limit the use of unsatisfactory materials and so set about to create an alternative resource, cheaper and more easily accessible than the competition. This is where the Lutheran Worship Resources project came in. I initiated and piloted a prototype with about 100 participating parishes. The success of this pilot led to me being appointed as the project manager for a complete Church-wide resource, involving extensive work and commitment from the voluntary personnel of all five departments of the Commission (Hymnody, Liturgy, Music, Visual Arts, and Drama)[3]. The project also included:

  • Several volumes of settings for responsorial psalms for the three-year lectionary – produced freely by musicians of the Lutheran Church, copyright-free for use by parishes of the Lutheran Church of Australia
  • An extensive list of recommended hymns and songs for each Sunday from the three available resources (the Lutheran Hymnal and Supplement, All Together Now series, and Together in Song).
  • Newly translated versions of traditional hymns in contemporary English.
  • Collects, intercessions, acclamations and antiphons for each Sunday of the lectionary cycle.

The Lutheran Worship Resources were produced electronically and distributed free of charge and free of copyright to all parish pastors. Over a period of four years, these officially produced materials effectively stemmed the tide of foreign material entering into the LCA. From reports and personal experience I know that they continue to be used in Lutheran parishes today.

A major difference between Australian Lutherans and Australian Catholics is that Lutherans view singing in the liturgy as the norm and sing with enthusiasm. They see nothing unusual about a fully sung liturgy interspersed by half a dozen hymns and songs. In the Lutheran Church it is generally the pastor who chooses songs for worship, usually to match the theme of his preaching. Cantors and “music ministers” are not common, as most parishes are easily able to sing with only an organ or another instrument to lead them. Taking all resources available to me in my parish, as a parish pastor I had access to more than 2000 hymns and songs (850 in the Hymnal and Supplement, 450 in the All Together series, and a further 900 in Together in Song). I could rely upon my congregations to know at least half of these.

C. The Crisis facing the Australian Catholic Churches

In an era when even the Holy Father speaks of a “sharing of gifts” via ecumenical relations with other ecclesial bodies, one ought to be able to see the sharing of expertise in and enthusiasm for music in the Protestant bodies as at least one such gift. It is commonplace to hear complaints from converts to the Catholic Church about the state of liturgical music and song in Australian parishes, yet most Australian Catholics themselves seem completely unaware that there is anything amiss or unusual going on.

But to newcomers the crisis in liturgical music and song is glaringly obvious. As I have travelled around Australian parishes in the last ten years, there are some general observations that are made all the more notable for the very few exceptions I have experienced. Here are some of my observations regarding the current state of liturgical music and song in our parishes:

  • Except in some ethnic Catholic cultures, there is a general resistance to the acceptance of singing as an integral part of worship. This is usually attributed to the Irish heritage.
  • In an effort to overcome this resistance, parish “music ministers” feel pressured to “give the people what they like”, although their judgement on this matter is usually based on their own tastes rather than any authentic or objective research.
  • Parish pastors are often untrained, unskilled and/or ignorant in liturgical music and song, and so delegate the choice of music used in the liturgy to lay coordinators (who often may be capable musicians but may not be much better trained or prepared in the liturgical and theological principles).
  • Due to a shortage of trained musicians and to the new technology now available, cantors and musicians are being replaced by vocal recordings. Since many worshippers are conditioned by our entertainment society, they have learned to listen to these recordings rather than join in the singing themselves, with the result that recorded song tends to discourage congregational participation rather than encourage it.
  • At the same time, no published print resource of Catholic liturgical music and song which has been authorised by ecclesiastical authority currently exists for purchase in Australia today.
  • This leaves a vacuum which is being filled by other enterprises, usually driven by commercial interests of composers and publishers rather than by the interests of the Church and of what is most appropriate to the liturgy of the Roman Rite.
  • Nevertheless, new material is being produced and introduced into our parishes and schools at a vast rate by private enterprise, with the result that Australian Catholics have no shared repertoire of song among themselves, let alone with other English speaking Catholic Churches, nor any lasting personal appropriation of the Church’s song, nor any consolidated patrimony to pass on to new generations.
  • On the contrary, a “cult of the new” is being fostered by publishers and composers to the detriment of the Church’s patrimony in music and song.
  • The music of this new material is often too difficult or unsuitable for congregational singing, having been written and designed for solo performance by the song writer at concerts.
  • The new music often has little connection with the tradition of the music for the Roman Rite.
  • Many of the texts of the new material suffer from a number of drawbacks, primarily theologically, such as in the naming of God, the use of the voice of God, meaningless or trite phrases, or doctrine simply contrary to the Catholic faith.
  • Many new texts are also deficient linguistically (they contrast markedly to the language of the new translation of the missal) and poetically.
  • Many of the new texts display a lack of comprehension of the purpose of liturgical music and song, not only in ritual terms, but also in terms of the theological function of liturgical praise and adoration.


D. Some Insights from my Lutheran Experience

While it is my observation that the crisis in liturgical music and song facing the Catholic Churches of Australia today are more extreme than anything we ever faced in the Lutheran Church between 1986 and 2001, I do see similarities. The Bishops Commission for Liturgy and the National Liturgical Music Board obviously have responsibility for a Church community much larger and more diverse than that for which the LCA’s Commission on Worship was responsible, but on the off chance that the experience I have gained from both my national and parish level involvement in liturgy and hymnody may be of some service to the Church, I humbly offer a few suggestions here for how the Commission and the NLMB might proceed in the current circumstances.

Two fundamental and related problems face the Catholic Churches of Australia in relation to liturgical music and song today: the first being the huge influx of new, untested and unauthorised material into our parishes; and the second being the absence of any alternative officially authorised Australian Catholic resource for parishes to use as a source and guide. There are two ways of responding to this crisis. Both must be adopted and used together as a single strategy.

The first way of response is by official authorisation of suitable material and the parallel rejection of unsuitable material. The Lutheran Commission on Worship was well aware that official condemnations were an ineffectual method to forestall the use of inappropriate material and resources in public worship. Catholic clergy are, in the current climate, perhaps approaching a level of disdain for authority similar to their Lutheran brothers, but at least Catholic bishops, in contrast to comparable Lutheran authorities, do have a real and effectual canonical authority and oversight over the liturgy in their diocese. Catholic bishops in Australia have the authority to act and must act to authorise appropriate material and to restrict the use of material that is inappropriate. At the same time the ACBC Commission on Liturgy and the National Liturgical Music Board would do well to heed the Lutheran awareness that authoritative declarations alone are not well received by the Australian psyche. Authoritative declarations will always be received negatively as “restrictive”.

The second way of response must therefore be used at the same time: ample, accessible, authorised and (above all) affordable resources must be offered to parishes by the Church itself in the place of the substandard material currently being provided by private commercial enterprise. The Lutheran Commission on Worship found this strategy very effective. No matter how opposed a parish pastor may be to dictates coming out of “head office”, if we provided everything on a platter for them, they used it. We discovered that when parish pastors and musicians were provided with a quality resource in a number of formats (including electronically) with as little copyright restriction as possible, and to which they could quickly go to for everything they need to prepare Sunday liturgy, they no longer went to the effort of searching out resources from unofficial sources. Moreover, they saw the provision of such materials as positive action on the behalf of the Church, and became more open to looking to the authorised bodies for material rather than unauthorised commercial publishers. We succeeded in beating the commercial interests on a competitive playing field because we were the Church producing for the Church.

