Wednesday, September 17, 2014

How and Why?

Wednesday greetings from the sunny Midwest.

I attended Mass recently at a parish. There was something that struck me as odd. When I inquired about it, I was told that when the pastor arrived at this particular parish, he insisted that his wishes be carried out.

This concerns music during the communion procession. The General Instruction of the Roman Missal has this to say:

86. While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the “communitarian” character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful. However, if there is to be a hymn after Communion, the Communion Chant should be ended in a timely manner. Care should be taken that singers, too, can receive Communion with ease.

87. In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion: (1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time; (3) a chant from another collectionof Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) some other suitable liturgical chant (cf. no. 86) approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people.

When communion time arrived at this particular parish, the excellent violinist and pianist played three solo pieces, without any singing: Let There Be Peace on Earth, Panis Angelicus, and another piece I cannot recall. The distribution of communion took somewhere between 12 and 15 minutes. It all just felt so strange to me. Why were we not invited to sing?

I made some inquiries and found out that the pastor of this particular parish, who is well-liked and is a marvelous pastor, feels that singing during communion is "distracting." Therefore, he doesn't allow it.

How does this happen and why is it allowed to happen? Do any of you have similar experiences to share?

Gotta sing. Gotta pray.



Liam said...

He's probably relying on the last sentence on GIRM 115 to give him discretion over the matter.

115. By “Mass with a congregation” is meant a Mass celebrated with the participation of the faithful. It is moreover appropriate, whenever possible, and especially on Sundays and holy days of obligation, that the celebration of this Mass take place with singing and with a suitable number of ministers. It may, however, also be celebrated without singing and with only one minister.

* * *

There are also the general norms about singing earlier in the GIRM that provide the general context against which the specific musical references later in the GIRM should be considered:

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 (cf. Col 3:16). Singing is the sign of the heart’s joy (cf. 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 some parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, especially the Profession of Faith and the Lord’s Prayer, according to the simpler settings.

John Halloran said...

However, in this case, the parish has the talent and the gifts necessary to sing the song during Communion. It's not just "distracting"... it has to do with a long-held belief by this pastor that it takes work to get the Assembly to sing at this time of the Mass and our energies are better spent singing in other places... it's a very odd experience to hear that violinist playing "common" Communion songs and no one singing...

Fran said...

I'm late to this one, but not singing at that times seems antithetical to... well, communion. Oh well.