Justifying learning about and understanding Propers
  • As part of a discussion on a diocesan-side music group we have started here in our local diocese, the GIRM came up (ok, it was my fault) and some people panicked.

    So here's an approach:

    There is an easy and practical application to understanding that the hymns we sing at Mass replace the Propers that are part of the Mass for that day. And how this knowledge can help you. You do not have to read Latin documents or look at the GIRM to do this, and it might make your work easier.

    Picking hymns for the Mass, another way of doing it:

    An example, using the 18th Sunday in Ordinary Time

    1. Usual process

    Read through all the readings for the day.
    Find the Liturgical Guide that comes from your missal company.
    See what they recommend.
    Mark the ones your people know.
    Choose from that list.

    2. Revised process

    Open the missal you use at Mass for that day.

    Read the words of the Entrance Antiphon:

    "God, come to my help. Lord, quickly give me assistance. You are the one who helps me and sets me free: Lord, do not be long in coming."

    Think of hymns your people like to sing that convey this.

    Choose the hymn.

    Do the same for the Offertory and Communion Antiphons. Your missal will have the Communion Antiphon, but Breaking Bread omits the Offertory one, but there are online sources for it.


    Here's my frustration. I find that the writers who have worked to stitch together all the readings of the Lectionary often are so good that the words of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion are so fitting and belong so much as a part of the Mass that trying to pick a hymn to replace them takes something very strong and moving and weakens it....or even omits it from the Mass. And....forgive me those who think the Mass should ONLY be in Latin...especially when the Mass is in English.

    This Sunday, Palm Sunday, we are singing some hymn for Communion. We could be singing the communion antiphon which is:

    "Father, if this cup may not pass, but I must drink it, then your will be done."


    st. john neumann
  • And inevitably, we replace singing the actual words of the Bible with singing paraphrased/mangled words of the Bible. Even if you are a crazy "spirit of Vatican II"-er, you'd think that replacing more Bible with less Bible is unacceptable.
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    frogman: "we have started here". Who is "we" and where is "here"? On first read it is "CMAA" and "in these forums"; but you probably mean "some people" and "in my diocese".

    I think the path you suggest is the path that many have taken. I certainly have. The fact that few hymns can measure up to (#2) forces a planner to fall back to (#1). Anyone using a hymnal has that frustration.

    The direction of a solution is not in acquiring additional hymnal resources to perpetuate the poor model, but in becoming aware of the Vatican Two promoted music resources (Sacrosanctum Concilium # 117) which are eventually identified (General Instruction of the Roman Missal #48, #61, #62, #87) by name as Graduale Romanum (GR) and Graduale Simplex (GS) and acquiring these latter resources to implement the desired Vatican Two model.

    The biggest hurdle is catechesis. You have to get the hymnals away from both assembly and choir, to get the assembly to do their part (Ordinaries), and the choir to do their part (Propers). Each group is doing the part that belongs to the other (as I write this, other church-job-swaps are coming to mind, and that is a rabbit hole).

    My frustration for Palm-Passion Sunday Communion (replacing the very strong and very moving with "something else") was handled with selecting "something" very strong and very moving ...

    Let all mortal flesh keep silence,
    And with fear and trembling stand;
    Ponder nothing earthly minded,
    For with blessing in his hand
    Christ our God to earth descending,
    Our full homage to demand.

    King of kings, yet born of Mary,
    As of old on earth he stood,
    Lord of lords in human vesture,
    In the Body and the Blood
    He will give to all the faithful
    His own self for heav'nly food.

    Rank on rank the host of heaven
    Spreads its vanguard on the way,
    As the Light of Light descending
    From the realms of endless day,
    That the pow'rs of hell may vanish
    As the darkness clears away.

    At his feet the six-winged seraph,
    Cherubin with sleepless eye,
    Veil their faces to the Presence,
    As with ceaseless voice they cry,
  • I feel that some will definitely give up, but some will think and think on this. I know that I did. And after more than 2 years I have made no progress at all.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,131
    As with ceaseless voice they cry,

    Well, you don't have to break the rhyme to avoid the "alleluia":

    As with ceaseless voice they cry,
    Hosanna in the highest,
    Hosanna, Lord most high.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    "I find that the writers who have worked to stitch together all the readings of the Lectionary often are so good that the words of the Entrance, Offertory and Communion are so fitting and belong so much as a part of the Mass"

    I disagree. The new lectionary is a mess. It's almost like they were trying to make the propers irrelevant. The new lectionary ranges from good but ahistorical to irrelevant old testament lessons added (and badly mangled through dropping "unnice" verses). I could advocate for a return to the old lectionary, but that's a useless battle.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    And I thought I might add my own "Guide to choosing hymns" that I've written. I wrote this for a friend for a specific question, but I found myself sharing it with others who had questions. At some point, maybe I should refine this and publish it.