To repeat: the two steps to overcome the current crisis in liturgical music and song are the official restriction of unauthorised, poor quality material on the one hand and the provision of high quality, authorised resources on the other hand.

But perhaps the first step is even more fundamental: We must first realise that a crisis actually exists and that the time for action is now. When Dr John Kleinig became the Chair of the Commission on Worship in the early nineties, he declared to us that there was no longer any room on the Commission or any of its departments for “free-riders”. The members of the Commission and its Departments had a responsibility to produce quality resources quickly to answer to the urgent needs of the Church.

E. What is the immediate crisis?

Over the last decade, in response to Liturgiam Authenticam, great care and attention has been given to the accuracy of the English translation of the Ordinary Rite of the Roman Mass, on the principal that the words and language which we use to worship directly affects what we believe. Yet at the same time, action in regard to the songs that are sung in our Eucharistic liturgies has received much less attention. Some years ago, I attended a lecture by a visiting American Methodist liturgical scholar. He related an anecdote of an old African American woman who said to him: “When I hears it, I thinks about it; but when I sings it, I believes it!”. This is, of course, simply the old rule of lex orandi lex credendi at work. St Augustine was getting at something similar, surely, when he said “He who sings prays twice.” What is sung has twice the power to affect what the singer believed compared to texts that are simply spoken. By attending to the language of the Liturgy we have plugged a leak, but, by not attending to the songs which are sung in our parishes, we have left the tap running.

Of course, the NLMB has responded to the Liturgiam Authenticam’s request for a list of recommended songs, and has now also received the Holy See’s response. This process took far too long, but at this point we must look to the future. Now that the Holy See’s response has been received, it must be urgently acted upon. The task of reviewing the music and song currently in use in our Churches must be completed and work must begin on the production of a resource for Australia-wide use that will enable the whole of the Catholic Church in this country to sing “as one voice”.

Already the delay in this vital project has created a vacuum into which one resource in particular has inserted itself with gusto. The “As One Voice” series of song books is, according to the editor of Catholica Australia[4], used in 80% of our parishes (note: the editor of Catholica is closely connected to the people behind Willow Connection, the publisher of “As One Voice”). Yet in the NLMB’s list of recommended songs, only 55% of the first volume and 34% of the second volume’s contents made the recommended list. That means the greater percentage of songs in these two volumes did not come up to the standard of the criteria of the NLMB for use in the liturgy of the Church. Now, the Willow Connection is launching its new “Next Generation” book and preparing to hold the “As One Voice National Christian Music Conference” in September to promote it. It is plain to see from their advertising material that this Conference is intentionally targeting Catholic parishes. And Willow Connection has never submitted its material to the Bishops Commission for approval nor ever sought either an imprimatur or a nihil obstat from the Bishops for their publications.

In addition there are a host of individual composers of new liturgical music bypassing all authoritative revision processes and selling their wares to our parishes. Whatever the quality of this work, what the Church sings in the liturgy should not be dictated by composers and publishers who have a vested financial interest in promoting their material. Yet as long as there is a vacuum of authorised collections of liturgical music and song that is accessible and affordable, these commercial interests will continue to impose themselves upon the Church’s liturgical practice. The longer this vacuum exists, the harder it will be to introduce and promote authorised resources when they finally become available.

F. What must be done right now?

The time has come to recognise that there is a real crisis in the area of liturgical music and song in the Catholic Churches of Australia, and to act to meet this crisis. The question of how the crisis is best to be met and how the Church is best to be resourced to meet the requirements of Liturgiam Authenticam is a question for the Bishops Commission on Liturgy and the National Liturgical Music Board.

Permit me, however, to make a few suggestions for action:

  1. The NLMB’s review of all liturgical music currently available must be completed as a matter of urgency.
  2. The completed “Recommended List” must be promoted by the Bishops in a way that encourages the use of the recommended material and discourages the use of material that fails to meet the Church’s criteria.
  3. The Bishops Commission and the NLMB must work towards the production of a resource based on the “Recommended List” for Australian parishes that is authoritative, accessible and affordable.
  4. To achieve this as speedily as possible, two visions will be required. The first is a vision of what kind of resource would be desired in an ideal world. This will set the benchmark. But at the same time a second vision is required, a vision of what kind of resource can actually be produced in the short term, given the urgency of the task. It must be recognised that if we delay until we are able to produce the perfect resource, the Church will not succeed in meeting the challenge of the current crisis.
  5. A time line for the production of the resource must be determined.
  6. Financial and human resources must be made available to achieve this production time-line.


There are many variables in this outline. For instance, we may discover that there is not a market for a hardcopy “complete-in-itself” hymnbook. Australian parishes have embraced the electronic technology that makes it possible to reproduce material for a whole parish by purchasing just a couple of music editions for the music team and (with a copyright licence such as that from “Word of Life”) reproducing the material by means of powerpoint and overhead screens. The sales of “Together in Song”, for instance, have been much lower than for the previous “Australian Hymbook” for precisely this reason. It may be difficult to convince a commercial publisher to invest in the project of producing a hardcopy hymnal as sales may not be projected into profits. It may be that an electronic resource rather than a printed resource may have to be considered. Alternatively, a joint publication with another English-speaking publisher (eg. Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops) could be considered, in the same way that Gather Australia “piggy-backed” off the American GIA produced Gather.

The financial considerations are indeed considerable. I believe that it has to be accepted that it will be a very expensive enterprise for the Church to produce any liturgical music and song resource at all. However the return for such an investment will also be considerable. The Church invests in many different endeavours, but the one activity of the Church in which the most Catholics regularly participate is the Sunday liturgy. Although the financial cost of such a resource will be very high, there will be a rich return in terms of the spiritual life of the Church at every level for generations to come. But the alternative is terrible to contemplate, and the inevitable cost of inaction to the spiritual life and evangelising mission of the Church will be a continued decline in the faith of the Church.

Another difficulty that must be faced is the fact that new compositions and texts will continue to be produced. This is, in fact, a gift of God’s Spirit, and should be embraced, but at the same time a simple, speedy and accessible process must be put in place to allow composers and writers to submit their material for the process of approval by competent authorities. I have a suggestion in this regard. The responsibility for reviewing new material for provisional use might be delegated to the bishop of each diocese. He may decide that writers and composers of new material be required to submit their material to the local diocesan liturgical officer for approval before they use it in their parish. After approval and a period of provisional use, the material, if deemed suitable and of value, could be forwarded to the NLMB for more general approval for use throughout Australia. In part, this constant production of new material – not to mention the rehabilitation of older material that has fallen out of use and could well be revived – might mean that a rather more “open ended” resource should be envisaged, perhaps as a series of books such as “As One Voice” currently represents.

There is yet the problem of the decline in available musicians that has seen the rise of the use of pre-recorded music in our parishes (played either on CD or as MP3’s on a computer). The problem with using pre-recorded songs is that they are not designed for congregations to sing along; in fact the recorded voice of the professional singer or choir actually encourages the congregation to become a non-participatory audience which listens to rather than sings the song. I would personally recommend that in the production of any resource by the NLMB, the Bishops Commission consider also providing a complete set of pre-recorded musical accompaniments – without vocal tracks – for use by parishes that do not have musicians. These may be CD’s, MP3’s or (conceivably) even midi files (designed to be played through the many high standard electronic keyboards currently available). A resource that provided a seamless combination of print music, electronic texts for powerpoint projection and recorded musical accompaniment would make a very attractive package for Australian parishes.

