"Rejoice in the Lord Always"









In any discussion of the ars celebrandi (the “art of celebrating”) as it relates to the

Holy Mass, perhaps nothing is more important or has a greater impact than the

place of sacred music. The beauty, dignity and prayerfulness of the Mass depend

to a large extent on the music that accompanies the liturgical action. The Holy

Mass must be truly beautiful, the very best we can offer to God, reflecting his

own perfect beauty and goodness.


Because the place of sacred music is so important, I am issuing this pastoral

letter on the nature, purpose and quality of sacred music. This is an important

discussion to have, since so often the music selected for Mass is reduced to a

matter of subjective “taste,” i.e. what style of music appeals to this or that person

or group, as if there were no objective principles to be followed. There are

indeed objective principles worthy of study and proper implementation, as will be



At the outset, it must be acknowledged that Church musicians have labored long

and hard in the wake of the Second Vatican Council to help accomplish the

Council’s goals as it concerns the renewal of the Sacred Liturgy, especially the

Mass. Indeed, many have made it their life’s work to provide music for the

Sacred Liturgy. The Church, including both clergy and laity, is grateful beyond

words for their dedication and service. It must also be said that the principles

and practical applications which follow will come as a real change in focus and

direction for many of these same dedicated musicians. What is attempted here

is a faithful presentation of what the Church has taught as it regards sacred

music from the time before the Council, at the Council itself, and in the

implementation of the Council’s thought in subsequent years. Although much of

what follows may contravene the formation that many have experienced over

recent years, this is in no way to be interpreted as a criticism of those dedicated

Church musicians who have offered their service with a generous heart and with

good will.


Change can be difficult, but this can also be an exciting time of rediscovering the

spirit of the Liturgy and exploring new horizons of sacred music. Through

education and formation, the Diocese will attempt to provide all the support,

encouragement and assistance it can to musicians in implementing the Church’s

vision and norms for sacred music.



1. Some history and the nature and purpose of Sacred Music

Questions concerning the place of music in divine worship can be traced back to

the earliest days of the Church. At around the time of the Edict of Milan (313

A.D.) and the legalization of Christianity, the question of the inclusion of music in

sacred worship was raised and much debated. Did it have a place at all in the

Church’s worship? Since the psalms, part of Sacred Scripture, were meant to be

sung, music was seen, ultimately, to be part of the very integrity of the Word of

God. Furthermore, since Christian worship was moored to the Sacred

Scriptures, music was seen as necessarily worthy of being preserved and

fostered in the public worship of the Church.


Therefore, in the tradition of all the apostolic Churches, sacred music has been

considered integral to the Sacred Liturgy. This means that the music proper to

the Mass is not merely an addendum to worship, i.e. something external added

on to the form and structure of the Mass. Rather, sacred music is an essential

element of worship itself. It is an art form which takes its life and purpose from

the Sacred Liturgy and is part of its very structure.


The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable

value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this

pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a

necessary or integral part of the solemn Liturgy.1 (emphasis added)

This understanding would preclude the common notion that we take the Mass

and simply “tack on” four songs (the opening hymn, offertory hymn, communion

hymn and recessional hymn), along with the sung ordinary of the Mass (Gloria,

Sanctus, etc…). We must come to see that, since sacred music is integral to the

Mass, the role of sacred music is to help us sing and pray the texts of the Mass

itself, not just ornament it.


1 Vatican Council II: Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) 112


With this understanding of the essential nature of sacred music, what might be

said of its purpose?


Sacred music, being a complementary part of the solemn liturgy,

participates in the general scope of the liturgy, which is the glory of God

and the sanctification and edification of the faithful.2

The following statement from the Second Vatican Council in 1962 is drawn from

the moto proprio, Tra le sollecitudini of Pope St. Pius X in the year 1903, just

quoted above:

Accordingly, the Sacred Council, keeping to the norms and precepts of

ecclesiastical tradition and discipline, and having regard to the purpose of

sacred music, which is the glory of God and the sanctification of the

faithful, decrees as follows...3 (emphasis added)


The Church solemnly teaches us, then, that the very purpose of sacred music is

twofold: the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful. This

understanding of the essential nature and purpose of sacred music must direct

and inform everything else that is said about it. This essential nature and

purpose will also have important and serious implications regarding its proper

place within our divine worship.


