Fr. Pasley's Chart of Order of Priority in Sung Mass
  • At the CMAA Colloquium this year, Fr. Pasley had a chart that (I believe) he made showing the priority of what is sung during Mass. He did not have copies available at the opening banquet, and I never got a chance to get one from him. Does anyone have a digital edition of this document that I could get my hands on? Thanks.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    For the OF, I assume you're talking about?

    I haven't seen the chart, but I suspect I know the content.

    De Musica Sacra #31 outlines the four degrees which ought to be followed. You should only sing B if you have already sung A, only C if already singing A and B, etc...

    a) First, the congregation may make the easier liturgical responses to the prayers of the priest: Amen; Et cum spiritu tuo; Deo gratias; Gloria tibi Domine; Laus tibi, Christe; Habemus ad Dominum; Dignum et justum est; Sed libera nos a malo;

    b) Secondly, the congregation may also say prayers, which, according to the rubrics, are said by the server, including the Confiteor, and the triple Domine non sum dignus before the faithful receive Holy Communion;

    c) Thirdly, the congregation may say aloud with the celebrant parts of the Ordinary of the Mass: Gloria in excelsis Deo; Credo; Sanctus-Benedictus; Agnus Dei;

    d) Fourthly, the congregation may also recite with the priest parts of the Proper of the Mass: Introit, Gradual, Offertory, Communion. Only more advanced groups who have been well trained will be able to participate with becoming dignity in this manner.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    It can be difficult to persuade some people that De Musica Sacra, which is dated 1958, is still applicable. (Indeed it naturally reflects the EF in the way it structures things). But then you can cite Musicam Sacram of 1967, which says:
    29. The following belong to the first degree:
    (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer.
    (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel.
    (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal.

    30. The following belong to the second degree:
    (a) the Kyrie, Gloria and Agnus Dei;
    (b) the Creed;
    (c) the prayer of the faithful.

    31. The following belong to the third degree:
    (a) the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions;
    (b) the songs after the Lesson or Epistle;
    (c) the Alleluia before the Gospel;
    (d) the song at the Offertory;
    (e) the readings of Sacred Scripture, unless it seems more suitable to proclaim them without singing.
    Even here beware of pedants who notice the prohibition (#28) on moving to the second degree if the first is not fulfilled. They could argue that if the celebrant cannot sing, nothing can be sung (#8 provides that he should then recite them in a loud and distinct voice).
    And of course both of these documents must be read in the light of the current GIRM, and the intro to the Lectionary.
    Thanked by 1Chris Hebard
  • I have never met a priest celebrant, no matter what his views on liturgy or tradition, who knows those 29-31 and takes them seriously. It's not surprising. They greatly constrain the rubrics and the GIRM, or they out and out contradict each other.

    By these rules, even taking para. 8 into account, the prayers of the faithful have to be sung if there is to be an entrance hymn. If the priest can sing, then the entrance rites have to be sung if the Gloria is sung. And note that 31b refers to the responsorial psalm which by this must be recited unless the Creed is sung.

    (It's true that Musicam Sacram doesn’t actually insist that all of the second degree must be sung before any of the third; but why otherwise divide them into three (rather than two) degrees?)

    LOL.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,597

    If you travel around the Diocese of Phoenix you would be shocked at the number of parishes where all of #29 is sung - even in parishes without a legitimate music program. One might call it revolutionary.

    I had dinner with a gentleman about a year ago who was in town and went to a random parish for a Saturday evening Mass. He reported that not only was all of #29 sung, but also English propers and the Gospel was chanted.
  • Of course, MatthewJ, I am writing from Ontario, as (and which) you know. (Although I'm reporting experience at Mass in half a dozen countries.) I think visiting Phoenix would be a pleasant shock indeed.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,075
    I regularly have all of #29 sung at my parish. Its not usual in my diocese but my pastor does sing all of those.
  • In my area, there are three parishes. Here's what you'll find:

    Of no. 29, only the Pater Noster (in vernacular of course) is sung at one parish, and the other two in the city don't sing any of no. 29 at all.

    Of no. 30, only the Gloria and Agnus Dei (in vernacular of course). At one parish, they don't sing the Gloria, they recite it.

    Of no. 31, everything except letter (e) (in vernacular of course).
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    Yes Musicam Sacram is also out of date, it is dated March 1967 and the first demonstration of the NO was in October 1967. And two more years passed before the Missal was promulgated in Latin, let alone in translation. We probably have to rely on our Bishops' Conferences for more recent advice, for example Sing to the Lord contains a comparable, but less prescriptive, list at #115 and #116. Or this leaflet for England & Wales, which is 20 years old!
  • We probably have to rely on our Bishops' Conferences for more recent advice, for example Sing to the Lord contains a comparable, but less prescriptive, list at #115 and #116.