Willow Connection must also be commended for their initiative in holding a conference for parish musicians to resource them for their ministry. Any authorised resource produced by the Church would want to utilise the methodology of seminars and conferences held around the country, perhaps even on an annual basis, to provide skills and formation for parish musicians and cantors. Such seminars would give opportunities to educate in matters of copyright, selection of music for the Sunday mass, and proper use of the resource.

I have sought to offer these reflections and ideas out of love for the Church and a desire to see us move forward in such a way that the liturgical music and song we use during the celebration of the Eucharist be suitable for the Mass of the Roman Rite and the new translation of this liturgy soon to be introduced. I pray that God will bless our Bishops, the work of the Bishops Commission on Liturgy and the work of the National Liturgical Music Board as they give attention to these matters for the good of the whole Church.

[1] For a full list of the resources the LCA provides for its congregations, see this pamphlet online: and also this page on their website:

[2] Available online at:

[3] Acknowledgement of my role in this project and the background to the project can be found here:


67 Responses to Liturgical Music in the Catholic Churches of Australia: Crisis and Response – Reflections and Suggestions

  1. Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

    Hmm. My dad, a convert from Protestantism to Catholicism in 1941, would have identified the crisis differently, in that any of this should even come up.

    He thought the “new Mass” simply brought into the Catholic Church all the stuff he thought he had left behind when he found out worship was more than a good sing and a long sermon and a few prayers.

    I grew up in the church to which he converted, and on that basis find the whole “crisis” similarly foreign to anything identifiable as Catholic. It simply reflects a different mindset.

    Maybe it’s worth pondering the difference between a missal and a hymnal. A text is independent of any given setting of it, and needs none essentially, nor is any essential to it. That is why musical settings exist in separate books. That is also why chant is not music in the modern sense; it is primarily textual, and the chanting serves not to be musically beautiful but to highlight the text — it is a form of speech, not music. The appearance of chant-hymns, nice as they are, is a relatively late development. Music in our sense began when this was no longer the case, and other voices would be sung over a word, or mot, rather than the chanted text itself. Metre, previously foreign, was suspect unless it was triple, reflecting the Trinity; duple metres, now the standard of “traditional” hymnody, were suspect and the subject of papal bulls.

    All of which developments never obscured the fundamental distinction between text and settings thereof, or made missals into hymnals. Congregational singing, other than maybe a processional and/or recessional, is what you do when you no longer have the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass and have to come up with something else for worship.

    Which is exactly what he thought he had left behind in finding the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass which mirrors the life of Christ, first in teaching (Mass of the Catechumens) then in action (Mass of the Faithful), not words, let alone singing, with even the canon said silently to focus on the action of Christ. And exactly what I left behind in bailing from this new Protestantism with a Pope pathetically calling itself Catholic.

  2. Louise says:

    In reality, prior to V2, Aussie Catholics sang hokey Irish hymns. Now we just sing hokey American hymns.

    When I am Queen of Australia, I shall outlaw all music (particularly in churches) which is not chant, Palestrina, Bach and a few others I can’t remember right now. That’ll fix it.

    There will be strict penalties for breaches of this law – floggings etc.

    • Peter Golding says:

      Could not agree more Louise!
      Let’s give these philistines the Spanish Inquisition treatment.

      • Schütz says:

        I, on the other hand, couldn’t disagree more (with Louise and Peter, that is). I don’t want to see us do what the Eastern Churches have done to both their art and their music, that is, sanction only a very restricted style and tradition. I believe the West has always had more trust in its artists than the East has (possibly the number of heresies that were faced in the East compared to the West as something to do with this). But this Western “faith” was also “faith” (justifiable in the past) that the artists and musicians were catechised sufficiently to know what they were doing theologically in their art and music. I think the major difference today is that we can no longer assume the same depth of catechesis. We need guidance in our art and music, and a high degree of readiness on the part of the artists and musicians to work within the confines of tradition and orthodoxy, but we wish to leave open the possibility of creativity as a gift of the Holy Spirit.

        • Louise says:

          Sometimes, you’re just no fun, David! :) Who am I going to flog, then?

          I know, I’ll start with Shane Warne. He could do with a couple of dozen.

        • Collin Nunis says:

          Mate, it is true Eastern Churches sanction a restricted style and tradition. Some Eastern Church are slowly branching out and trying new things, artistically and musically. I remember the Ukrainians singing their liturgical hymns in modern musical arrangements (non-classical). I guess the difference between the Latin Rite churches who are going through this and the Eastern Churches i.e. the Ukrainians are 2 things:-

          1. The TEXT of the hymns and liturgical hymnody. Always remember that the Easterners are very anal about their theological wording. They will never compromise that for any musical arrangement. Ultimately, this is where Latin Rite music ministers need to pay extra attention to. Even when I play for Masses just to help the youth across my house,

          2. That hymns were chanted are unnegotiable. The voice is the ultimate instrument of praise, and while I definitely believe that talent in playing a musical instrument is definitely a spiritual gift, it is better used for ministry outside church and liturgical settings. When we come together for our praise and Eucharist, we unite as one, not just by faith in the Lord and our baptism, but our voices. However, if one were to argue that this does not apply to the West, that is fine. To each their own. The question of instruments is ultimately a matter of semantics.

          I did suggest to some Byzantine Catholics that we can ultimately experiment with new musical arrangements and commission musical talent to arrange new music for the Liturgy, especially for churches in the Western diaspora; without diluting or “watering down” the liturgical texts, and things like the Troparions/Kontakions. The Russians have done a great job, but unfortunately, we live in a world where the concept of “imperial court” is a long gone fable. If anyone would love to help me, let us Melkites and Ukrainians know. ;D

    • Tony says:

      Yes, I can see it now. Eventually you’ll have your own denomination: The Church of Tasmania or Tasmanlicanism.

      • Tony says:

        PS, Your Highness.

        Yesterday our choir, those that could attend, sung at a funeral for a fellow choir member’s dad (a Chinese-born Malaysian).

        We sang
        – The Lord is My Shepherd (Crimmond)
        – On Eagles Wings (an arrangement by one of our own which our congregation seems to love)
        – A New Commandment
        – Jesus, Name Above All Names
        – Seek Ye First, and
        – Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All.

        Oh, and we opened with Come As You Are and closed with How Great Thou Art.

        Off with our hokey heads?

        • Schütz says:

          Some of these, not others, are on the NLMB’s recommended list. Since some that are – such as Eagle’s Wings and A new Commandment – use “the voice of God/Jesus” in the mouth of the people, it is likely that these will have to be rewritten in a way that make it actual praise or adoration of the people to God to be permitted in the future. Eg. “I am the bread of Life” does this too, but may be corrected if we simply sang the whole song as “You are the Bread of Life” etc.

          • Tony says:


            If we can’t sing ‘I am the bread of life’ or ‘A new commandment I give unto you’, presumably we can’t read John 6 V35 or John 13 V34 in any sort of public setting?

            • Schütz says:

              No, Tony. You, like many others, have failed to grasp the difference between a “proclamation” of the Word and public “praise” or “adoration”. A hymn is either directed to God in adoration or directed to others in praise of God. Hymns do not serve the function of “proclamation”. When we read the scriptures in Mass, or even use parts of the scriptures as proper chants, these are proclamations. Their function is very different from hymns of praise and adoration.

            • Tony says:


              I accept that I have ‘failed’ in your terms, but I’d suggest that such failure is common.

              Your reaction comes across to me as both legalistic and technical and far removed from the experience of most parishes.

            • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

              Quite so. David speaks from the Catholicism of dreams, reveries, fantasies and hallucinations, Tony speaks from the Catholicism that actually is. Thanks be to God I no longer experience the torture of living in the latter while trying to maintain the former.

            • Schütz says:


              It is no more “legalistic” to properly identify the way in which parts of the liturgy function than it to define the ay in which gravity functions. Of course, we have Newton’s first law of gravity, but the law is objectively found in reality, it was not invented by Newton.

              Liturgical “science” is able to observe not only the way in which rituals and ceremonies function as a whole, but also in their parts. For instance, the function of the Penitential Rite is not the same as the function of the Sanctus. The function of the Reading is not the same as the function of the Psalm. Thus, all liturgical song does not serve the same purpose: The question of who is singing, what they are singing, to whom they are singing, and when they are singing all depends upon hte function of the song.

              The function of “praise” is different from the function of “adoration”. You praise someone not by addressing them directly, but by telling others how wonderful they are. Thus you use the third person in speaking of the object of praise. If, on the other hand, the same words are addressed to the object of praise themselves, you use the second, rather than the third person, and it becomes “adoration”.

              If a song is not praise or adoration, what is it? It may be a song about me/us, and about the way I/we feel and what I am/we are thinking or doing. Is the liturgy the place for such songs?

              A soloist or choir may sing a song which is addressed to the people. If this is not mere performance, such a song will either be praise of God (speaking to us about him) or addressing us with God’s word – a kind of sung proclamation of the Word. If it is the latter, it has a place – as with the Good Friday reproaches. But this is, I believe, rare in the liturgy.

              When congregations take the “voice of God” in their songs, the function of liturgical song is all skewed. God, after all, has not come to the liturgy to sing to us! What sense does it make to sing God’s Word back to him? What can it mean when I sing “I am the Bread of Life” when I am NOT the Bread of Life? Worse still, can I ever sing the words “I will be Yahweh who walks with you”? Who is the “I” in this sentence? God, after all, is not singing the song!

              This is not being “legalistic”. It is simply pointing out that something is disfunctional.

            • Tony says:

              I have no reason to doubt that what you say is how the church wants to operate, David, but the logic just doesn’t make sense to me.

              God, after all, has not come to the liturgy to sing to us!

              By that logic, nor has God come to ‘speak’ to us (I’ll refrain from the exclamation mark).

              What sense does it make to sing God’s Word back to him?

              The same ‘sense’ that it makes to speak (read) God’s word?

              What can it mean when I sing “I am the Bread of Life” when I am NOT the Bread of Life?

              The same as it ‘means’ when I ‘read’ it?

              Worse still, can I ever sing the words “I will be Yahweh who walks with you”? Who is the “I” in this sentence? God, after all, is not singing the song!

              Nor is God reading the Gospel, nor is St Paul reading the epistle, nor is the psalmist singing the psalm?

          • Justin says:

            Surely if they are on the approved list as published by the NLNB and ratified by the Bishops, they are approved “as is”. Otherwise what’s the point of the list.

            • Schütz says:

              You are right, Justin. The list has been ratified by our Bishops Conference, but has yet to be ratified by the Holy See. For now, whatever is on the NLMB list may be taken as “approved” – until the reply of the Holy See determines otherwise. My guess is that a number of songs on the current list will not survive the next round of review, or at least not in the current form. But that’s just my guess… and my opinion has no authority.

            • Justin says:

              Would I also be correct then in applying the logic you have outlined, which I do understand, that motets such as Tallis’ If Ye Love me should also now come out of the repertoire?

            • Schütz says:

              No, that would not be a correct understanding of what I wrote. There is a place, as I said, for solist or choral voices to sing such texts. Tallis wrote his motets for choirs to sing, not for congregational singing. In this case, such motets function properly as God’s address to the gathered assembly. When the choir sings “the voice of God” they are singing to the people, not to God. That is a valid liturgical function of choral song. But it just doesn’t function when we put the same words into the mouth of the assembly, for then the obvious question is “to whom are they singing?” Obviously not to God. Then to whom? Themselves?

            • Paul says:

              I find your approach to who can sing “voice of God” texts utterly bizarre and inconsistent with two thousand years of Catholic tradition.

              When we pray and sing in the liturgy it is as the Body of Christ, head and members. Spirit-filled, we are joined with Christ in praise of the Father. It’s not a matter of the choir singing to the people. The whole assembly is joined with Christ singing to the Father.

              There is no prohibition on the entire assembly singing the texts of the antiphons, many of which contain “voice of God” texts. In fact the GIRM encourages the assembly to sing these texts. A few examples:

              Holy Thursday Communion antiphon “This body will be given for you. This is the cup of the new covenant in my blood; whenever you receive them, do so in remembrance of me.”

              Palm Sunday Communion antiphon “Father, if this cup may not pass, but I must drink it, then your will be done.”

              Ascension Communion antiphon “I, the Lord, am with you always, until the end of the world, alleluia.”

              4th Sunday Yr A Communion antiphon “Happy are the poor in spirit; the kingdom of heaven is theirs!”

              1st Sunday of Lent Yr A Entrance antiphon: “When he calls me, I will answer; I will rescue him and give him honour….”.

              And it is impossible to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, which is an exercise of Christ’s priestly office intended to be prayed in community, without praying or singing “voice of God” texts. The psalms themselves are full of “voice of God” phrases.

              Where on earth did you get the idea that the assembly can’t sing these texts?

        • Louise says:

          I am looking for my cat’o’nine tails as we “speak,” Tony.

          Although I have an affection for “Eagles Wings’ on account of a dear lady I knew who loved it, God rest her soul. Maybe I will pardon you, for her sake.

          • Tony says:

            A little too much information there, Louise!

            And assessing a hymn in terms of ‘affection’ sounds a little ‘hokey’ to me.


            I’ve always thought that OEW was on the hokey side but our particular arrangement is a challenge to sing and our congregation seems to love it.

            ‘Come As You Are’ is one hymn that seems to have attracted the ire of those ‘in the know’ and, while I can see where they are coming from, it does ‘speak’ to people and I have a personal reason for hoping that it doesn’t get (effectively) black listed.

            • Schütz says:

              As for “affection” in hymnody, there was a notable change in the development of Protestant hymnody following the era of Orthodoxy (eg. Paul Gerhard) which emphasised the doctrinal and catechetical and corporate function of hymnody when the era of Pietism was ushered in, which emphasised personal devotion and feelings and affection. Unfortunately, Catholic hymnody, both of the 19th Century and today, tends to be “affective” rather than catechetical.

