“Among the many signs and symbols used by the Church to celebrate its faith, music is of preeminent importance. As sacred song united to words it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.” CSL, #112 . “In addition to expressing texts, music can also unveil a dimension of meaning and feeling, a communication of ideas and intuitions, which words alone cannot yield.” Music in Catholic Worship, #24 ‘
For more information about the criteria used in the selection of liturgical music, see below. For an eloquent statement about the “Theology of Celebration” (largely inspired by Fr. Eugene Walsh), click here.
The Three Judgments for Music in Catholic Worship
To determine the value of a given musical element in a liturgical celebration a threefold judgment must be made: musical, liturgical, and pastoral.
- Is the music technically, aesthetically, and expressively good? This judgment is basic and primary and should be made by competent musicians.
The Liturgical Judgment
- The nature of the liturgy itself will help to determine what kind of music is called for, what parts are to be preferred for singing, and who is to sing them.
- The choice of sung parts, the balance between them, and the style of musical setting used should reflect the relative importance of the parts of the Mass or other service) and the nature of each part. Thus elaborate settings of the entrance song, “Lord have Mercy” and “Glory to God” may make the proclamation of the word seem unimportant; and an overly elaborate offertory song with a spoken “Holy, Holy, Holy Lord” may make the eucharistic prayer seem less important.
- Does the music express and interpret the text correctly and make it more meaningful? Is the form of the text respected?
- Special musical concern must also be given to the role of the congregation, the cantor, the choir, and the instrumentalists.
In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. Propterea sicut per unum hominem in hunc mundum peccatum intravit et per peccatum mors et ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit in quo omnes peccaverunt. Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat sed habeat vitam aeternam.
Sic enim dilexit Deus mundum ut Filium suum unigenitum daret ut omnis qui credit in eum non pereat sed habeat vitam aeternam. Omnis enim quicumque invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit. Et ait faciamus hominem ad imaginem et similitudinem nostram et praesit piscibus maris et volatilibus caeli et bestiis universaeque terrae omnique reptili quod movetur in terra.
In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. Omnis enim quicumque invocaverit nomen Domini salvus erit. In principio creavit Deus caelum et terram. Propterea sicut per unum hominem in hunc mundum peccatum intravit et per peccatum mors et ita in omnes homines mors pertransiit in quo omnes peccaverunt.
The Pastoral Judgment
- Does music in the celebration enable the people to express their faith, in this place, in this age, in this culture? [In other words, can the assembly sing the music, is it appropriate for them and does it foster their participation in the prayer and celebration of the liturgy?] Music for the congregation must be within its members’ “performance” capability.
(from the document on “Music in Catholic Worship”, published by the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy in 1972. )
Download pdf file of the newest document on liturgical music from the U.S. Bishops: Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship
For more information about singing or playing with St. Martin’s liturgical musicians, please contact the Liturgy Office at 289-9614. We also need people willing and able to operate our sound boards at most Masses.