    At least in this country (USA), the advice of the USCCB is largely ignored in most parishes, especially as regards music. At least it is where I am.
  • Humph!
    It is so seemple if one just sings it all all the time.

    Singing this and not singing that is just so..... amusing!

    (And frustrating, disjointed, jarring, and.... dumb.)
  • Even if Musicam Sacram were in force, why would anybody think it was a good idea to apply it blindly to the modern form of the Mass? As I remarked elsewhere about this subject:

    "Musicam Sacram is a dead letter, juridically speaking. It was issued when the Mass in use worldwide was still the TLM, and represented an effort to loosen up some of the tight restrictions on the use of music -- under the old Mass, many people were doomed to perpetual silent low Masses (perhaps with some hymns) because they had priests who didn't like to sing, or at least who didn't have the resources to put on the full splendor of a Missa Cantata from end to end.

    "As it happened, though, three short years later the new Mass was issued. The legalistic framework of Musicam Sacram ('You can't sing this, unless you also sing that') was not adopted, and it therefore ceased to have juridical force. However, we can and should look to MS for enlightenment of certain principles relating to music in the liturgy -- it is, after all, a product of the same Consilium that would go on to develop the Missal of Paul VI. But it would probably be perverse to try to interpret a document, intended in its day to increase freedom, in such a way as to limit freedom today.

    "Personally, I think MS's famous three-part framework is of only limited value, since the Mass it was talking about was very different from what we have today. 'The Alleluia before the Gospel' is relegated to the third degree, among the least important (or, rather, least singable) items, but that is because, at the time, it was a full Gregorian Alleluia, out of the reach of many smaller choirs and with no opportunity for the congregation to participate. The Alleluia of the modern Mass, musically speaking, is a different animal altogether, and it would be bizarre to suggest today that a straightforward congregational Alleluia could or should not be sung unless, for instance, you were also singing the prayer of the faithful (2nd degree).

    "I should point out that we need to read the document correctly. When it refers, for instance, to 'the songs at the Entrance and Communion processions' (3rd degree), it means the Introit and Communio propers, not Gather Us In or Gift of Finest Wheat. The modern Responsorial Psalm, likewise, is not what is embraced by 'the songs after the Lesson or Epistle' (also 3rd degree), but rather the Gradual or Tract.

    "Overall, it looks to me like the three-part structure prioritizes singing things that are short, easy, involve the congregation, and/or are repeated from week to week. This means unchanging dialogue and the Pater Noster in the first degree; in the next, the Ordinary. At the very end come the things that are long, complicated, changeable, and non-participational: the Gregorian Propers and the singing of the readings. The three-part framework can thus be seen to fail as a guideline for the music of the modern Mass. In a day when the Alleluia is short, simple, unchanging, and participational, it makes no sense -- nor, just as importantly, was it ever the intention of the Consilium or Paul VI -- to rank it in the last degree."

    TL;DR: Musicam Sacram was about the Mass parts in the TLM, which had very different characteristics and levels of singability.
  • Ben YankeBen Yanke
    Posts: 3,114
    And this whole situation demonstrates even more clearly why the clear distinction between high and low Masses was wise.

    In theory, loosening the rules could have resulted in more liturgical singing. In actuality, it dropped it dramatically.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • Paul_D
    Posts: 133
    This error gets repeated over and over again.

    There is no 3-fold list in Musicam Sacram that prioritizes what should be sung.

    It clearly states in no. 28: ... for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward .... ... the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.

    They are degrees of participation.

    In other words, given a sung Mass, ie. given a Mass where everything is sung, here are your priorities for involving the people.

    That is why, for example, the Gloria is in the second category: not because it is less of a priority to sing the Gloria than the Lord's prayer, but because it is less of a priority for the people to participate in singing the Gloria at a Missa cantata.

    Re-read the 3-fold list using the above (i.e., what it actually says, that these are degrees of participation), and it will begin to make sense.

    While one might extrapolate from this list a hierarchy of what should be sung vs. said, it should not be asserted that this is what Musicam Sacram is actually saying in nn 29-31. MS does not give a 3-fold list of priorities of what should be sung. A description of priorities is given in MS 7 and 16, and has been brought forward into GIRM 40. But there is no detailed, 3-fold list for choosing which parts are said vs. sung.

