UNITED STATES CONFERENCE OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS
UPDATED TO REFLECT THE ROMAN MISSAL, THIRD EDITION
Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship was developed by the Music Subcommittee of the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB). It was approved for publication by the full body of bishops at its November 2007 General Meeting and has been authorized for publication by the undersigned.
Msgr. David J. Malloy, STD
General Secretary, USCCB
I. Why we Sing?
1. God has bestowed upon his people the gift of song. God dwells within each human person, in the place where music takes its source. Indeed, God, the giver of song, is present whenever his people sing his praises.
"Do you not know that you are the temple of God, and that the Spirit of God dwells in you? If anyone destroys God's temple, God will destroy that person; for the temple of God, which you are, is holy"
(1 Cor. 3: 16-17)
2. A cry from deep within our being, music is a way for God to lead us to the realm of higher things. As St. Augustine says, "Singing is for the one who loves." Music is therefore a sign of God's love for us and of our love for him. In this sense, it is very personal. But unless music sounds, it is not music, and whenever it sounds, it is accessible to others. By its very nature song has both an individual and a communal dimension. Thus, it is no wounder that singing together in church expresses so well the sacramental presence of God to his people.
4. Jesus and his apostles sang a hymn before their journey to the Mount of Olives. St. Paul instructed the Ephesians to "[address] one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and praying to the Lord in your hearts." He sang with Silas in captivity. The letter of St. James' asks, "Is anyone among you suffering? He should pray. Is anyone in good spirits? He should sing praise."
(Mt. 26: 30; Mk 14: 26) (Eph. 5: 18-19) (Acts. 16: 25) (Jas. 5: 13)
5. Obedient to Christ and to the Church, we gather in liturgical assembly, week after week. As our predecessors did, we find ourselves "singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in [our] hearts to God." This commonly sung expression of faith within liturgical celebrations strengthens our faith when it grows weak and draws us into the divinely inspired voice of the Church at prayer. Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations can foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations may weaken it. Good music "make [s] the liturgical prayers of the Christian community more alive and fervent so that everyone can praise and beseech the Triune God more powerfully, more intently and more effectevely."
Holy Mother Church clearly affirms the role within worship of the entire liturgical assembly (bishop, priest, deacon, acolytes, ministers of the Word, music leaders, choir, extraordianary ministers of Holy Communion, and the congregation). Through grace, the liturgical assembly partakes in the life of the Blessed Trinity, which is itself a communion of love. In a perfect way, the Persons of the Trinity remain themselves even as they share all that they are.
II. The Church at Prayer.
The Church is always at prayer in her ministers and her people, and that prayer takes various forms in her life. Authentic sacred music supports the Church's prayer by enriching its elements. What follows below are the principal persons and elements that should guide both the development and the use of sacred music in the liturgy.
A. The Bishop.
In his capacity as "the prime steward of the mysteries of God in the particular Church entrusted to his care," the diocesan bishop is particularly concerned with the promotion of the dignity of liturgical celebrations, "the beauty of the sacred place, of the music, and of art." He carries out this duty through the example of his own celebration of the Sacred Liturgy, encouraging participation by his own example; by his attention to the practice of liturgical music in the parishes and communities of his diocese, especially in his own cathedral church; by his promotion of the continuing musical education and formation of clergy and musicians; and by his careful attention to the musical training of future priests and deacons.
The bishop is assisted in this role by his staff in the diocesan Office of Worship and/or the diocesan music or liturgical commission, which provides "valuable assistance in promoting sacred music together with pastoral liturgical action in the diocese."
B. The Priest.
No other single factor affects the Liturgy as much as the attitude, style and bearing of the priest celebrant, who "expresses prayers in the name of the Church and of the assembled community." "When he celebrates the Eucharist,... [the priest] must serve God and the people with dignity and humility, and by his bearing and by the way he pronounces the divine words he must convey to the faithful the living presence of Christ."
The importance of the priest's participation in the liturgy, especially by singing, cannot be overemphasized. The priest sings the presidential prayers and dialogues of the liturgy according to his capabilities, and he encourages sung participation in the Liturgy by his own example, joining in the congregational song. "If, however...the priest or minister does not possess a voice suitable for the proper execution of the singing, he can render without singing one or more of the difficult parts which concern him, reciting them in a loud and distinct voice.
However, this must not be done merely for the convenience of the priest or minister."
C. The Deacon.
After the priest, the deacon is first among the liturgical ministers, and he should provide an example by actively participating in the song of the gathered assembly.
D. The Gathered Liturgical Assembly.
"In the celebration of Mass the faithful form a holy people, a people of God's own possession and a royal Priesthood, so that they may give thanks to God and offer the unblemished sacrificial Victim not only by means of the hands of the Priest but also together with him and so that they may learn to offer their very selves."
E. Ministers of Liturgical Music.
The Second Vatican Council stated emphatically that choirs must be diligently promoted while ensuring that "the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs...." The choir must not minimize the musical participation of the faithful. The congregation commonly sings unison melodies, which are more suitable for generally unrehearsed community singing.
When the choir is not exercising its particular role, it joins the congreation in song. The choir's role in this case is not to lead congregational singing, but to sing with the congregation, which sings on its own or under the leadership of the organ or other instruments.
Choirs members, like all liturgical ministers, should exercise their ministry with evident faith and should participate in the entire liturgical celebration, recognizing that they are servants of the Liturgy and members of the gathered assembly.
Choirs and ensemble members may dress in albs or choir robes, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as choir vesture.
The psalmist, or "cantor of the Psalm," proclaims the Psalm after the first reading and leads the gathered assembly in singing the refrain. The psalmist may also, when necesary, intone the Gospel Acclamation and verse. Although this ministry is distinct from the role of the cantor, the two ministries are often entrusted to the same person.
Persons designated for the ministry of psalmist should "be accomplished in the art of singing Psalms and have a facility in public speaking and elocution." As one who proclaims the Word, the psalmist should be able to proclaim the text of the Psalm with clarity, conviction, and sensitivity to the text, the musical setting, and those who are listening.
The psalmist sings the verse of the Responsorial Psalm from the ambo or another suitable place. The psalmist may dress in an alb or choir robe, but always wears clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as vesture for the psalmist.
The cantor is both a singer and a leader of congregational song. Especially when no choir is present, the cantor may sing in alternation or dialogue with the assembly. For example, the cantor may sing the invocations of the Kyrie, intone the Gloria, lead the short acclamations at the end of the Scripture readings, intone and sing the verse of the Gospel Acclamation, sing the invocations of the Universal Prayer (Prayer of the Faithful), and lead the singing of the Agnus Dei. The cantor may also sing the verses of the Psalm or song that accompany the Entrance, Preparation of the Gifts, and Communion. Finally, the cantor may serve as psalmist, leading and proclaiming the verses of the Responsorial Psalm.
As a leader of congregational song, the cantor should take part in singing with the entire gathered assembly. In order to promote the singing of the liturgical assembly, the cantor's voice should not be heard above the congregation. As a transitional practice, the voice of the cantor might need to be amplified to stimulate and lead congregational singing when this is still weak. However, as the congregational finds its voice and sings with increasing confidence, the cantor's voice should correspondingly recede. At times, it may be appropriate to use a modest gesture that invites participation and clearly indicates when the congregation is to begin, but gestures should be used sparingly and only when genuinely needed.
Cantors should lead the assembly from a place where they can be seen by all without drawing attention from the liturgical action. When, however, a congregation is singing very familiar responsees, acclaimations, or songs that do not include verses for the cantor alone, the cantor need not be visible.
The cantor exercises his or her ministry from a conveniently located stand, but not from the ambo. The cantor may dress in an alb or choir robe, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as vesture for the cantor.
The Organist and Other Instrumentalists.
The primary role of the organist, other instrumentalist, or instrumental ensemble is to lead and sustain the singing of the assembly and of the choir, cantor, and psalmist, without dominating or overpowering them.
The many voices of the organ and of instrumental ensembles, with their great range of expression, add varied and colorful dimensions to the song of the assembly, especially with the addition of harmonization.
There are also times when the organ or other instruments may be played alone, such as a prelude before the Mass, an instrumental piece during the Presentation of the Gifts, a recessional if there is no closing song, or a postlude following a closing song.
The Directors of Music Ministries.
A professional director of music ministries, or music director, provides a major service by working with the bishop or pastor to oversee the planning, coordination, and ministries of the parish or diocesan liturgical music program. The director of music ministries fosters the active participation of the liturgical assembly in singing; coordinates the preparation of music to be sung at various liturgical celebrations; and promotes the ministries of choirs, psalmist, cantors, organist, and all who play instruments that serve the Liturgy. In the present day, many potential directors of music are not of our faith tradition. It is significant as we go forward that directors of music are properly trained to express our faith traditions effectively and with pastoral sensitivity.
The Music of Catholic Worship
A. Different types of Music for the Liturgy
Music for the Sacred Liturgy
"Sacred music is to be considered the more holy and the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites." This holiness involves ritual and spiritual dimensions, both of which must be considered within cultural context.
The ritual dimension of sacred music refers to those ways in which it is "connected with the liturgical action" so that it accords with the structure of the Liturgy and expresses the shape of the rite. The musical setting must allow the rite to unfold with the proper participation of the assembly and its ministers, without overshadowing the words and actions of the Liturgy.
The spiritual dimension of sacred music refers to its inner qualities that enable it to add greater depth to prayer, unity to the assembly, or dignity to the ritual. Sacred music is holy when it mediates the holiness of God and forms the Holy People of God more fully into communion with him and with each other in Christ.
The cultural context refers to the setting in which the ritual and spiritual dimensions come into play. Factors such as the age, spiritual heritage, and cultural and ethnic background of a given liturgical assembly must be considered. The choice of individual compositions for congregational participation will often depend on those ways in which a particular group finds it best to join their hearts and minds to the liturgical action.
The Cathedral of Saint John the Baptist is blessed to have four (4) choirs music ministry. For each choir ministry, please see below.
Mass at: 7:00 PM (Spanish)
Choir: / Coro: Emanuel
Choir Director: Mr. Roberto Lagos
Sunday: 10:00 AM (Spanish)
Choir: / Coro: San Juan Bautista
Directors: Mr. Angel Perez & Mr. Ernesto Maldonado