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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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"Impelled by the weightiest of reasons, we are fully determined to restore Latin to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.”
— Pope John XXIII (22 February 1962)

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Mass Propers: Confusion Resolved
published 13 March 2012 by Jeff Ostrowski

The traditional Mass Propers are as follows:

1. INTROIT
2. GRADUAL
3. ALLELUIA VERSE
4. OFFERTORY
5. COMMUNION


N.B. The chants between the readings (GRADUAL and ALLELUIA VERSE) are sometimes different. For instance, during Lent, the ALLELUIA is replaced with a TRACT, because the “Alleluia” is not said during Lent. In Eastertide (except for Easter Sunday itself), there are two Alleluias (the “Lesser Alleluia” and the “Greater Alleluia”) and no Gradual. Sometimes there is a Sequence. Also, the “Gradual” is a specific chant, but the “Roman Gradual” denotes the entire set of Mass propers . . . Confusing, no?

Given here is a very short “synopsis” that, hopefully, will clear up some confusion.


1. INTROIT  •  After Vatican II, it is allowed to REPLACE the Introit with “alius cantus aptus” (some other suitable chant). Rightly or wrongly, this has always been interpreted as meaning, “anything you want.” See the article by László Dobszay on this.

Please note that the Introit antiphon found inside the Roman Missal does not always match the traditional Introit from the Roman Gradual because Pope Paul VI “revised” the Introits for Masses without music (“spoken Masses” or “read Masses) [source]. We did not include the “spoken” version in the Vatican II Hymnal, because our book only contains the readings and Propers for Sundays and holy days, and very few Catholic parishes in the United States “speak” the Introit on Sundays and holy days.


2. GRADUAL  •  After Vatican II, it is allowed to REPLACE the Gradual with the Responsorial Psalm. For this reason, the Vatican II Hymnal includes both the Gradual and the Responsorial Psalm.


3. ALLELUIA VERSE  •  After Vatican II, it is allowed to REPLACE the traditional Gregorian Alleluia Verse with the “Gospel Acclamation.” Sometimes, these two are identical, but not usually. For this reason, the Vatican II Hymnal includes both the Gregorian Alleluia Verse and the Gospel Acclamation. When there is only one reading before the Gospel, “the Alleluia or verse before the Gospel may be omitted if they are not sung” (GIRM, 63).


4. OFFERTORY  •  In the words of one Catholic priest, the Offertory antiphon was “kicked to the curb” following the Second Vatican Council. The rubric says, “When it is not sung, it is omitted.” However, I think that this was done because the priest is too busy receiving the bread and wine (Offertory procession) to read the Offertory antiphon, if not sung. After Vatican II, the Offertory antiphon can be REPLACED by “alius cantus aptus” (some other suitable chant). Rightly or wrongly, this has always been interpreted as meaning, “anything you want.”


5. COMMUNION  •  After Vatican II, it is allowed to REPLACE the Communion antiphon with “alius cantus aptus” (some other suitable chant). Rightly or wrongly, this has always been interpreted as meaning, “anything you want.”

Please note that the Communion antiphon found in the Roman Missal frequently does not match the Communion from the Roman Gradual, because Pope Paul VI “revised” the Communions for Masses without music (“spoken Masses” or “read Masses) [source]. We did not include the “spoken” version in the Vatican II Hymnal, because our book only contains the readings and Propers for Sundays and holy days, and very few Catholic parishes in the United States “speak” the Communion on Sundays and holy days. Most of them replace the Communion antiphon with a hymn, and we included more than 100 Communion hymns in the Vatican II Hymnal.


In Conclusion  •  The Vatican II Hymnal is the only pew book to include the complete texts for the Graduale Propers (in addition to everything else we included: complete readings, complete Responsorial Psalms, hymns, etc.). We do this because, in our view, it does not make sense to continue to REPLACE the ancient Mass propers, when they are so beautiful and a source of such grace. To replace the Mass propers with hymns means we are “singing at Mass” rather than “singing the Mass.” My confirmation saint, Pope Pius X, said that we should pray the Mass, not pray at Mass.

Addendum  •  We have sometimes been asked: why did you not include musical versions of all the Propers in the Vatican II Hymnal?

1. Printing the texts allows the congregation to follow along as the choir sings the Propers.

2. There are so many different versions of singing the Propers, choosing one version would have severely limited the usefulness of our book.

3. It would have been almost impossible to choose just one musical version for our book. Here are examples of composers who have set the Mass Propers: Fr. Samuel Weber, Fr. Columba Kelley, Kevin Allen, Heinrich Isaac, Adam Bartlett, Jeff Ostrowski, Richard Rice, and many others.

4. From a historical perspective, the Schola Cantorum or choir always sang the Propers, not the congregation, and there are special reasons for this. Our book is for the pews.

5. If we had printed complete musical settings of the Propers, our book would have been so long, it would not fit in the pew racks.


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