    Is there any way the brakes could be applied to this all-too-frequent mistaken reading of MS?
  • Is there any way the brakes could be applied to this all-too-frequent mistaken reading of MS?


    Yes, your enlightening post begins to shift the gears in that direction.

    What follows will not be popular, so you've been warned:

    I think that much of what is sung today was not designed to be sung for the glory of God, but to be sung so that people could have something to sing. It is intentionally common, watered down, and in some cases, even trite, and in many cases does not represent the best music that a community can offer to God. There are many songs that can't even be called hymns, because they aren't songs of praise, they're just songs meant for congregational singing, just so the congregation can sing something. The reason that discussions of MS or DMS aren't relevant to the modern rite is that the actual music envisioned in those documents has been completely abandoned in most places.

    Why has all of the above happened? That's a great question and I'm working on it.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,229
    Is there any way the brakes could be applied to this all-too-frequent mistaken reading of MS?

    Yes. The brakes are coming soon.
  • It clearly states in no. 28: ... for the sung Mass (Missa cantata), different degrees of participation are put forward .... ... the faithful will be continually led towards an ever greater participation in the singing.


    Thanks for reminding about this. However, it appears then that n. 31 (e) does not makes sense, since lessons by definition are not meant to be sung by the whole congregation, no matter in which form of the Roman rite.
    Thanked by 1Andrew Malton
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    MS appeared in 1967, before the NO but after a period of rapid change in who should say what and how. By this time ALL (I think) vernacular (optionally!) and almost all audible. It is an attempt to redefine the line at that moment in time. MS#29-31 are about what should be sung, not specifically about who should sing them.
    In applying them to the NO for guidance you must allow for the re-purposing of elements such as the Alleluia, which was meditative and is now acclamatory, and is therefor much higher priority (MS#16a). Personally I am not sure this is always true, I would like to see the vigil masses treated as much more meditative than those I have attended, which for many appear to be perfunctory attempts to fulfill their the obligation and leave Sunday free for golf, fishing, or a lie in. This might well go with a different singing priority. end of red herring
  • It's also more expensive - this new idea that there is not difference between High and Low. Now all the candles get lit all the time, for greater "solemnity" even if nothing is sung! Those poor, hard-working bees!
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    Perhaps someone who is on LinkedIn (I am not) could contact Fr Robert Pasley and ask for a copy of what the OP wanted.
  • vogelkwvogelkw
    Posts: 45
    I find charts very helpful in thinking through things, so I hope someone is able to post Fr. Pasley's chart. I wanted to offer a couple charts that I put together that include color-coded reference to the three degrees of sung participation (Order, Ordinary, Proper).

    Sacrifice of the Mass
    Liturgy of the Hours

    The two charts try to show the musical shape and active participation at the different moments of the Mass and Liturgy of the Hours, following Dr. Mahrt's work Musical Shape of the Liturgy. This is my own synopsis of his work and other Church resources, so I know it is not perfect. I put these together for part of a series on Sacred Music described here. Fr. Vogel
  • It is overly simplistic to say that MS is a "juridical dead letter". It is the only major, universal, music document post-Vatican II, and as such demands attention. In addition, although it was promulgated pre-Novus Ordo, it was promulgated during a transitional period of experimentation and vernacular-ization (take a look at congregational resources from around 1965). It is overly simplistic to say that it was meant for, and applies only to the TLM. Not to mention: Sacrosanctum Concilium was promulgated pre-Novus Ordo; therefore, I suppose, it does not apply to our current situation! In a way, we are lucky that MS pre-dates the new Missal, since it provides continuity with previous documents, rather than merely expounding on the new form of the liturgy.

    Now, if you are trying to determine what is licit and illicit, MS has very little specific, detailed guidance (even with the three-part ranking, it is clear that this is not a 'hard' rule, but rather a suggested hierarchy that would be pastorally useful). And there is more harmony than many seem to think beween GIRM and MS. For example: the three-part ranking of congregational participation matches well with the GIRM's treatment of the Ordinary and Proper. The Ordinary (in the GIRM) tends toward congregational singing or participation, while the Proper is accompanied throughout with explicit permission for choral-only singing.

    I would also caution against a simplistic understanding of "participation" in the context of this three-part ranking. MS takes pains to distinguish between internal and external participation, and this nuance must be taken into account when reading the various instructions. If by "participation" the document always means "external", then the three part hierarchy of participation necessarily has the end goal of removing all solo choral repertoire from the Mass (when all three are in place, the congregation would sing everything!). But this makes no sense, given the repeated mention of the value and even necessity of maintaining choral repertoire.
    FURTHER, if the ranking is entirely congregational, why are the scripture readings included in the third rank (presumably, it is not a liturgical goal to have the congregation sing the readings!).