2. The qualities of Sacred Music

With a proper understanding of the nature and purpose of sacred music and its

relationship to the Holy Mass, it is necessary to next discuss the essential

qualities of sacred music. These qualities are not arbitrary or subjective. Rather

they objectively flow from the essential nature and purpose of sacred music itself.

Church teaching emphasizes that the music proper to the Sacred Liturgy

possesses three qualities: sanctity, beauty, and universality. Only music which

possesses all three of these qualities is worthy of the Mass.


Sacred music should consequently possess, in the highest degree, the

qualities proper to the liturgy, and in particular sanctity and goodness of

form, which will spontaneously produce the final quality of universality.4

2 Pius X: Tra le sollecitudini I:1

3 SC 112

4 Pius X, Op. cit. I:2


a. The sanctity of sacred music

Turning once again to the teaching of Pope St. Pius X, which has had a

significant impact on the teaching of the Second Vatican Council in this regard,

we read:


[Sacred music] must be holy, and must, therefore, exclude all profanity not

only in itself, but in the manner in which it is presented by those who

execute it.5


Vatican II emphasized the sanctity of sacred music in these terms:

(S)acred music is to be considered the more holy in proportion as it is

more closely connected with the liturgical action, whether it adds delight to

prayer, fosters unity of minds, or confers greater solemnity upon the

sacred rites.6


b. The intrinsic beauty (artistic goodness) of sacred music

Since everything associated with the Mass must be beautiful, reflecting the

infinite beauty and goodness of the God we worship, this applies in a special way

to the music which forms an essential and integral part of our divine worship. In

the words of Pope Benedict XVI:


Certainly, the beauty of our celebrations can never be sufficiently

cultivated, fostered and refined, for nothing can be too beautiful for God,

Who is Himself infinite Beauty. Yet our earthly liturgies will never be more

than a pale reflection of the liturgy celebrated in the Jerusalem on high,

the goal of our pilgrimage on earth. May our own celebrations nonetheless

resemble that liturgy as closely as possible and grant us a foretaste of it! 7


Pope St. Pius X spoke of the artistic value of sacred music, another way of

considering its intrinsic beauty:


[Sacred music] must be true art, for otherwise it will be impossible for it to

exercise on the minds of those who listen to it that efficacy which the

Church aims at obtaining in admitting into her liturgy the art of musical


5 Ibid. I:2

6 SC 112

7 Pope Benedict to priests at the Cathedral of Notre Dame, Paris, September 13, 2008

8 Pius X: Op. cit. I:2


c. The universality of sacred music

Finally, the third essential quality of sacred music must be considered, i.e. its

universality. This quality means that any composition of sacred music, even one

which reflects the unique culture of a particular region, would still be easily

recognized as having a sacred character. The quality of holiness, in other words,

is a universal principle that transcends culture.


While every nation is permitted to admit into its ecclesiastical compositions

those special forms which may be said to constitute its native music, still

these forms must be subordinate in such a manner to the general

character of sacred music, that nobody of any nation may receive an

impression other than good on hearing them.9


This articulation of the essential qualities of sacred music is necessary because

there is often a lack of understanding or confusion as to what music is proper to

the Mass and worthy of its inclusion in divine worship. Not every form or style of

music is capable of being rendered suitable for the Mass.


One often gets the impression that, as long as the written text of the music or

song speaks about God, then it qualifies as “sacred music.” Given what has

been articulated here, this is clearly not the case. As an example, the Gloria of

the Mass set to a Polka beat or in the style of rock music is not sacred music.

Why not? Because such styles of music, as delightful as they might be for the

dance hall or a concert, do not possess all three of the intrinsic qualities of

sanctity, artistic goodness (beauty) and universality proper to sacred music.


3. The Treasury of Sacred Music in the Church

The treasury of sacred music in the Church is indeed vast and spans many

centuries, from the earliest development of chant down to our own day. But it

must be born in mind that any music which forms part of this treasury, whether

ancient or modern, must possess the essential qualities mentioned above and

must have the true nature and purpose of sacred music as understood by the


An examination of the different forms of sacred music held as a treasure by the

Church is in order at this point.


a. Gregorian chant

Any discussion of the different forms of sacred music must start with Gregorian

chant. The Second Vatican Council, taking a lead from Pope St. Pius X,

articulated that Gregorian chant should enjoy a pride of place in the Roman

liturgy. Every official liturgical document and every teaching of the popes since

9 Pius X: Op cit. I:2

then has reiterated this important principle. Here again are the words of Pope St.

