Rev. Christopher Smith, STL, Parochial Vicar at Saint Francis-by-the-Sea Catholic Church on Hilton Head Island dispels eight commonly held myths about music at Mass. Would that all contemporary liturgists took a few minutes to read this concise and breezily argued Tour de force...
Myth #4: We are supposed to sing four hymns at Mass
Catholics in the United States have become used to singing a hymn at the entrance, at the offertory, during Communion and at the recessional at Sunday Mass. This “four-hymn sandwich” actually harkens back to pre-Vatican II days in which congregations who could not pull off Latin music were allowed to sing English hymns at Low Masses.
When English was allowed in the Mass and the rite of Mass changed, many parishes continued this practice, albeit often with different music. While hymns are allowed at Mass, they are not actually what the church asks for during those times.
The missal, the large book from which the priest reads the prayers at Mass, provides short scriptural sentences called antiphons for the entrance and communion. In the church’s legislation on sacred music, these antiphons have pride of place for singing in the Mass. The antiphons are intimately connected with the other prayers of each Sunday’s Mass. The church allows for substitutions with other appropriate songs, but they should be modeled in character after those antiphons.
Hymns are not a part of the Roman eucharistic liturgy; they belong more properly to the Liturgy of the Hours. The church prefers the antiphons drawn from the Bible to hymns composed by people.
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