    One could split juridical hairs, but that seems highly unproductive in this case. I take the MS list with a grain of salt (keeping in mind the later GIRM), and as a general guideline, as in: "here, in the church's mind, is a list of which parts of the Mass the congregation should focus on first." And in this general sense, MS's list is quite useful: simple dialogues and responses, then Ordinary, then, very last, some or all of the Proper.
  • To clarify on "participation": based on the nuances of MS and the inclusion of the scripture readings in the 3-part hiearchy, I would propose that MS is outlining a plan for INVOLVING the congregation in the sung, or ideal form, of the Mass - NOT merely listing which things the congregation should sing first. In other words, this IS a list of which parts of the sung Mass to sing first, and does not necessarily assume that all parts are sung already by the choir/priest. When all three parts of the ranking are sung by someone, the congregation participates (both internally and externally, as appropriate) in the full sung Mass - without having to physically sing everything. More critically, one can take steps toward the sung Mass (maybe singing all of 1, or all of 1 and 2) without having everything sung. That is the key, and unprecedented, contribution of this hierarchy. Who (priest/choir/congregation/all) sings which of the parts of the hierarchy is still open for discussion.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    I think the last two contributors set out clearly what the Church would like us to do. In the case of our parish however, I wonder how it applies. Congregation typically 100-120, no choir, no paid musicians, pastor who will not sing (he tells me he can, but will not do so audibly in public). Two competent organists. I believe we could make up a choir, but can find no volunteer director.
    What we actually do on a typical Sunday is: Hymn for introit and offertory, cantor for Gospel Acclamation, congregational Sanctus, Eucharistic Acclamation and Amen (always the same setting), organ music for Communion and recessional. Monthly Asperges, in Latin, and being in an English diocese, by indult as 'Our Lady's Dowry', Regina Coeli during Eastertide and Salve Regina sometimes at the end of the prayer of the faithful. On the greater solemnities we add more.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • mahrt
    Posts: 508
    Musicam Sacram remains liturgical law insofar as it applies to the ordinary form. The chapters under consideration (29-35) pertain to the distinction between high and low Mass, which is to be retained. The authorization for the degrees of participation are for the gradual achievement of the high Mass. They do not pertain only to the participation of the congregation since they prescribe that the priest sing the collect, etc. Neither are they so hard and fast that there cannot be exceptions, such as that mentioned in chapter 36: "There is no reason why some of the Proper or Ordinary should not be sung in said Masses."
  • If Musicam Sacram is still liturgical law, and applicable to the ordinary form, then are priests directly disobeying the Church when they do not follow its prescriptions?
  • Liam
    Posts: 3,754
    Because there is doubt about how it applies to the ordinary form, since the legislation governing the ordinary form postdates it and therefore normally would take precedence, I would strongly caution about characterizing failure to follow as "directly disobeying" given the ample loophole given to doubt in the application of gravity to following legislation.
  • That's the question, though: does MS carry the force of law or not? In practice, probably not, especially since I've never heard of it being enforced as such. However, if it does indeed carry the force of law, it may be of great help in improving the musical situation in the Church. It still wouldn't solve the underlying problems in the Church which have led to the deterioration of the music heard at modern liturgies.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    Depends what you mean by law, my emphasis.
    Musicam Sacram is an instruction promulgated by the Sacred Congregation of Rites. As such it falls into a particular category of Roman documents. R. Kevin Seasoltz defines an instruction as “a doctrinal explanation or a set of directives, recommendations, or admonitions issued by the Roman curia. It usually elaborates on prescriptions already set out in another document so that they may be more effectively implemented. Strictly speaking, an instruction does not have the force of universal law or definition.”
    From p.18 of this (Musicam Sacram Revisited: Essays in Honor of Robert W. Hovda)
    Musicam Sacram is one of the finest documents Bugnini and his collaborators gave us. Fr Ruff on Pray Tell Oct 30
  • It usually elaborates on prescriptions already set out in another document so that they may be more effectively implemented.


    "...so that they may be more effectively implemented."

    Although it reflects on you in no way, I must point out that much, if not all, of what is in MS is not being implemented at all.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 1,383
    @ClergetKubisz I agree, alas. We should be directed and admonished by MS, but by applying the meaning of it to the reshaped liturgy we now have, as the essays I cite above seek to do.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz