Associating Latin and chant with the penitential seasons
  • My home parish where I serve as cantor is a typical American Novus Ordo parish with the four-hymn sandwich and OCP repertoire. I often have qualms about the music, but I cherish my home parish and offer my services whenever needed.

    Today, in talking with my music director regarding plans for Lent, he said that the “chant and Latin will be returning, so get ready.” This made me think: we really only ever do chant and/or Latin music during Advent and Lent. We *may* do a simple Agnus Dei during other parts of the year, but the bulk of our chant/Latin repertoire is reserved for Advent and Lent.

    I get that chant is typically more reserved, but I often wonder if this thought crosses the minds of the PIPs—that we only need to slog through this twice a year and that chant is somewhat of a penance.

    I’m wondering if this is a problem elsewhere or if I’m just drawing a random conclusion…
    Thanked by 2LauraKaz Bri
  • It can certainly lead to the association of Latin with discomfort and penance. In my parish, we also use Latin ordinaries and propers on high (happy?) feast days too which helps the association to not be a penitential one.
  • TCJ
    Posts: 813
    We specifically began using a Latin ordinary for Easter and during the Easter season so people wouldn't think it was purely a penitential language/music only fit for a couple of short seasons.
  • GerardH
    Posts: 279
    I too am careful to ensure Latin doesn't become associated with penitential seasons. People love to hate it, but nobody could say that Missa de Angelis during Eastertide is reserved, sombre or penitential
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,653
    We also do Latin ordinaries during lent, but we’ve made a point to stress that “Latin is NOT penitential,” and we do other things in Latin all year round (Marian antiphons, for instance). But we are definitely more Latin heavy during lent.

    Part of the reason is practical: it is a shorter liturgical season, so it is easier to justify having a congregation sing in Latin because you can tell any nay sayers that it’s only temporary. This makes it an easier way to wet the congregation’s whistle without totally overwhelming them.
  • Serviam,

    Try, next time, saying that we'll be singing lots of Latin and chant in the very short season of Christmas.
    Thanked by 1GregoryWeber
  • Gerard, while I agree, I would bet that my home parish would groan ‘It’s so dull!’ if we sang Missa de Angelis during Christmas or Easter seasons. Anything chant I would bet is associated with Advent and Lent ‘round these parts.
  • Catholic Z09,

    Compared to the other chant Masses, de Angelis is dull,
  • CatherineS
    Posts: 690
    I have encountered the attitude among some that 'solemnity' includes any traditional aspects of Catholicism, from wearing a cassock to using some latin to using the confessional. The word solemnity with all the connotations of dark, sad, scary, intimidating, fussy, and so on.
    Thanked by 1LauraKaz
  • "Solemn" is a tricky word because (at least in the U.S.) it has the connotation of "sombre" and "funerary" outside of liturgical context. Obviously we understand what it means, but I'm sure most PiPs hear it and think "sad".

    As regards de Angelis, I certainly agree most other settings of the ordinary are better. However, its advantage is that it's a more florid and solemn setting while still being familiar enough that your average OF congregation won't revolt when it's used.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 3,016
    In many churches the is a statue (or a chapel) of the BVM close to the sanctuary. Have the priest etc. proceed there at the end of Mass to sing Regina Coeli throughout Eastertide, starting at the vigil. That should dispel any notion of Latin being sombre.
  • Don9of11Don9of11
    Posts: 581
    It's the same in my parish with NO. Advent and Lent have been the only time we do chant or Latin. I'm concerned that parishioners are associating Latin as something we have to endure as a penance. Most NO parishioners like myself over the last 40 or 50 years have been singing a Mass setting and hymns. I think it would be advantageous to introduce a sung Latin Mass setting and Latin hymns vs. chant. There are some beautiful sung Mass settings in Latin that are simple to learn and some excellent Latin hymns.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 824
    I understand the concern about people associating chanted Latin Mass parts with penance if they are only sung during Advent and Lent. I agree that Latin Mass parts should be sung at other times too.

    Yet there are realities to confront in many parishes.

    I decided to introduce Gregorian chant as a regular feature of Sunday Mass music at Communion instead of starting with Mass parts at my parish, which when I took over as music director had not sung any Latin Mass parts for over 30 years. I have four brief Gregorian chant hymns that I rotate among at the start of Communion each week, all year round. That was to avoid the impression that Latin chant is for penitential seasons. No, it's for all year-round, and Gregorian chant should be given pride of place in the liturgy.

    This past year I introduced the Jubilate Deo settings of the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei during Advent. There was significant blowback from some Boomers, and they raised a ruckus and threatened to leave the parish over "Latin creep" in the music. Remember, this parish hadn't sung Latin Mass parts for over thirty years.

    The advantage of using Advent and Lent to introduce chanted Latin Mass parts to a community is that they can be sold as a way of appropriately simplifying the music for those seasons. That's one of the ways I try to sell it at my parish. They aren't penitential, they're simple and stark: unaccompanied singing, and all voices singing unison.