Pius X:


Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for

sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the

more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement,

inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it

becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the

less worthy it is of the temple.10


As regards the faithful’s participation in sacred chant, Pope Pius XI had the

following to say:


In order that the faithful may more actively participate in divine worship, let

them be made once more to sing the Gregorian Chant, so far as it belongs

to them to take part in it.11


These themes of Pope St. Pius X and Pope Pius XI were actively taken up by the

Fathers of the Second Vatican Council:

(S)teps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to

sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which

pertain to them.12


The Church acknowledges Gregorian Chant as specially suited to the

Roman Liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given

pride of place in liturgical services.13


The General Instruction of the Roman Missal, in setting out the norms for the

celebration of Mass reiterates this last point of the Council:

The main place should be given, all things being equal, to Gregorian

chant, as being proper to the Roman Liturgy.14

One of the great Popes of our time, Blessed John Paul II, made the teaching of

Pope St. Pius X his own:


With regard to compositions of liturgical music, I make my own the

"general rule" that St Pius X formulated in these words: "The more closely

a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and

savour the Gregorian melodic form, the more sacred and liturgical it

10 Ibid. II:3

11 Pius XI: Divini cultus, 1928

12 SC 54

13 SC 116

14 GIRM 41


becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the

less worthy it is of the temple". It is not, of course, a question of imitating

Gregorian chant but rather of ensuring that new compositions are imbued

with the same spirit that inspired and little by little came to shape it.15

Our Holy Father, Pope Benedict XVI, has made known his own teaching on the

importance of Gregorian chant to the sacred liturgy:


(W)hile respecting various styles and different and highly praiseworthy

traditions, I desire, in accordance with the request advanced by the Synod

Fathers, that Gregorian chant be suitably esteemed and employed as the

chant proper to the Roman liturgy.16


The U.S. Bishops’ document on sacred music, Sing to the Lord, also reminded

the Church in the United States of the importance and pride of place enjoyed by

Gregorian chant. Some practical suggestions are given in that document for the

implementation of this principle.17


Given all of this strong teaching from the Popes, the Second Vatican Council,

and the U.S. Bishops, how is it that this ideal concerning Gregorian chant has not

been realized in the Church? Far from enjoying a “pride of place” in the Church’s

sacred liturgy, one rarely if ever hears Gregorian chant.


This is a situation which must be rectified. It will require great effort and serious

catechesis for the clergy and faithful, but Gregorian chant must be introduced

more widely as a normal part of the Mass. Some practical steps toward this are

outlined in the Directive section of this pastoral letter.


b. Other Sacred Music of the Church

As regards the sacred music which is appropriate for liturgical worship, next in

importance to Gregorian chant is the vast repertoire of sacred polyphony, old and

new, Eastern and Western. In the words of Vatican II:


(O)ther kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means

excluded from liturgical celebrations, so long as they accord with the spirit

of the liturgical action.18 (emphasis added)

The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great

care. Choirs must be diligently promoted.19

15 Blessed John Paul II: Chirograph for the Centenary of Tra le sollecitudini, 12

16 Benedict XVI: Sacramentum caritatis, 2007, n.42

17 USCCB, Sing to the Lord (2007), 72-80

18 SC 116, GIRM 41

19 SC 114


(Sacred polyphony is composed in a particular musical form and is most often

associated with the Renaissance and composers such as Palestrina, Victoria,

Tallis, Allegri and the like.)

Also a part of the Church’s musical treasury is the vast body of popular sacred

music. In the context of the sacred liturgy, the term “popular” does not signify the

so-called “pop culture” but comes from the Latin populus, people. Popular sacred

music includes hymnody, psalmody, vernacular Mass settings, many of the Latin

chant Mass settings, and other forms of sacred music suited to the musical

abilities of the people.


Religious singing by the people is to be intelligently fostered so that in

devotions and sacred exercises, as also during liturgical services, the

voices of the faithful may ring out according to the norms and

requirements of the rubrics.20


The musical treasury of the Church includes not only sacred music indebted to

European musical culture but also the sacred music native to other nations and

peoples, which has organically developed in the context of the Latin Rite. In a

community with vital social and historical ties to a specific culture, it can be most

fitting that the sacred music tradition of that culture be a part of its worship when,

under the guidance of the Church, it can be organically integrated into the

context of Catholic worship.


