16 Replies to “10 Reasons Why Catholics Should Sing Good Hymns”

  1. I am all in favor of Catholics singing hymns, and good ones, and, being raised as a Protestant, I miss the joy when an entire congregation sings mightily. BUT what about the fact that the only time Catholics seem to sing hymns is at Mass, when hymns are NOT a part of the Roman Eucharistic Liturgy? I would rather encourage Catholics to sing the propers at Mass, and hymns at other occasions….

  2. The hymn in the video above, particularly in that musical setting is soooo Anglican that its use in a Catholic context would be, to these English ears at least, as incongruous as Anglican congregations belting out "This is the image of our Queen, who reigns in bliss above". Fr Longenecker's favourite, Charles Wesley's "O thou who camest from above" sung to the tune 'Hereford' is a different matter, and I have heard Catholic congregations singing it with gusto. Another popular Wesley hymn is "Love divine, all loves excelling" which was sung to the tune 'Blaenwern' as a recessional at B XVI's Westminster Cathedral Mass in 2010.

    I agree with Fr Smith. A hymn before Mass and after Mass is acceptable. A Gregorian office hymn sung as a motet during Mass is acceptable. Hymns replacing the Propers are not. Until the middle of the 19th century the Anglican Church did not approve of hymns accompanying the liturgy – in his Anglican days Newman struggled to get translations of the ancient office hymns accepted.

  3. It's been my experience that in the EF, the singing of hymns and the use of the propers are not mutually exclusive, but rather serve to enhance one another and enrich the celebration of the Mass.

    We sing two or three verses of an opening and closing vernacular congregational hymn (usually the Anglican Hymnal 1982) along with all the propers, and polyphony at the Offertory and Communion, and a chanted ordinary and have been doing so for four years and have received numerous thanks and praise for this paradigm, and I'm convinced that the congregational hymns we sing have helped to create an atmosphere of welcome and camaraderie in our congregation and have incidentally helped people coming from the Novus Ordo to feel instantly at home at the TLM.

    It seems to me that any attempt to present a dichotomy between hymns and propers (in the EF at least) misses the "genius" of the Roman liturgy which easily accommodates the singing of both hymns and propers and other musical genres. The propers can accomplish what the hymns cannot, and the hymns can accomplish what the propers can't, but together they have a synergistic and mutually enriching effect on both the experience of the people and of the celebrant.

  4. Julie's situation is quite unusual, and I would have no objection to the practice. But in the average Catholic parish, the propers are not even an issue. Congregations and even the clergy most often think that the hymns are the propers. Today there are places where, in the Novus Ordo, a hymn is sung and then the proper text is sung to a simple melody. This is a step in the right direction. But the genuine propers are a synthesis of text and melody, i.e., Gregorian chant. When the congregation sings the Ordinary of the Mass well, then the propers can also take their place when sung by the choir in the Gregorian melodies.

  5. A post-Communion hymn of praise is allowed by the Liturgy.

    GIRM 88. When the distribution of Communion is over, if appropriate, the Priest and faithful pray quietly for some time. If desired, a Psalm or other canticle of praise or a hymn may also be sung by the whole congregation.

  6. Try the hymn in the video to the tune Universal Praise. I think you might like it.

    A post-Communion hymn, allowed by GIRM 88 as above, need not replace a proper.

  7. In a sung EF Mass it is permissible to sing a vernacular hymn before the start of Mass (unusual) or after the end of Mass (quite common). During Mass Latin hymns are allowed, even Christmas carols – I have sung Quem Pastores and Personent Hodie at Midnight Mass and you could even get away with Silent Night if you sang the Latin version (Sancta nox, placida nox).

  8. I can't find Universal Praise. The usual tune used over here is the rather lacklustre Luckington. A splendid hymn for the start of advent is "Lo, he comes with clouds descending" (also by Charles Wesley) sung to the stirring 18th century tune Helmsley. But I guess a lot of parishes will be singing "O come O come Emmanuel" this Sunday, oblivious to its unsuitability.

  9. I'm afraid that's a little culturally narrow, JP. Anglo-Catholics have been singing Marian hymns for a long time; and now as Catholics in full communion they combine robust singing of good hymns with singing the mass in a way that would serve as an object lesson to many a parish.

  10. I just remembered a passage in St. Augustine's Confessions which resonates with Fr. Longenecker's article, wherein St. Augustine (was he an Italian?) describes how he wept for joy when he heard the sweet voices "flooding his ears" during the singing of the hymns and chants of the church:

    "Quantum flevi in hymnis et canticis tuis, suave sonantis ecclesiae tuae vocibus commotus acriter! voces illae influebant auribus meis, et eliquabatur veritas in cor meum, et exaestuabat inde affectus pietatis, et currebant lacrimae, et bene mihi erat cum eis.

    "How I wept, O Lord, amid Thy hymns and chants, greatly moved by the voices of the sweetly singing Church! They poured themselves into my ears, these voices, and like drops Thy truth penetrated my heart: the fervor of devotion was awakened, tears flowed, and ah, how happy I was then." (Confessions, IX, chapter 6)

  11. I'm ashamed to admit that I've walked out of Mass before due to swishy guitar music and the "hurried" feel of the regular Masses.

    Why are most Catholics so opposed to a calm, beautiful worship? English is quite a beautiful language! Look at how it is utilized in the Ordinariate parishes.

  12. St. Augustine was from North Africa (Tagaste). They had a lot of non-liturgical singing in Milan, particularly when they had to barricade themselves in church against the angry Emperor (whom St. Ambrose had denounced for an atrocity, and was refusing to allow to come inside the cathedral until he confessed and did penance).

  13. Hymns are specifically allowed following Communion, which I think is a great time to sing a good hymn of praise. I've seen it done very well.

  14. JulieC

    During Advent the themes of the coming of the Messiah and the Second Coming run parallel with each other, although traditionally we concentrate on the latter for the first two weeks. In the OF the Gospel for Advent II concerns John the Baptist, and an obvious hymn choice would be "On Jordan's bank the Baptist's cry". In the EF this year Advent II is displaced by the Feast of the Immaculate Conception. Advent III is Gaudete Sunday and I would kick off with "Rejoice, the Lord is King!" with its melody by GF Handel. That leaves "Veni Emmanuel" for Advent IV which links to the O-Antiphons of the Office. Do find a place for the Advent Prose "Rorate Caeli" which links to the Introit – I know it's French neo-Gregorian but it's wonderful!

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