    • A Ryan says:

      Spot on! Converted to Catholic years ago, to be horrified by horrible hymns and no sung Mass. Back with Anglicans in regional area now just to sing, and horrified again by horrible suburban compositions by retired English puritan organists who ride the Internet unfettered. So add the Jensens to the stocks.

  3. Terra says:

    I agree with previous commentators – we tend to forget that the real music intended to be sung at the Mass is not hymns (tacky and unorthodox or otherwise), but the ‘Propers’ (such as the processional antiphon typically either ignored or muttered in a desultory way) set for the relevant day, and the ordinary (kyrie etc).

    And for both of these the proper norm, as reaffirmed by Vatican II and subsequent Popes, is Gregorian chant.

    Chant is not as hard as it seems at firt blush, and there are lots of excellent resources (including online recordings of simplified versions of the propers for each Sunday, etc) around.

    There is a chant revival going on around the world, and Australia should jump on board and rediscover our truly distinctively catholic heritage.

    Anything else is peripheral and should be treated as such.

    • Schütz says:

      we tend to forget that the real music intended to be sung at the Mass is not hymns (tacky and unorthodox or otherwise), but the ‘Propers’ (such as the processional antiphon typically either ignored or muttered in a desultory way) set for the relevant day, and the ordinary (kyrie etc)

      True and not true at the same time, Terra. I have posted an old article that I wrote in 2003 called “Liturgical Music and Song: An examination of Conscience”, which was published in the ACCC’s journal “The Priest”. Pertinent to your comment is the following section from this article. Note especially the idea of “degrees” of importance about what is sung. In the “third degree” there certainly is scope for “hymns”, although once again it should be admitted that primary idea of an “entrance” or “communion” song is the psalmoday set down as “propers” (of which only the paltry “antiphon” has made it into our English missals in the past). Nevertheless, hymns are not excluded by GIRM; even though you rightly point out that they are neither first, nor even second, degree issues:

      A re-reading of Musicam Sacram (1967) has a few surprises. Once we have agreed on the value of sacred music and song, our next question will be “what should we sing?” Musicam Sacram suggests three “degrees of participation … for reasons of pastoral usefulness”. It suggests that “these degrees are so arranged that the first may be used even by itself, but the second and third, wholly or partially, may never be used without the first.” What therefore, belongs to the “first degree”?

      (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.
      (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.
      (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord’s Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

      The “second degree” consists of the Kyrie, Gloria, Creed, prayer of the faithful, and Agnus Dei. It is not until we reach the “third degree” that we encounter

      (a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;
      (b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;
      (c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;
      (d) the song at the Offertory;
      (e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.

      The irony of this is that, at least in Australia today, it is almost universally the practice to reverse these three “degrees”, such that those parts of the liturgy listed under the “first degree” are the least likely to be sung, and those parts under the “third degree” (with the exception of chanting the readings) the most likely. The result is that many of our liturgies tend to resemble the protestant “four hymn sandwich”, where between the spoken parts of the mass, sung hymns are inserted at the entrance, offertory, communion and recession. The principle, as far as MS is concerned, is that

      “in selecting the parts which are to be sung, one should start with those that are by their nature of greater importance, and especially those which are to be sung by the priest or by the ministers, with the people replying, or those which are to be sung by the priest and people together.”

      • Salvatore says:

        I was just drawing up a response pointing to the priorities laid out in Musicam Sacram when I saw you had beaten me to it.

        Logically, therefore, the first step in addressing the crisis – which would require nothing but courage – would be the abandonment of hymns* entirely, until such time as we build a strong tradition of the congregation (clergy as well please!) singing the invariable prayers, dialogues & litanies of the Mass itself?

        * Not a native part of the Roman Rite in any case.

        • Schütz says:

          I don’t think this is the “logical” conclusion. It is the suggestion of Jeffrey Tucker in “Sing the Mass”, but I do not agree with him on this point. Many things have, over the centuries, been included in the Roman Mass which are not “native” to it – a clear example is the addition of the Nicene Creed, which was not an original component of the Mass of the Roman Rite, but became an essential part of it over the centuries following the Council of Nicea. The Mass is open to additions. Hymn singing during Mass was known before the Reformation – although the Protestants capitalised on this more than Catholicism did (to their benefit!). I see hymn singing as a positive addition to the Mass, as long as the hymns that are sung are appropriate to it.

          I do believe that it takes “courage”, as you say, to actually sing the mass itself. But I do not see this as an “either/or” situation – and I don’t think the Church does either.

          • Salvatore says:

            Sorry, I fear I’ve confused the issue with a spurious aside. The origins of vernacular hymnody are beside the point.

            It seems to me that the Church has made herself pretty clear in Musicam Sacram: first off you sing the all bits in category one; then you sing all the bits in category two; and then, if you’ve got any strength left, you can sing the bits in category three. As the propers (or their hymnodic substitutes) are in category three, we really oughtn’t to be signing them ‘til we’ve got the rest down – and, let’s be frank, we’re a long way from that.

            Arguably the Church is trying to move us away from the idea of the Liturgy as a spoken performance with musical interludes, (back?) towards the idea of the Liturgy as an integral union of music and text. Surely this is a good thing? Worth foregoing the pleasure of a few hymns for?

            • Schütz says:

              If it were an easy choice, that is, if my parish priest said to me: “we are going to ditch hymns for a while and concentrate on singing the mass in line with Musicam Sacram”, I would be all in agreement with the proposal, Salvatore. Unfortunately, all I see at the moment is an apathy toward singing AT ALL, and it would be a great crime if – by discouraging hymn singing at mass – that were to happen.

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

        Congratulations. This is the first comment that actually gets down to it, instead of all kinds of sociology and cultural anthropology.

        It also illustrates why congregational hymn singing in the Catholic Mass is an interruption of what is essential, rather than anything essential itself.

        The first and second degrees of Musicam Sacram name parts of the Mass itself, which will be there whether sung or not, including the classic five parts of the Mass as a musical form (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo — not Credimus — Sanctus, Agnus Dei).

        Likewise, nowhere in an antiphonale or graduale does one find anything like “Hymn of the Day”.

        Yet it is not just Australia, where I have never been, but anywhere in the US where it has been my misfortune, in former years even self-imposed, to endure the novus ordo instead of a Catholic Mass, that one finds precisely the phenomenon you describe, wherein the three degrees are reversed and the four-hymn Protestant sandwich rules.

        Throw up such sociology and cultural anthropology as one will, but replacing sappy hymns with better ones does not change this.

        Nor is it the result of the proverbial ageing hippies with better times just around the corner. Nor did Hans sit in the sacristy with a shotgun enforcing this on the sanctuary for all leaping Judas’ sake. It is the reality of the RCC, what is actually done in practice regardless of whatever sits in the print of tomes somewhere, and this despite a hierarchy that supposedly continues the Apostolic overseeing of the faith. It is there because the RCC put it there, and it was not there before.

        • Schütz says:

          “Hymn of the Day” is, of course, not a Catholic category. However, GIRM makes it clear that in three the third category songs, hymns may be used: the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions, and the song at the Offertory. All of these, including the at the Offertory, are in a sense processional songs. There are (in the Latin original of the Mass) proper chants taken from the psalms for all these processions, but they have not been made available to us in English or in any form other than Gregorian Chant.

          The choice is therefore as follows:

          If something is to be sung during these processions, it may be:

          1) the proper chant only,
          2) a hymn only,
          3) or both.

          In some places, such as St Patrick’s Cathedral here in Melbourne, it is the practice for the choir to sing the proper introit and then the congregation to follow this with an entrance hymn. In the same way, the communion chant is sung by the choir at the beginning of communion, and a hymn is sung after the communion. This seems a happy situation to me, where choirs or solists are available who can sing the chants and where it is deemed desirable that the congregation join in with song as well.

          The other place a song is usually sung is during the Recessional. This is in fact a complete free-for all according to GIRM, because GIRM does not address it at all. The reason for this is that the Mass is determined to have finished with the “Ite, missa est”. Anything sung after this does not come under any restrictions of the Church as far as I know.

  4. Peregrinus says:

    What Terra said.

    David writes extensively above about his Lutheran background, and rightly so. The truth is that in the Catholic liturgical tradition – at least, the Eucharistic liturgy – hymn-singing is a late arrival, and one to which the Irish Catholicism (which shaped the Catholicism that many of us experienced) never really took.

    Ireland has a strong and living musical tradition, but hymns as sung in Irish churches were always completely disconnected from it. They were imported from a musical tradition wholly foreign to Irish congregations, who sung them – if at all – out of duty, not enthusiasm. Moreover in the nineteenth century, when hymn-singing was finding its place in the Catholic liturgical tradition, the Irish church was materially very poor. The challenge it faced was one of building churches and educating the faithful. There were simply no resources to put into any kind of musicianship – no choir schools, no organ scholarships. Not a lot of organs, in fact. So under-resourced and often second-rate amateur musicians struggled to comprehend an alien musical tradition and to introduce it to the people with minimal support from the leadership of the church. Is it any wonder we never got beyond “Bring Flowers of the Fairest”? Is it any wonder that half the congregation mutters hymns, and the other half is silent?

    So I don’t think the challenge facing us is to revive a decent musical tradition in the Irish church, and the Anglophone churches which it has spawned; it’s to develop one.

    It’s interesting to note that both Terra and Louise advocate a ressourcement not by going back to really good hymns, but by singing (or chanting) the proper texts (which are of course what Byrd, Palestrina, Mozart, etc set to music).

    I love the great classical settings of the mass, but I don’t want mass to become a concert, in which those people over there make music to which I listen, even if I listen with pleasure. I was at an Anglican Cathedral once where the choir and organist were simply fantastic, and the preacher assured us that the rest of us were “praising God with our ears”, and I see the point. But still . . . So, I think there’s a place for, e.g., a Mozart mass, but that shouldn’t be the norm for music in the liturgy.

    I think chant works, however. It’s not that difficult to learn the principal chants, and everyone can participate. I was taught them in school. For about twenty years I never heard them used liturgically but, when I did again, I had no trouble picking up where I left off.

    As for hymns, I think they really need to emerge from, and form part of, the demotic musical tradition. The tradition to which David looks does emerge from a demotic tradition, but unfortunately I’m not part of the demos concerned, and neither are most Australians. So the hymns from that the tradition mostly seem to me to be stilted, artificial, insincere.

    I realise I am dangerously close to talking myself into an endorsement of “Christian Rock”, as practiced in certain Pentecostal traditions, and the truth is I’d rather beat my own brains out with a brass candlestick than put up with that. The bottom line, though, is that if liturgical music doesn’t speak in a musical voice to which the people of God respond, it’s not doing what it needs to do.

    • Schütz says:

      hymn-singing is a late arrival

      I would be interested to know just how “late” it actually is, Perry. Whatever the Irish experience, I think you will find that hymn singing was a part of the pre-reformation tradition in Catholic parishes in Europe. I don’t think the Lutherans invented it, however much they might have monopolised it. Of course, what they had was not the modern “four-hymn sandwich” which undoubtedly IS of Protestant origin.

      So I don’t think the challenge facing us is to revive a decent musical tradition in the Irish church, and the Anglophone churches which it has spawned; it’s to develop one.

      Ah, well, now that is a point. And a real attempt was made after Vatican II. It was just that without any previous experience in the area, the English Church of the time was more affected by the 1960’s/1970’s folk movements than borrowing from their protestant cousins who had a long and glorious tradition of English hymnody.

      It is almost as if, having gotten off on the wrong foot, we need to start again from the very beginning.

      It’s interesting to note that both Terra and Louise advocate a ressourcement not by going back to really good hymns, but by singing (or chanting) the proper texts (which are of course what Byrd, Palestrina, Mozart, etc set to music).

      Of course, “ressourcement” was a catchcry of the 2nd Vatican Council – and I still think there is a way in which we can bring it to this discussion too. It is not just a revival of the old but a way of re-inventing the old, giving it new clothes, so to speak. We can look to the ancient tradition for inspiration for new directions that meet the challenges of today – not slavish imitation, but inspiration.

      I am a firm believer in congregational participation in liturgical song. I am absolutely opposed to our congregations being encouraged any further in the direction of “entertainment” worship – even if that entertainment is Bach and Palestrina.

      I think chant works, however. It’s not that difficult to learn the principal chants, and everyone can participate. I was taught them in school. For about twenty years I never heard them used liturgically but, when I did again, I had no trouble picking up where I left off.

      I agree one hundred percent. If we bother to learn it, it can be really effective. Perhaps we need to simplify the old styles, and we definitely need to make the leap to English chant (purists who insist that chant can only be done to Latin are in part responsible for killing it). The point about learning it in schools is also taken. START YOUNG!

      I’m not part of the demos concerned, and neither are most Australians

      Dunno about that. English and Scottish Australians come from traditions in which hymn singing has a great history. Ditto for many European Australians. We need to be careful of writing the Irish experience too broadly across Australian Catholicism.

      • Terra says:

        I rather object to the description of polyphonic or orchestral masses as purely ‘entertainment’. I’m not advocating them as a thing every parish should or could do of course – as I’ve said previously chant should be the norm.

        But quite a few great cathedrals or other parishes devote one of their Sunday masses to something a little more elaborate than the norm, and rightly so.

        I have a particular take on this subject because exposure to a couple of orchestral masses was important to my own conversion – as a musician, exposure to a couple of ‘ordinary’ masses as a teenager had completely turned me of catholicism. The methodist church I attended devoted a lot of effort to its music (I first arrived there initially as part of a group invited to play a Mozart church sonata during a service). The bizarre abberrations at the catholic parishes I occasionally visited simply served to reinforce a view that catholics had no sense of reverence whatsoever, and couldn’t possibly be engaging in any real worship of anything but themselves.

        My view changed when I visited Europe, attended a couple of orchestral masses performed in thier proper liturgical context as part of a sacred music festival, and then discovered places like the Brompton Oratory and found it didn’t have to be like that, allowing my journey towards truth to commence.

        Some important points to remember.

        First, vocal congregational participation is not required at each and every possible opportunity within a particular mass, nor at all in each and every mass. Far more important is turning ourselves interiorly to what is happening, and good music can help us do that.

        Secondly, many great composers have been inspired to raise music to God, and these too are part of our great catholic cultural patrimony. The real crime is that these rarely get performed in their proper liturgical context these days, and are treated purely as entertainment; they become so much more when performed liturgically.

        Thirdly, the purpose of the Mass is above all to praise and give honour to God. When we pull out all the stops in terms of music, vestments and ritual to do this, it is particularly praiseworthy, as the Holy Father has suggested on a number of occasions.

        If as a side effect of this objective we happen to particularly enjoy this kind of music and a particular occasion when it is used, we should be doubly glad at this gift from the choir/orchestra and God – Catholics should not, after all, be puritans.

        • Justin says:

          Dear Terra,

          I wholeheartedly disagree with you on this point

          First, vocal congregational participation is not required at each and every possible opportunity within a particular mass, nor at all in each and every mass.

          In fact it is. See para 34 of Musicam Sacram

          Secondly there are many mass setting that were never intended for use in the liturgy. We need to be careful to discriminate accordingly.


          • Schütz says:

            Terra and Justin are both correct.

            Musicam Sacram 34 reads:

            34. The songs which are called the “Ordinary of the Mass”, if they are sung by musical settings written for several voices may be performed by the choir according to the customary norms, either a capella, or with instrumental accompaniment, as long as the people are not completely excluded from taking part in the singing.

            In other cases, the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass can be divided between the choir and the people or even between two sections of the people themselves: one can alternate by verses, or one can follow other suitable divisions which divide the text into larger sections. In these cases, the following points are to be noted: it is preferable that the Creed, since it is a formula of profession of faith, should be sung by all, or in such a way as to permit a fitting participation by the faithful; it is preferable that the Sanctus, as the concluding acclamation of the Preface, should normally be sung by the whole congregation together with the priest; the Agnus Dei may be repeated as often as necessary, especially in concelebrations, where it accompanies the Fraction; it is desirable that the people should participate in this song, as least by the final invocation.

            All this can be worked into a classical mass – as is done every Sunday at St Patrick’s, where, for instance, the Sanctus of Mass XVIII is sung with an extended choral hosanna at the end. Note that regarding the Sanctus, MS says “normally”. There can be occasions when a choral mass is used that does not include the people singing these parts, but it is not to be normal.

        • Louise says:

          I am largely with Terra on this point. Chant is easily sung by a congregation when it is led well.

          And there is no reason why at least a Cathedral shouldn’t offer one Mass in the week with an orchestral Mass.

          I think (good) hymns etc are excellent for other liturgical occasions and cannot see why they must either be included in Mass or saved specifically for other things e.g. prayer meetings, processions etc. In such a case, new work would still have an object and be encouraged.

          • Terra says:

            And MS, like every other text of Vatican II, needs to be interpreted in the light of tradition – the hermaneutic of continuity!

            • Terra says:

              By way of a sidenote, I looked up the websites of the two churches I attended when I was growing up. The little, but very dynamic methodist church,, still espouses a commitment to enjoying ‘worshipping God through music’ (follow the link Schulz, it contains an interesting article on hymn singing that will resonate with your concerns, by composer Colin Gibson, who was a leading member of the congregation thirty plus years ago when I was there!) . The Presbyterian Church I went to before that,, now features a choir that performs much of the catholic mass repertoire inter alia, including masses with orchestra…

              Sad when protestants have picked up the traditions we’ve abandoned!

              Though NZ-wise, the Christchurch Cathedral still does great things musically…

            • Schütz says:

              Thanks for this sidenote, Terra. I once met Colin Gibson years ago at the Conference launching Together In Song. He is a very good poet and has the genre of the “hymn” well and truly “under his belt”, even though some of the hymns he has written have a theology that would not be at home in the Catholic liturgy. (And, BTW, my name is Schütz, not Schulz – as in the Christmas Carol “No L, No L”!)

            • Schütz says:

              Unfortunately, there has not been an authoritative document on music from the Vatican since Musicam Sacram (1967) by which we are able to more firmly place it within the Tradition. The Hermeneutic of Continuity requires that there be something continuing!

            • Terra says:

              Apologies on the name, just writing too fast and not paying attention (I’ll blame my aching elbow still recovering from a fracture)!

              In terms of continuity, it is not just what comes after that one must look to, but what came before!

              My point is that we shouldn’t assume that MS intends to change anything in terms of existing practice unless it is very clear about doing so (and in fact in most cases Vatican II documents were put into effect by later specific legislation).

            • Paul says:

              Have you not read Pope John Paul II’s Chirograph on Sacred Music (2003), which elaborates on the place of MS in the context of the tradition, both prior to and after Vatican II.

            • Schütz says:

              Yes, of course, you are quite correct. I have read this document – very good, of course. And so I should update my comment to say that there has been “only one” follow up to Musicam Sacram rather than none at all. It may be found (here on the Vatican website. However, given that Pope JPII said that by this document he wished to “re-propose several fundamental principles for this important sector of the life of the Church, with the intention of ensuring that liturgical music corresponds ever more closely to its specific function”, it seems a pity that so little has actually been done since to actually ensure this correspondence.

  5. Christine says:

    Thomas Day made the exact observation in his book “Why Catholics Can’t Sing.” The heritage of the Irish who celebrated so many “quiet” Masses under English oppression was brought to this country at a time when the church was heavily dominated by Irish and German clergy. Singing was seen by the Irish as a concession to their Anglican overlords.

    I’m not sure missals versus hymnals have all that much to do with it. That doesn’t seem to be the case in continental Europe. German and Italian Catholics sing quite well in their churches.

    I also saw this comment in connection with a review of Day’s book:

    The Irish became the musical puritans of the American Catholic church, frowning on greats such as Mozart and Palestrina while promoting their familiar and maudlin native hymns. With most of the American Church inured to such insipid church music over the course of a few generations, it wasn’t a giant leap for the 60s radicals to impose their own brand of theologically questionable and musically awful “folk” and pop music on the Church, which is still with us today.

    With the new missal texts we will all be using shortly there very much needs to be a review of the abysmal state of music in the churches. For those Catholic parishes that use a resource such as “The Adoremus Hymnal” they are truly blessed.


  6. Christine says:

    And I don’t mean by my prior comments that there is no room for “contemporary” music, but it has to have a certain quality to be acceptable in a liturgical environment.

    • Louise says:

      Some contemporary hymns are excellent (and personally, I even like some of the shoddy ones, b/c I am still, to some extent, a child of this age).

  7. Christine says:

    In reality, prior to V2, Aussie Catholics sang hokey Irish hymns. Now we just sing hokey American hymns.

    And those American hymns ARE hokey, Louise, no doubt about it. Still, I’m 100% supporting your ascension to the throne. Mozart, Palestrina and Victoria can send me straight to St. Paul’s third heaven.

    With my Lutheran background I always loved Bach but as a Catholic those three venerable composers have stolen my heart.


  8. Past Elder / Terry Maher says:


    The mindset out of which the liturgy developed existed before anything like what you call music now, or even the ethnicities you mention, existed.

    A different mindset entirely has replaced it. Once again the RCC looks everywhere but itself for the source of its problems, because it is only and entirely about itself, its own god, which a priori must always be right and therefore any number of alternate realities will be invented in whichwill it is right.

    Meanwhile, both the world and the catholic church goes on without it.

    • Peregrinus says:

      Not wanting to be smart or anything, PE,but somebody who assures us that the world and the catholic church are going on without the RCC is not well-positioned to accuse others of inventing alternate realities.

      For good or ill, the reality is that the RCC is very much a part of the world, and of the catholic church, unless you have a very non-obvious definition of “world” and of “catholic church”.

      • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

        Well Perry, I like you, so far as I can tell in a virtual environment, so no harm done.

        Were it not for my particular background, I would like most people have little to no contact with or knowledge of the RCC, nor see any reason to seek it. A curious anachronism at best, maybe useful if a Catholic hospital is around and you’re sick, or a Democrat here seeking to hold the Catholic vote, since the bishops pretty well tow the liberal line except for abortions and contraceptives though they are common enough among the “faithful”.

        And yes, all the other heterodox churches with liturgical pretensions have quite hopped aboard the Vatican II bandwagon, but they are as irrelevant to the world or the catholic church as the RCC.

        I would agree though that the RCC is very much a part of the world, but I don’t think I mean that in the sense you do.

        I think though Perry that this revisionism applied to church music — which after four degrees in music I may have picked up a thing or two — is really just a little more than I can bother with.

        • Louise says:

          I cannot, for the life of me, work out why anyone would need four degrees in music. Or why we need to know about it.

          • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

            Oh I dunno, geez, Louise, I guess it sort of looks good when one applies for professorships in a field to have some credentials (high school diploma, bachelor, master, doctor) in it.

            And sometimes, though apparently not here, general audiences like to know if a person stating something actually has some background or training in it.

            • Louise says:

              You count your high school diploma??? Good grief.

            • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

              No. I count the high school diploma in music I got from the National Guild of Piano Teachers, not my high school diploma from Lourdes High School.

              And I left out altogether master classes with Royal Academy of Music faculty, since there was no degree associated with them.

          • Salvatore says:

            “…Or why we need to know about it.”

            Well you’ve got to admit it’s kinda relevant to the current discussion. ;)

            • Louise says:

              Unless I’m mistaken, this isn’t a job application. I have no objection to listening to people better qualified than myself, but I’m less inclined to do so with someone who is typically belligerant and who insists on telling us he has *four* degrees.

              PE had an experience of the Church which he seems to assume was more or less as the Church had always been and then when it changed (and I’m the first to admit that the changes at the parish level were dire) became so disenchanted that now he is a Lutheran, via Judaism, and cannot tell us where we can find Christ’s Church.

              He tells us we hold all our views a priori, yet he is no different as far as I can tell. He is right, a priori. He’s even got the 4 music degrees to prove it.

            • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

              Sorry, I thought I had made it quite clear in other posts here that I in no way thought, nor was I taught to think, that the post-Trent church was the way it had “always been”, and that change is not the issue, but change into what.

              If you find what I have to say inconvenient, that’s too bad, but if you want to refute it, then refute it rather than make it about me.

  9. Christine says:

    From a report filed by the BBC yesterday:

    The pontiff appeared buoyed up by the size of the huge and enthusiastic crowd of pilgrims from many countries who gathered in front of the basilica dedicated to Our Lady of Fatima.

    Wow. Doesn’t sound to me like the world is passing the Catholic Church by.

    It’s always interesting when those who were part of the preconciliar Catholic Church leave and claim they have no further interest in it. Even more interesting of the need to continue to show up to convince us of our error when the very Church they claim we are not a part of is the one they now soundly reject anyway as the whore of babylon (yep, I intentionally used lowercase).

    When Terry no longer feels the need to to this I’ll believe he’s made a total break with the Church of Rome.


    • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

      Wonderful. Argumentum ad hominem, the only defence of postconciliar “Catholicism” — he can’t have anything to say because there is something wrong with him, so we need not address what he said.

      I have no interest in the form of Protestantism calling itself Catholicism these days. What I have an interest in is a Lutheran pastor who fell for it.

      • Louise says:

        No worse than an argument “from authority,” Mr I Have Four Degrees In Music!

        • Past Elder / Terry Maher says:

          I realise that facts carry very little weight in RC thinking, however, argumentum ad verecundiam is not typically conducted by an appeal to oneself as that authority, as evidenced by the classic “ipse dixit” (he said it himself, not I said it myself), which derives from Cicero’s description of the arguments of Pythagoreans in De natura deorum (On the nature of the gods, Latin carrying little weight in the “Latin” rite either).

          However, it is not unknown, and is sometimes called “proof by tenure”, but not having tenure let alone a professorship since 1984 I doubt I could pull that off, let alone be accused of it.

          Argumentum ad verecundiam is a defect of induction. It is not the fact that an authority says it that makes a statement true; rather it is the truth of the statement and independent arguments supporting it that has led the authority to state it. But by the same token, or rather its converse, if the authority is not an authority based on other factors that does not make the statement necessarily false.

          In this thread, the conversation had narrowed from not matters theological and ecclesial in general to music, and while I might have expected, instead of the routine dismissals based on psychololgical analyses of my emotional or spiritual condition, to be challenged in that I am not an elder now, not a clergyman, not a theologian by training or credentials, instead to be dismissed by argumentum ad hominem from saying something because I do have degrees in that something.

          Oh well, if my first theory professor, an Eastman graduate also ordained ad organum for the Abbey and director of the schola cantorum in which I sang could be ousted by a triumvirate of a professor in German, in sociology and in theology in the Brave New Church, I suppose I should be honoured.

          Nah — make that DR I Have Four Degrees In Music!

  10. An Liaig says:


    Hymns were used very early on in Catholic liturgy but not in the mass. They always formed a part of the Divine Office in the cathedral tradition – less so in the monastic. The tradition was always that the mass was sung not that songs were sung in the mass. However, as you rightly point out, all the places where hymns can be sung during the mass are processional in some form and such processions were normally not accompanied by chant but by music. This seems to me to be a godd substitution if the the rest of the liturgy is also sung. If it is not, then the importance of those places which are sung is distorted.

    I invite anyone who is interested to come to mass at St. Patrick’s Mentone (Melbourne, Australia – okay, a bid of a trip if you are overseas but you would be most welcome!) on 11.00am Sunday to see and hear what can be done in a normal parish church.

    • PM says:

      To add to mentone, I have just been overseas and frequented a small parish in which the congregation sings the Missa De Angelis most Sundays – it can be done. The ultra-purists mightn’t like it – transcription into a modern five-line stave and organ accompaniment – but that type of purism is indeed self-defeating.

      I then went to Notre Dame in Paris where they choir sang some of the same Mass a capella, alternating verse by verse with the congregation supported by the organ. Again, some purists mightn’t like it, but it works.

      • Schütz says:

        that type of purism is indeed self-defeating.

        “Purism” has its place to remind us of the ideals for which we strive, but the ideal should never be confused with the messy reality in which we have to work!

  11. Brent Egan says:

    Dear Schutz,
    I was a blessed little boy. The Lutherans up the road loved the fact that I had huge lungs and loved to sing traddie hymns just when we Catholics were ditching all things traditional in the 1970’s. I didn’t receive Holy Communion with the Lutherans, but wow, I loved sharing their respect and love for good music, which has permeated my life. I loved singing then and now, and wish the Catholics at the “progressive” sites would stop saying that we don’t have a problem with music, because we clearly do! It’s OK to say we now have choice, but the fact is, we don’t. I can count on one hand the Catholic churches in Sydney that promote good music, and that is not good enough!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *