Skip to comments.Catholic Caucus: When a Priest Should Not Sing - A Reflection on an Often-Forgotten Rubric
Posted on 05/15/2017 6:36:27 AM PDT by Salvation
I received a question last month in my Question and Answer Column at Our Sunday Visitor that I answered only briefly. Id like to expand on it here.
The new priest in our parish just stands there at the altar when we sing the acclamations such as the mystery of faith, the great Amen, Lamb of God, etc. The previous pastor sang loudly with us. Should he not participate more fervently in these acclamations? Name withheld
Actually, his stance is the correct one. The liturgical directives (called the rubrics or red text) indicate that the people proclaim the mystery of faith, the great Amen, the conclusion to the Our Father (for the Kingdom the power and glory ) and the Lamb of God. (These instructions are also found in the General Instruction at #s 151, 153, 155.) So, those are acclamations that belong to the congregation, not the priest.
The priest is directed to say or sing the Sanctus (# 148) and the Lord I am not worthy (# 157) with the people. Because there are responses and acclamations that belong to the people, for the priest to say or sing them as well does harm to the dialog and shared responsibility that is intended by the Liturgy.
The priest should not look bored as the people respond, rather he should reverently and prayerfully attend to the response of the people.
My reply was necessarily brief due to column limitations, but I believe that there are some things worthy of further comment.
First, it may be good to emphasize the dialogical nature of the Mass. At times and in certain places of the liturgy, this is forgotten. The priest ought to respect that certain responses and acclamations belong only to the people. Too often the priest not only says them but appears to outright lead them. There are likely due to two reasons.
Second, respecting the role of the people and waiting patiently as they make their reply is an important value to uphold. There is an appropriate dialogue (which involves both speaking and listening) emphasized by the current ordinary form (OF) of the Mass. The roles of the congregation and the various ministers (e.g., acolytes, lectors, deacons, and cantors) have a normative place in the OF liturgy and should not be assumed by the celebrant unless necessity requires it.
In the Traditional Latin Mass (TLM) there were effectively no ministerial roles. The replies of the congregation were provided almost entirely in Latin by an altar boy. Even in Solemn High Mass, where choirs sang and a deacon and sub-deacon chanted readings, the priest celebrant was required to recite sung texts quietly on his own because, in a certain but real sense, the sung versions didnt count. The TLM in effect codified low Mass because only what was recited by the priest was essentially the Mass. Singing, even by assisting clergy, was more an embellishment to the Mass that was read and recited entirely by the priest. This had resulted from a gradual shift over the centuries away from the earliest forms of the Mass which did include actual ministerial functions and more congregational involvement. Some changes were already underway in this regard and the 1962 missal of the TLM permitted the priest to listen again to the Epistle and Gospel.
The current ordinary form has seen a fuller restoration of ministerial functions and restored a number of acclamations to the congregation.
In the OF Mass, the priest does well to respect the roles rightly assigned to lectors, cantors, deacons, and the congregation. He should not simply stand there impatiently as acclamations are made; rather, he should adopt a respectful posture that acknowledges the rightful and essential roles of the congregation and the various other ministers.
While it is true that the vast number of priests do often sing some of the acclamations that are not really theirs, we should learn that the rubrics and norms enshrine an important principle, affirming the dialogical nature that is central to the Ordinary Form of the Mass. A priest who does not sing along with the people in such moments that properly belong to them is actually being respectful of the distinct roles of clergy, ministers, and the congregation.
I don’t know if the GIRM (General Instructions of the Roman Missal) has been updated or not. But these directions are definitely there.
Monsignor Pope Ping!
I was hoping this was advising Priests who CAN’T sing, not to.....
We have a priest who cranks his portable mic all the way up and drowns out everybody, especially the song leaders who are very talented singers. . He is a horrible singer ( sounds more like a sick cow). He’s been told so I hear, but he doesn’t seem to care
Most priests have terrible singing voices and shouldn’t.
no priest should take over the mass with his microphone. If he sings songs with the rest of the crowd, he should turn off his mike. He should do the same with the prayers that we all recite. When the priest overpowers the parishioners, the parishioners don’t proclaim the prayers, they just follow along quietly..
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