In certain parts of the world, especially mission lands, there are peoples

who have their own musical traditions, and these play a great part in their

religious and social life. For this reason due importance is to be attached

to their music, and a suitable place is to be given to it, not only in forming

their attitude toward religion, but also in adapting worship to their native



It is important to note here that when we speak of the sacred music of a

particular culture, we are indeed speaking of music that is considered truly

“sacred” within a culture. This principle is not applicable to subcultures within a

given society that have no connection with a religious or spiritual culture.


c. Secular Music

The Church recognizes an objective difference between sacred music and

secular music. Despite the Church’s norms, the idea persists among some that

the lyrics alone determine whether a song is sacred or secular, while the music is

exempt from any liturgical criteria and may be of any style. This erroneous idea,

which was alluded to earlier, is not supported by the Church’s norms either

before or since the Second Vatican Council.

20 SC 118

21 SC 119


This does not mean that more modern compositions are not to be admitted into

the Mass. However, such compositions must meet the essential and objective

criteria for what constitutes sacred music. Following are some useful citations

illustrating this point. First, from before the Second Vatican Council:


It cannot be said that modern music and singing should be entirely

excluded from Catholic worship. For, if they are not profane nor

unbecoming to the sacredness of the place and function, and do not

spring from a desire of achieving extraordinary and unusual effects, then

our churches must admit them since they can contribute in no small way

to the splendor of the sacred ceremonies, can lift the mind to higher things

and foster true devotion of soul. 22


An exhortation from the Council itself:

Let (composers) produce compositions which have the qualities proper to

genuine sacred music.23


From Blessed John Paul II:

Today, the meaning of the category ‘sacred music’ has been broadened to

include repertoires that cannot be part of the celebration without violating

the spirit and norms of the Liturgy itself. Not all the expressions of music

are able to express adequately the mystery grasped in the fullness of the

Church's faith. Consequently, not all forms of music can be considered

suitable for liturgical celebrations. 24


From our Holy Father Pope Benedict XVI:

As far as the liturgy is concerned, we cannot say that one song is as good

as another. Generic improvisation or the introduction of musical genres

which fail to respect the meaning of the liturgy should be avoided. As an

element of the liturgy, song should be well integrated into the overall

celebration. Consequently everything–texts, music, execution–ought to

correspond to the meaning of the mystery being celebrated, the structure

of the rite and the liturgical seasons. 25


These reflections on the nature, purpose, qualities and treasury of sacred music

in the Church’s liturgy present serious challenges in our own day as we seek to

renew the Mass in a way that respects, fosters and promotes the true nature of

the Mass itself. It will not be easy and will take time and patience. But it must be

22 Pius XII: Mediator Dei 193, 1947

23 SC 121

24 Blessed John Paul II: Chirograph on Sacred Music, 2003

25 Pope Benedict XVI: Sacramentum Caritatis, 2007


done if we are to achieve a genuine ars celebrandi in the Mass. The practical

Directives regarding sacred music in this pastoral letter will help move us in the

right direction.



The following directives are intended to guide the development of a deeper

understanding of the place of sacred music with the liturgy of the Mass and to

implement the fundamental principles outlined in this pastoral letter. They are to

be integrated into the life of the parishes, missions and schools of the Diocese of

Marquette. They are also applicable to all weddings and funerals in the Diocese,

even if celebrated outside of Mass. Although the implementation of these

directives may take some time and catechesis, these directives are to be

considered normative within the Diocese of Marquette under the authority of the

diocesan Bishop, to whom is entrusted the responsibility to moderate, promote

and guard the entire liturgical life of the diocesan Church.26


1. General Standards

a. Participatio actuosa (active participation)

Those responsible for sacred music in the Mass must foster and enable the

participatio actuosa (active participation) of all the faithful; all should have the

opportunity to participate fully and consciously in the sacred action of the Mass.