    Although more people liked it than disliked it, those who disliked it were very vocal and obnoxious about it.

    So, the reality is that in some parishes, such as mine, Advent and Lent are logical places to begin to introduce chanted Latin Mass parts because they are simpler than Heritage Mass or the Mass of Renewal, for example, and the change in liturgical seasons is more noticeable through the musical differences. We also sing the chanted ICEL Mass parts sometimes.

    I think after a community has become accustomed to the experience of chanted Latin Mass parts in the seasons that call for simpler music, then more elaborate chant settings could be introduced for Christmas and Easter seasons.

    But for many Novus Ordo parishes it will be a long road. It's difficult and takes a long time to reorient a parish's liturgical music from OCP.
  • They aren't penitential, they're simple and stark: unaccompanied singing, and all voices singing unison.


    That's actually a pretty good perspective to take it in. Hope you don't mind if I borrow it for "argument's sake" sometime!
    Thanked by 2ServiamScores Elmar
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,653
    Mark, keep up the good fight. I know how disheartening it can be when parishioners get like that. (I actually had someone make it all the way to the bishop about me once… had to have a 1:1 chat with the diocesan music director at the bishop’s request…)

    If it’s any consolation, assuming your parish’s finances are relatively stable, sometimes it is a relief to the pastor when those souls who threaten to leave finally do.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen tomjaw
  • There was significant blowback from some Boomers, and they raised a ruckus and threatened to leave the parish over "Latin creep" in the music.

    Squeaky wheel. What's new?
    those who disliked it were very vocal and obnoxious about it.
    And so, you've repeated yourself, right?
    it will be a long road
    and the journey never gets shorter until it has begun.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,653
    I’ve also taken the approach with certain souls that, “your argument is not with me… it is with Holy Mother Church and 2,000 years of tradition…”

    There’s also the delightful, “well, the council actually said that every parish should be chanting the entire ordinary in Latin, and Paul VI even promulgated a special booklet after the council that contained a minimum repertoire that every Catholic should know…”

    This latter one always catches these types off guard, as their lived experience after the council bears little resemblance to what the council actually put to vellum. But if they are going to take the “do what the council said!!!” approach, you find yourself beyond reproach, and those who attack you are immediately revealed as misinformed, obstinate, or both.
  • Elmar
    Posts: 439
    those who disliked it were very vocal and obnoxious about it
    In my case, rather: pastor (former parish) / president parish council (present parish) told in unambiguous words that not him/herself but rather "the poeple" really didn't like + want Latin... beyond what they 'always' did, i.e. a couple of choral ordinarium settings + Rorate Caeli (once in Advent) + Attende Domine (once in Lent).
    How to begin the journey? ...
  • I like the idea of singing the Regina Caeli in Eastertide, to illustrate that chant isn't sad or all the other bad adjectives which glom on to it.
  • Chaswjd
    Posts: 169
    Another approach the vocal complainers is to remind them that Sacrosanctum Concilium para. 54 requires that: "steps should be taken so that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them."

    Then ask a simple question, "If you don't like the chant, what steps to you propose taking so that the all the faithful in this parish can say or sing together those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin as required by the Second Vatican Council?"

    Another simple question can be, "The Second Vatican Council made it clear that Gregorian Chant was to have pride of place in liturgical celebrations. How do you propose that we show in our liturgical services that Gregorian Chant has pride of place?"

    Perhaps they have ideas that we have never thought of. By asking the question, at least we are showing at least some openness to their input.
  • MarkB
    Posts: 824
    One of the rejoinders I got when I took the approach recommended by some posters to gently educate people about what SC and the GIRM and Paul VI's Jubilate Deo Mass and "Sing to the Lord" (2007!) state about Latin Mass parts and the people learning and singing them was: "Well, Latin might be the language of the Church and it might be what the Church teaches should be sung, but it's not right for THIS parish!"

    Oh, brother.

    When I pointed out that the Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei are in the English translation of the Roman Missal in Greek and Latin with musical notation because the Church wants those parts to be sung in Greek and Latin at least sometimes at a minimum, the response I got to that was: "They might be in the Missal, but the Missal is not the Gospel!"

    Oh, sheesh.

    So some militant Latin-haters don't care what the rubrics state. They might be surprised to learn that such instructions are in the rubrics, but rather than saying, "Oh, okay... I understand now," after being educated, they then switch to arguing that the rubrics should be disregarded because... [reasons].

    I think with those sorts their opposition is emotionally-based. They don't want reminders of the past (they're all Boomers, never anyone younger) for whatever reason, or they don't want to accept that the parish and the wider Church are returning to and restoring elements of liturgy that never should have been abandoned.

    Some of you who work in parishes that exclusively celebrate Mass using the 1962 Missal might not realize what those of us go through who work in Novus Ordo parishes and are trying to turn the barge in a different direction. The aggravation is not pleasant.