    Gavin's handy dandy guide to selecting hymns at Mass

    1) First choose hymns which match the propers. In some cases it's easy (there's actually a Christmas hymn "Sing oh sing this blessed morn, unto us a child is born..."). There are other, less obvious solutions. For example, no, there's no hymn to correspond to "visionem". But any hymn which specifically related to the story of the Transfiguration will do, such as "Tis Good Lord to be Here".

    1a) When that fails, consider the source of the proper text. Is it from a penitential psalm? Then perhaps a penitential hymn would work.

    1b) Or equally good is to consider the spirit of the text. The "visionem" text speaks of Jesus hiding his Godhood until the proper time... and it's at communion... hmmm... "Adoro Te"! Especially if you sing "Godhead here in hiding". Subtle, but it gives the same effect.

    2) If you can't use anything at all related to the propers, then look to the readings AS WELL AS the collects, propers, and other changing parts. What do these say? If they have a unity of theme, find something to correspond with it. If you find them sharing lines or emphases with hymns, then use the hymn.

    3) Still not getting enough? NOW you start pulling out random hymns of the season. NOTE: An overall season does NOT have the same emphasis throughout!! For example, the first two weeks of Advent are usually very much about the Second Coming, while the last two are more about the Incarnation. VERY different music should be selected for these!! And plan wisely, you don't want to program "Forty Days and Forty Nights" because it's a random hymn and not be able to use it with the readings about the fasting because you had used it for the previous week!

    4) FINALLY, as a last resort, fill in any missing "slots" with hymns of a general or ritual nature. Communion hymns at communion, hymns of thanksgiving after Mass, etc.
  • Nice, Gavin!
  • eft94530eft94530
    Posts: 1,577
    frogman: "And after more than 2 years I have made no progress at all."

    Work on Communion first. For special days, prepare and present the Proper chant (English or Latin-and-English), give a 15+ second silence, then quietly begin the hymn intro. Work at introducing the chant more frequently, and then lengthening the chant duration. Eventually you will find it is post-Communion time when the hymn intro finally occurs, and you are implementing the GIRM # 88 optional hymn, which might not need to be implemented at every Mass.
  • marymezzomarymezzo
    Posts: 236
    I can provide some history. In Noel's parish for about a year a small group of us (first one, then two, finally three) were singing the Communio from the Roman Gradual every single Sunday. About six months after we began, Noel added a psalm from "By Flowing Waters," which followed the Communio.

    Then the pastor forbade us to sing any chant at Communion. And that was the end of that.

  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,131
    What next: will he forbid polyphony too?
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I think there should be a law (maybe even a civil law...) against priests forbidding chant. If you work in a Catholic church, your job description is that you do chant. The priest may as well hire Noel and say "Make sure you don't do any music."
  • Polyphony was/is banned in Latin during Mass.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 9,131
    Oh, I meant in English.
  • Prior to Mass I have freedom.

    We are singing prior to Confirmation:

    Ave Verum - Byrd

    Domine Deus - Vivaldi - with strings

    I Saw A New Heaven - Malcolm Archer

    And as the Communion Meditation:

    If Ye Love Me - Thomas Tallis

    This evening we sang a Mass for the Bishop for the first time, and sang chant for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei, then for the Commuion Meditation, Thou Knowest Lord, by Purcell....I had the chance to meet him and was able to tell him that this is the same music we are singing for Mass in the morning....he described the choir as being "Well-disciplined."

    We did sing a weekday Mass last Wednesday and were able to sing chant in Latin during the Mass...Jesu Dulcis at the Offertory and Ave Verum at Communion. We sat in the transept and recorded from the loft....lots of noise from the HVAC, but you can hear the Ave Verum at www.sjnmusic.com select the April 1 Mass link tab....