This does not mean that everyone present has to sing everything all the time; the

sacred music of the Mass pertains to different participants in different ways

depending on its structure and its position in the rite. The congregation should be

encouraged and enabled to sing whenever appropriate, and when the singing is

properly rendered by the cantor or choir alone, participate interiorly through

engaged and prayerful silent reflection. Likewise, the musicians should be

attentive and prayerfully engaged in the parts of the Mass which do not

necessarily involve music, both for their own spiritual good and so as not to

become a distraction to others. They should participate in the Mass, observing

all of the appropriate postures and gestures of the congregation to the fullest

degree possible.


b. Formation and compensation

Pastors should see that musicians and those who direct them have opportunities

for continuing education and authentic liturgical formation through agencies and

events approved by the Bishop. In accord with the Church’s teaching on

economic justice, pastors are to ensure that those who direct sacred music in the

26 Code of Canon Law (1983), c. 835 §1 and c. 838 §4.

parish receive just compensation for their time and skills, commensurate with

their experience and level of training.


c. Practice and liturgical discipline

As Pope Benedict XVI has stated, “Nothing can be too beautiful for God”.

Musicians should take these words to heart, because it is they who bear much of

the responsibility for bringing beauty to our liturgical celebrations. Pastors should

encourage musicians to aspire to the highest levels of beauty in sacred music

and to embrace with joy the work which this entails. We should always aim high

to offer God the best and the most beautiful music of which we are capable.

Whether paid or volunteer, those responsible for sacred music in the Mass every

week should be committed to prior practice and rehearsal. Every hour of worship

should represent at least two hours of structured preparation at a time and place

apart from the congregation.


d. Knowledge of the documents

Every pastor and music director has a serious responsibility to read and become

familiar with the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council

and the Church’s teaching documents on the liturgy and sacred music. Musical

decisions in the Mass should always be informed by knowledge of the principles

and norms contained in these documents. These documents are listed in the

Appendix and are easily accessible on the Internet.


e. Preparation not planning

It is important to keep in mind that we do not plan the Mass; the Church has

already provided us with a plan. We prepare to celebrate the Mass. This is a

subtle yet important distinction. The plan is found in the liturgical calendar and

the official liturgical books: the Ordo, the Missal, the Lectionary and the

Graduale. Our celebrations should carry out the Church’s plan as far as we are

able, according to the resources and talents of the community, formed by

knowledge of the norms and the Catholic worship tradition.


f. What should we sing at Mass?

1] The liturgical books (the Missal, Graduale and Lectionary) envision that, as a

rule, we sing the Mass at Mass, rather than sing songs during Mass. To truly sing

the Mass as described below is the ideal and should be an overall priority for

parish worship.


2] The sung parts of the Mass consist of the Ordinary, the Propers, the Orations

and the Dialogues:


The Ordinary consists of the Mass parts which are the same every Sunday:

Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. At times it is also appropriate to sing the

Credo. Ordinarily these pertain to the congregation, although on occasion a

skilled choir is permitted to sing a more challenging setting alone. They may be

sung in Latin or the vernacular, in Gregorian settings or in other forms of sacred



The Propers are the parts which vary according to the calendar: Entrance Chant,

Responsorial Psalm, Alleluia with its verse, Offertory Chant and Communion


Entrance Chant, Offertory Chant and Communion Chant


As the name implies, these are the chants sung at the Entrance,

preparation of the Gifts and Communion respectively. These are found in

the Graduale Romanum, the Missal and the Graduale Simplex, and are

intended to be sung in Latin or the vernacular. Using the texts and

musical settings for these chants is the first and preferred option.27 It is

worth noting that many of the texts for these chants as they are found in

the Roman Missal are new, and musical settings for them, in Latin and

English, are currently being composed by Church musicians.

Responsorial Psalm and the Alleluia with its verse

These are the chants between the readings. The Responsorial Psalm with

its response is normally taken from the Lectionary as assigned for that

day. A “seasonal” Psalm with its response selected from the Lectionary

may also be sung. A selection from the Graduale Romanum or the

Graduale Simplex may also be used.28 The Alleluia verse is normally

taken from the Lectionary itself or the Graduale. During Lent, the Alleluia

is replaced by the Verse before the Gospel.29


The Orations and Dialogues are the texts of the Collects and other prayers, and

those in which the celebrant and people address each other, for example the

greeting and its response: “The Lord be with you” - “And with your spirit”.

Musical notations for these dialogues are provided in the Missal and should be



g. What about hymns?

1] Hymns are a musical form pertaining more properly to the Liturgy of the Hours,

rather than the Mass. Hymn-singing at Mass originated in the custom of the

27 The General Instruction of the Roman Missal 48, 74 and 87.

28 Ibid. 61

29 Ibid. 63

people singing vernacular devotional hymns at Low Mass during the celebrant’s

silent recitation of the Latin prayers. However, the current Missal as well as

official liturgical documents envision a singing of the Mass as outlined above.


2] The Roman Missal assigns a few hymns to various Masses in the course of

the liturgical calendar (for example, the Sequences for Easter and Pentecost,

and the Ubi caritas and Pange lingua on Holy Thursday). However, the hymns

and songs commonly sung at Mass every week at the Entrance, Preparation of

the Gifts and Communion are not identified in the Missal. It is important to

recognize that when we sing hymns at these moments during Mass, it is because

we are omitting some of the Mass chants: the Propers as discussed above.


3] Singing hymns in place of the Proper chants is permissible for pastoral

reasons. The liturgical norms put the highest priority on singing the rite itself. We

may never substitute other texts for the Ordinary parts of the Mass as described

above. However, if it is not possible or practical to sing the Proper parts, we are

referred to a secondary option: substituting music from a source other than the

Missal, such as hymns from a hymnal.30 These cannot be just any songs; they

should be “liturgical” - based on liturgical texts or at least in some other way

closely tied in with the Mass or the season. They must also meet the

requirements for what constitutes sacred music. Note that this substitution of

hymns for the Propers applies only to the Entrance Chant, the Offertory Chant

and the Communion Chant, and never to the Responsorial Psalm or the Gospel



2. Specific Musical Standards for Parish Masses

a. Singing the Mass

1] One parish celebration every Sunday should be a Sung Mass (Missa cantata),

offered with consistency and with the greatest care and attention the community

can give it. In the former traditional parlance, this may have been referred to as a

High Mass. It could also be referred to as a Solemn Mass. A Sung Mass need

not be elaborate - indeed, the principle of noble simplicity should guide it. Other

Masses in the parish may include less singing and more recited parts, but the

Sung Mass sets the pattern and the model for sacred music in the parish.


2] The current Missal sometimes makes reference to the “principal” Mass of a

parish. This may be the appropriate choice for the celebration of the Sung Mass.

Parishes whose only Mass of precept is on Saturday may make this a Sung

Mass. Pastors who have the care of more than one parish may rotate the Sung

Mass among them weekly or seasonally according to local circumstances.

30 Ibid. 48, 74 and 87.


3] The Church’s liturgy admits of the principle of “degrees” or “progression” of

solemnity, according to the liturgical calendar and the capabilities of the ministers

of the Mass and the congregation. Singing plays a significant role in the

application of this principle. In other words, on more solemn occasions, more of

the Mass would be sung by the ministers and congregation and more elaborate

music might be used. Also, the specific capabilities of a congregation and the

ministers of the Mass might dictate which parts are sung, and whether simpler

forms of sacred music would best fit the situation. These principles are explained

in the Instruction on Music in the Liturgy (Musicam Sacram) following the Second

Vatican Council. Particularly helpful in this regard are the progressive degrees of

singing that should be employed in the celebration of Mass which are described

there.31 A very practical example of what is being said here would be the

expectation that a daily ferial Mass with a small congregation and no musicians

would employ much less singing than the Mass at Midnight for Christmas with full

choir and organist. Then there are gradations of solemnity and singing in



4] It must also be recognized that some parishes and missions simply do not

have the same pool of trained and qualified musicians as others. This does not

mean that they should not also benefit from a prayerful and sung celebration of

the Mass. It might mean that simpler forms of sacred music such as simple

sacred plainchant and hymnody would best fit the occasion and the local

situation. In small churches and congregations, more instruments and cantors

singing into a microphone and amplified throughout the church is not the solution.

Simple and basic forms of sacred music, done well and sung by the congregation

can create a more solemn and beautiful celebration of the Mass. It is worth

repeating that a Sung Mass need not be elaborate and the principle of noble

simplicity should guide it. In this way, the higher standards of sacred music

called for in this pastoral letter need not mean that getting through Mass will be

more difficult for the smaller parishes and missions of the Diocese.


b. Orations and Dialogues

For the Sung Mass, the celebrant should learn to sing, without instrumental

accompaniment, the celebrant’s chants for the orations and dialogues to the

melodies given in the Roman Missal, with the responses sung by the faithful.

There is the simple human reality that some priests are not gifted with the ability

to sing, or at least to carry a melody. In these cases, it might be more desirable

for the celebrant to chant recto tono (on the same note) the parts that belong to



c. The Ordinary

1] Every parish has been asked to learn and use the Mass of the Resurrection by

Randall DeBruyn as one of its regular Ordinary settings. A setting common to all

31 Musicam Sacram, 28


the parishes will ensure strong participation at diocesan liturgies. This particular

setting was chosen because it combines an elevated musical quality with

congregational “singability,” can be sung with or without a choir or cantor, and

makes no excessive demands on the organist, thus making it usable at any Mass

in parishes large or small. The Mass of the Resurrection is a setting which will

provide some musical continuity from parish to parish within the diocese, while

parishes gain a greater comfort level with the English plainchant settings of the

Ordinary, especially those found in the Roman Missal, which should be given

pride of place. Other settings are at the discretion of the parish, subject to the

liturgical norms of the Church as outlined in this pastoral letter. Clergy should set

an example by singing with the faithful wherever in the Mass this is appropriate.


2] Every parish and mission in the Diocese should establish to the best of its

ability at least a minimum Gregorian repertoire of the chanted Ordinary sung by

the people in Latin.32 Mass VIII (De Angelis) and Mass XVIII (Deus Genitor alme)

are the most popular and accessible. Parishes capable of more than this are

encouraged to build their chant repertoire beyond this minimum. (It is worth

noting that the melody given in the Missal itself for the Sanctus and the Agnus

Dei in English and Latin are from Mass XVIII.)


3] Optimally at Mass the Ordinary should consist of one musically unified suite

rather than mixing together parts of different settings.


d. The Propers

It is acknowledged that the singing of the Propers can present difficulties in

parishes unaccustomed to singing the Mass as described above. However, there

are parishes where the resources exist (or can be developed) to sing the

Propers. The pastors and musicians of these parishes are encouraged and

challenged to work toward a restoration of the sung Propers in some form at the

Sung Mass, according to the options which are described in the General

Instruction of the Roman Missal. Resources for the sung Propers are listed in the

Appendix to this letter.


e. Hymnody

1] Because they substitute for the sacred texts of the Propers, hymns and songs

must be genuinely sacred music. Texts must be theocentric - centered on God,

not on ourselves or the congregation. It is desirable that a hymn reflect the

Proper text whose position it occupies, or the Scripture readings of the day. At

the very least it should have some reference to the season or the feast. Its

length should also be taken into account considering the moment of the Mass it

will occupy so that it does not require to be cut short to fit the ritual action or

extend excessively beyond the same action.

32 SC 54; GIRM 41


2] It should be noted that the Missal makes no reference to a recessional hymn,

making it an appropriate time for an instrumental (e.g. pipe organ) piece, or

silence, especially during Lent.


3] Hymn and song texts must conform to the teachings and doctrines of the

Church, especially with regard to the Eucharistic Sacrifice and the Real Presence

of Christ in the Eucharist. Any which promote teachings contrary to the Faith are

not to be used and must be retired from the parish repertoire. It must be sadly

acknowledged that some hymns in approved hymnals, music issues and

missalettes do not reflect Catholic theology and should not be used. Musicians

should be attentive to this point and think carefully about the selection of hymns,

seeking guidance from the pastors of the Church when needed.


f. Respect for the given liturgical texts

1] The texts of the Roman Missal and the Lectionary, and none others, constitute

the official Mass in English. No one in the diocese, including the Bishop, has the

authority to add to, subtract from or change the words of the Mass, either sung or

recited. The only exceptions are when the Missal specifically gives an option,

using expressions such as “in these or similar words.” This is to be strictly

interpreted and observed.


2] The English text of the Responsorial Psalm must be the translation provided in

the Lectionary or in the revised Grail Psalter. These are the only English

translations of the Psalms approved for the Liturgy of the Word. The

Responsorial Psalm may not be replaced with another song or a paraphrase of a

psalm. The norms given in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal and the

Introduction to the Lectionary are to be followed in choosing the Psalm and its



3] The Gospel Acclamation is either “Alleluia” (without additional text added) or

one of the Lenten acclamations found in the Lectionary. The Gospel verse is to

be the proper text specified for the celebration.


4] Respect for the texts includes respect for the liturgical terminology of the

Missal. “Gathering Rite,” for example, is not a liturgical term; Mass begins with

the Introductory Rites.


g. Musical instruments

1] The Church accords the pipe organ pride of place as the musical instrument

most in harmony with the spirit of the Roman liturgy.

In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the

traditional musical instrument which adds a wonderful splendor to the

33 GIRM 63


Church's ceremonies and powerfully lifts up man's mind to God and to

higher things. 34


A parish seeking to purchase or replace an organ must first consult with the

diocesan staff responsible for the Sacred Liturgy. Usually a parish will be

required to engage the services of a qualified organ consultant (not an organ

company), to provide informed advice to the pastor and finance committee. If an

electronic organ is purchased, it must be manufactured to the American Guild of

Organists dimensional standards for its purchase to meet the approval of

diocesan staff and the bishop.


2] Musical instruments other than the pipe organ must truly contribute to the

sanctity and beauty of the Mass.

(Other instruments may be admitted) only on condition that the

instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use, accord

with the dignity of the temple, and truly contribute to the edification of the

faithful. 35


Blessed John Paul II expressed this principle in these words:

Care must be taken, however, to ensure that instruments are suitable for

sacred use, that they are fitting for the dignity of the Church and can

accompany the singing of the faithful and serve to edify them.36


3] During Lent the use of the organ and other instruments is allowed only as

necessary to accompany singing. After the Gloria of Holy Thursday until the

Gloria of the Easter Vigil, all music is exclusively vocal. If observance of this

discipline presents grave difficulties, an instrument may be used, but only in a

minimal way to support the voices.

4] Pre-recorded music may not substitute for actual musicians during the Mass.

All music in the Mass is to be sung and played by musicians who are physically

present as worshipers. If an organist or other instrumentalist suitable for the

celebration of Mass is not available, it is certainly in accord with the spirit of the

Roman Rite to sing the Mass in unaccompanied plainchant.


h. Acoustics

Interior renovation of churches should take into account the acoustical

environment of the sacred liturgy. An environment designed to destroy all noise

or reverberation will also make vibrant congregational participation very difficult

to achieve. Communal singing requires hard surfaces and resonant spaces that

34 SC 120

35 SC 120

36 Blessed John Paul II, Op. cit. 14


reflect, amplify, blend, and distribute sound waves so that the singers may hear

each other. Any difficulties that this may pose for the intelligibility of the spoken

word can be addressed through modern sound technology.


i. Copyright

Music under copyright is not to be photocopied or otherwise reproduced without

license or explicit permission of the copyright owner. Any copies of music on the

parish premises which violate copyright law must be destroyed.


3. Associations of Church Musicians

Association among Church musicians in the Diocese of Marquette is encouraged

as a means of fostering the true spirit of the sacred liturgy as it regards sacred

music. As an example, the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (NPM)

has been active in the Diocese for many years. They, along with all Church

musicians, are encouraged to continue their service and immerse themselves in

a careful study of this pastoral letter and the principles outlined here. The

formation of other Church musician associations is also encouraged, provided

they are committed to an authentic implementation of the Church’s directives on

the sacred liturgy and sacred music.


4. Musical Standards for Diocesan Liturgies

A] The musical standards of the Church are to be put into the fullest practice at

the Chrism Mass, Ordinations and other liturgies which the Bishop celebrates

with the clergy and faithful of the Diocese, both in the cathedral church and

elsewhere. Diocesan liturgies should be exemplary in their adherence to the

Church’s musical norms. In this way the bishop, priests and faithful of the

Diocese may participate in the fullest liturgical model available in the diocese.

B] All priests capable of singing should learn to sing the Roman Canon, or at

least the Consecration, to the melody in the Roman Missal. Thus they will be

able to unite their voices in the Consecration at concelebrated Diocesan Masses.



It is my sincere hope that this pastoral letter will be well received by the clergy

and faithful of the Diocese of Marquette, for the sake of an authentic renewal of

the Sacred Liturgy according to the teaching of the Second Vatican Council and

the mind of the Church. I am especially counting on our wonderful and dedicated

Church musicians to answer this call for renewal. May the renewal and reform of

sacred music in the Diocese of Marquette lead us together to a beautiful and


worthy celebration of the sacred mysteries of the Holy Mass, for the glory of God

and the sanctification of all the faithful.

I entrust this great effort of renewal to the intercession of St. Cecilia, patroness of

Church musicians, and to the Blessed Virgin Mary who sang the Lord’s praises in

her Magnificat. May we all together rejoice in the Lord always!

Given this day, January 21, 2013, the Memorial of St. Agnes, at the Chancery of

the Diocese of Marquette.


Sincerely yours in Christ,

Most Reverend Alexander K. Sample

Bishop of Marquette