    I'll repeat, though: I got many, many more compliments and appreciation than complaints. But the pastor received more complaints. I started telling the people who told me that they liked the reintroduction of Latin Mass parts to tell the pastor so he would hear from them too. I told the pastor that I wasn't going to let Latin haters bully the parish and those who like Latin at Mass into eliminating Latin.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,653
    Oh Mark, everything you've just posted rings so true. It's so painful, and so true. (This is why I mentioned, "your argument is with HMC, not me...". It is SO FRUSTRATING.

    I take tremendous heart from a mother who came to me once and said in complete earnestness, "THANK YOU for teaching the children to sing in Latin... my kids come home from school and they are in the back yard singing the Salve Regina and they know all the words by heart and it makes me so happy! It's wonderful!"

    I was bowled over by this remark, and it sticks out as one of the greatest bits of encouragement I've ever received.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 11,648
    I was fortunate to be able to say, "the pastor said do this. His name is on my check, not yours."
  • I think with those sorts their opposition is emotionally-based.


    This. This this this this this this this this this. This.
  • To follow up on what Stimson pointed out, I think this is the real issue to confront here. For a while, there was this idea that the liturgy should confirm to us and our own feelings. The real battle isn't so much one of rubrics or documents, but one of emotions about liturgy. Once we can correct this, following the rubrics will fall into line. As it has been pointed out, it is largely the older generation that holds this position. The emotional mindset is, quite literally, dying out as the baby boomer generation ages. Over the next 20ish years, I think we will see a much more traditional group of clerics rise to leadership in the church. The current group of younger priests (newly ordained, but also even those ordained within the past 15 years) has more traditional leanings, so the church will likely change as they become pastors and bishops. I think a lot of liturgical renewal will be driven simply by the baby boomer priests retiring and younger ones taking their place.
    Thanked by 1Elmar
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,653
    As I've previously mentioned, this is why I wrote a bulletin column that posited the question, "Have you ever considered: how does GOD want to be worshipped?" Not: how do we want to worship God, but how does God want to be worshiped. It flips the normal mode of thinking on its head. Proves to be a real head scratcher to people who have never pondered this before.
  • There is a traditional ethos behind using the Latin chants for penitential seasons that sadly gets entirely misinterpreted. It is a tradition of the Roman church to return to older forms of celebration during penitential seasons. This isn’t because the old is sad and bitter, but because the new is indulgent. Simply not going out to Outback Steakhouse is not the same thing as giving up meat on Fridays. All non-chant is the steak house.
  • ServiamScores
    Posts: 1,653
    I'm not sure I agree that the "roman church [returns] to older forms of worship". I'm unaware that the chants sung during Lent are any older than any of the other chants, for instance. There are additional praxes that are traditionally a part Lent, but things like fasting aren't a return to older forms of worship. In theory, you're fasting all year round, and it just intensifies during lent. Two years ago, we stopped eating meat on all Fridays of the year after I learned that used to be the norm. Regarding simplified liturgy, this is part of the ethos of Lenten penitence which has always exited, and considering that particular aspect of Lent was never 'lost', it's always been a living tradition. Thus I think it's hard to qualify it as a 'return' when it is cyclical.

    I guess I'm interested in others thoughts on this.
  • GambaGamba
    Posts: 436
    I can think of 2 examples of what John_F_Church says, but not sure if they’re what he’s thinking of?

    1) Lent 1 tract: extremely long, almost a whole psalm
    2) Good Friday solemn afternoon liturgy is very antique in its structure: the many petitions, communion from the presanctified gifts….
  • GerardH
    Posts: 279
    Another example to the above:

    3) The offices of Tenebrae being in the "primitive" form and not incorporating such modern decorations as introduction or hymn
  • I was going to suggest more chant and Latin during Lent at my parish, but I worried about the relating chant and Latin to being penitential. It’s true that in the EF the Gradual and Tracts are purposely longer to allow for longer meditation on the chants (I’ve missed the 15 minute long gradual and tract for the 1st Sunday of Lent), but we shouldn’t associate chant and Latin with penance.
    Thanked by 1Bri
  • Who sings Missa Cum Jubilo and conceives sackcloth, ashes, penance and such things?
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • bhcordovabhcordova
    Posts: 1,058
    I think that most in the congregation don't really think of Lent and Advent as penitential seasons. For them the use of Latin just makes them realize this is not 'Ordinary Time' (which they seem to think starts at Christmas and then at Easter).

    Why not use Latin for from the beginning of Advent until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord and from Ash Wednesday until Pentecost? That way it differentiates from Ordinary Time and is associated with both penitential and celebratory seasons.
  • Why not use Latin for from the beginning of Advent until the Feast of the Baptism of Our Lord and from Ash Wednesday until Pentecost?


    Exactly what we do. It's great!
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen bhcordova Bri