This long awaited translation of the Mass will replace the one we have been using for nearly 40 years.  It is the fruit of the intense labour of hundreds of bishops, scholars, translators and two popes.  In English speaking countries around the world, the new translation will begin with a joyful noise – the singing of the new texts of the Mass. 

This musical introduction of the third edition of the English Missal in itself represents a new approach to the celebration of the Mass – by singing the actual words of the Mass, not only a few hymns during the Mass.  It is one of the signals of a new era of liturgical renewal; a renewal grounded firmly in the Second Vatican Council’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium  which said, “The Musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.  The true purpose of sacred music is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful” (112). 

This new more accurate translation of the words of Mass will reveal a deeper meaning, thus a fuller understanding of the link between Sacred Scripture and the ancient prayers of the Church.  The re-sacralizing of the music of Catholic worship is more reverent sounding and is now joined to a new chant based musical setting.  The effort to recover the Church’s musical heritage was begun early in the 20th century by Pope Pius X, who sought to restore Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony and the engagement of active participation of all Catholics in worship.  Singing songs people know, especially at communion is especially important, so that they can engage in praising God through chant.

The Liturgical movement was somewhat side tracked with the social and cultural upheavals that followed the Second Vatican Council.  Thus the sound of Church music often became indistinguishable from the sound of secular music.  Innovation trumped genuine renovation of our sacred musical heritage.  However in 2000, Pope John Paul II announced the new edition of the Roman Missal, the third “typical edition.”  Now a decade later, the English translation is ready to be implemented.  It should be noted though, that the GIRM (General Instruction of the Roman Missal) has been in effect since 2002, although most churches have yet to implement those changes; we will be doing them all together at once.

There have also been many instructional documents since Vatican II on how to implement the Council’s vision of the Sacred Liturgy.  In 2001, the 5th instructional document was issued; it was called Liturgiam Authenticam (Authentic Liturgy).  After much loving labour, the new English translation has arrived.  It is a great gift to the Church – to Catholics of our time.  This gift has also re-ignited the renewal of sacred music begun so long ago.  Catholic musicians are now composing and publishing new chant based and choral setting for the Mass.  For the next year, Canadians will be using the Celebrate in Song Mass setting by John Dawson, these are the only ones we are permitted to do for now.  Only approved acclamations may be sung e.g. Lamb of God, Holy, Holy, Holy, etc.  If choirs don’t know them, the Gloria and other parts may be said.

When we begin to sing the Kyrie Eleison, Gloria, the Credo, the Sanctus, Memorial acclamation, the Great Amen and the Lamb of God in French, English, Greek or Latin etc. we will join our voices together in singing beautiful hymns from our vast treasury of sacred music.  We will join our voices with the angels in offering praise and thanksgiving to God.

What does the General Instruction of the Roman Missal say about the importance of singing?

#39 – The Christian Faithful who come together as one in expectation of the Lord’s coming are instructed by the Apostle Paul to sing together Psalms, hymns, and spiritual canticles (Col 3:16).  Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (Acts 2:46).  Thus St. Augustine says rightly, “Singing is for one who loves,” and there is also an ancient proverb: “Whoever sings well prays twice over.”

#40 – Great importance should therefore be attached to the use of singing in the celebration of the Mass, with due consideration for the culture of peoples and abilities of each liturgical assembly.  Although it is not always necessary e.g. in weekday Masses to sing all the texts that are in principle meant to be sung.  Every care should be taken that singing by the ministers and the people not be absent in celebrations that occur on Sundays and on Holydays of Obligation.  However in the choosing of the parts actually to be sung, preference is to be given to those that are of greater importance and especially to those which are to be sung by the Priest or the Deacon or a reader, with the people replying, or by the Priest and people together.

#41 – The main place should be given, all things being equal, to Gregorian chant, as being proper to the Roman Liturgy.  Other kinds of sacred music, in particular polyphony, are in no way excluded; provided that they correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action and that they foster the participation of all the faithful.  Since the faithful from different countries come together ever more frequently, it is desirable that they know how to sing together at least parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Profession of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer, according to the simpler settings (SC54).


Practical Points for our Choirs:

  1. The Entrance Antiphon can replace the Entrance chant, it may be sung by the Cantor, or the priest, but not from the ambo.  We will only use this option at weekday masses.
  2. Musicians may announce the opening chant before mass begins, but not during the Mass.
  3. I am open to intoning and singing as much of the Mass as you would like.  The Mass is a dialogue – the priest has certain parts and the people of God certain parts.
  4. Text of the Gloria must not be replaced by another.  It is sung from the choir section, but not from the ambo because the ambo is reserved only for the Word of God.  It is not sung during Advent or Lent.  Even announcements must be done from a separate podium, exceptions are the Prayers of the Faithful & the Easter Exsultet. 
  5. Offer a period of silence after the first reading, Psalm and the second reading e.g. 20-30 sec.  The priest offers a time of silent meditation before the gospel and after the homily.
  6. We must proclaim or sing the Responsorial Psalm of the day from the Lectionary and it cannot be replaced by another, except seasonal ones.  It is sung or read from the ambo.
  7. The words of the Alleluia must be the ones from the Lectionary – Readings of the day.  It is sung by the choir at weekend masses; Fr. Doug will sing it at weekday Masses, or in the summer.  It is also not sung from the ambo.  The only time of year it is not sung is during Lent.
  8. Instrumental music or a chant accompanies the procession of gifts.
  9. Choirs standing at consecration, should make a profound bow when the priest genuflects.
  10. Singing for the communion chant begins as the priest consumes the Eucharistic species, thus the choir begins immediately as Fr. Doug consumes.  They will then receive first after the extraordinary ministers, hoping the congregation will continue the chant.  The choir director must be aware of the communion line, so as to conclude the chant close to when the last person receives.  The people will then kneel or sit, a musical meditation may continue briefly as the Eucharist is reposed in the tabernacle and as Fr. Doug purifies a chalice, but no longer.  We will sit in meditative silence.

“Singing is to express outwardly the communicants’ union in spirit by means of unity of their voices, to give evidence of the joyful heart, and to highlight more the communitarian character of the Communion procession (nn.86, 158).

  1. Closing rites, as well as opening rites may be sung, and I would like to use them on special occasions such as: Christmas, Easter etc.
  2. In the summer, choirs will have a summer break after the Corpus Christi weekend on June 10th, 2012.  We will resume in September.  Choirs may have the option of continuing in the summer, but we will only sing the opening chant, procession of gifts, communion chant and closing chant.  Funerals would still require a full choir for all parts of the mass in the summer.
  3. GIRM asks that the sanctuary be reserved only for the ordinary minister and extraordinary ministers after the priest consumes communion.  So choirs can consider being up front in a designated area, or in the first few pews, to model participation by the congregation in singing (GIRM #312).
  4. Choirs should consider a practice schedule until these music settings are learned, perhaps an hour before mass, or at a time that suits you all.

Some other helpful websites for sacred music include:                      


You may wish to download a full copy of General Instructions of the Roman Missal by clicking this link:   GIRM


Thank you all for your service to the people of God from the Margarees, as we seek to give praise and glory to our loving God.         

Peace be with you all, Father Doug