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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 resides with his wife and children.
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"Religious worship supplies all our spiritual need, and suits every mood of mind and variety of circumstance."
— John Henry Cardinal Newman
Antiphons in the Roman Gradual don't match the Third Edition of the Roman Missal?
published 12 June 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski
“Recent research … has made it clear that the antiphons of the Missale Romanum, which differ substantially from the sung antiphons of the Roman Gradual, were never intended to be sung.” —Bishop Donald Trautman (November, 2007)

715 Cardinal John Paul II N THE UNITED STATES, there are four possible music options during Entrance and Communion. Some have erroneously claimed all four options are “equally to be preferred,” but if that were true, the first three would be superfluous.

Do the antiphons in the Roman Missal match those in the Roman Gradual? Sometimes yes, sometimes no. You see, in the years following the Second Vatican Council, the Missal antiphons were revised “for Masses without music.”   We commonly refer to these as Spoken Propers to differentiate them from the Sung Propers.

Important note: The Spoken Propers are printed in the ROMAN MISSAL (Sacramentary), while the Sung Propers are found in the ROMAN GRADUAL.

The 2011 USA Adaptation to the Universal GIRM has boldly moved the Spoken Propers alongside the Sung Propers as first option:

In the Dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant:
(1) the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum as set to music there or in another setting;
(2) the antiphon and Psalm of the Graduale Simplex for the liturgical time;
(3) a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms;
(4) another liturgical chant that is suited to the sacred action, the day, or the time of year, similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.
If there is no singing at the Entrance, the antiphon given in the Missal is recited.

Let’s break this down, shall we? A timeline will help us understand why they made this change.


In 1968, Pope Paul VI decided to have the Entrance and Communion antiphons revised for Masses without singing, based on the results of a questionnaire sent to 12,000 liturgists. (Remember, the Council had ended in December of 1965, and the Liturgy Constitution was approved in 1963.) Some, evidently, considered certain antiphons difficult to proclaim, which is rather puzzling since they’d been used perfectly for almost two millennia. Perhaps they had in mind antiphons like “Quasi modo” (Divine Mercy Sunday) which might be considered an incomplete sentence by strict grammarians. (There are also other theories.)


On Holy Thursday, 1969, Pope Paul VI promulgated the Novus Ordo (although the complete Missal would not be printed for another year). During this announcement, he said:

The texts intended for singing found in the Graduale Romanum have been left unchanged. In the interest of their being more easily understood, however, the Entrance and Communion antiphons have been revised for use in Masses without music.   (source)

Here’s what the 1969 GIRM says about the Entrance antiphon (as usual, I give the Entrance chant wording only, since Communion options are identical) :

(26) ENTRANCE CHANT:   The antiphon and psalm of the “Graduale Romanum” or “The Simple Gradual” may be used, or another chant that is suited to this part of the Mass, the day, or the seasons and that has a text approved by the conference of bishops.

If there is no singing for the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited.   (original source)

Astoundingly, Bugnini admitted that the 1969 GIRM had not been reviewed by any other curial offices before its release.


The 1970 United States Adaptation of the GIRM said clearly:

ENTRANCE CHANT: Only if none of the above alternatives is employed and there is no entrance song, is the antiphon in the “Missal” recited.

COMMUNION CHANT: Only if none of the above alternatives is employed and there is no Communion song, is the antiphon in the “Missal” recited.

In the Vatican Journal Notitiae, Fr. Adalberto Franquesa published a 1970 article explaining the rationale behind these revised antiphons for Masses without music (“spoken Masses”). Whenever possible, Franquesa claims, the revised antiphons were placed on the same day as the versions in the Graduale. Incidentally, Jason McFarland says the editors of the 2002 Missale Romanum “applied minor revisions to a few of the Latin antiphon texts to make them correspond to the chants found in the Graduale Romanum,” citing an unpublished article by Peter Finn.

However, the language used by the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy was often imprecise. Pay special attention to the PINK and YELLOW sections:

      * *  1970 Newsletter (April-May) — Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy

Consider this 1970 excerpt from the BCL Newsletter:

      * *  1970 Newsletter (February-March) — Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy

Notice that they were imprecise (inaccurate) by implying that the Gradual and Sacramentary antiphons were identical. These errors seem to be an outgrowth of earlier misunderstandings like this one:

      * *  1969 Newsletter (January) — Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy

Perhaps these misunderstandings caused Fr. Franquesa to publish his 1970 article (see above), even though Paul VI’s 1969 statement should have been sufficiently clear. By the way, if you want your head to hurt, read this article, which talks about how the Simplex can substitute for Gradual chants, and metrical psalmody can substitute for the Simplex, until composers are finished writing substitute melodies for the Simplex!


The height of confusion seems to have been reached in 1972, when the BCL Newsletter (September-October) printed the following:

      * *  Troubling Sacramentary Statement (1972) — Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy

Did you notice the glaring errors? For example, that statement completely ignores the first option: the Roman Gradual. Perhaps the most bizarre section claims the Spoken Propers are “too abrupt for communal recitation” 1 — didn’t Paul VI have them revised so they could be more easily proclaimed? The authors look at the GIRM in a very legalistic way (whereas qualified liturgists take the entire tradition into consideration), yet they proceed to contradict the GIRM, which explicitly allows the people (or anyone else) to recite the Spoken Propers.

The statement is correct, however, when it stresses that the Spoken Propers do not belong in the Sacramentary. They were only printed there because no other place could reasonably be used — neither the Lectionary nor the Gradual would be suitable. We recall that prior to 1969 there was no such thing as a “revised antiphon for Masses without singing.”


Annibale Bugnini’s book, The Reform of the Liturgy, was translated into English in 1990, and Bugnini (quite correctly) reminds his readers on page 891:

The entrance and communion antiphons of the Missal were intended to be recited, not sung.

Bugnini’s reminder seems to have been ignored, although surely some of the 12,000 liturgists who replied to Paul VI’s 1968 questionnaire hadn’t forgotten why those antiphons differed from the Roman Gradual.


Here’s where things get even more hairy. In 2000, the Vatican released a new version of the GIRM for study purposes. The final version came in 2002, along with the 3rd edition of the Missale Romanum, but the USA Bishops would not approve its English translation for another decade! That’s why the Roman Missal, 3rd edition, is properly called 2002 (2011).

The USA Bishops approved an “American adaptation” to this newly released GIRM on 14 November 2001 (approved by Rome on 17 April 2002). However, the wording was faulty, as you can see by reading the BCL Newsletter from May of 2002.

In an effort to correct the faulty wording, someone mangled it even worse, and the final 2002 wording went to print as follows:

In the dioceses of the United States of America there are four options for the Entrance Chant: (1) the antiphon from the Roman Missal or the Psalm from the Roman Gradual as set to music there or in another musical setting; (2) the seasonal antiphon and Psalm of the Simple Gradual; (3) a song from another collection of psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms; (4) a suitable liturgical song similarly approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop.

If there is no singing at the entrance, the antiphon in the Missal is recited.

(In 2011, the USCCB would claim that this earlier translation was always intended to be “provisional,” but documentation from 2002 verifying this has not been found, to my knowledge.)


In 2006, Christoph Tietze presented a paper in Germany explaining the significance of Fr. Adalberto Franquesa’s 1970 article in Notitiæ:

      * *  Graduale or Missale : The Confusion Resolved — (September 2006)

Mæstro Tietze spoke of the confusion that had resulted from the botched 2002 Newsletter (see above) and the failed attempt to correct it, pointing out among other things:

This statement shows that the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy assumed that the Missale Romanum and Graduale Romanum antiphons were identical.

As we’ve seen, this error has been commonplace since the 1970s, and persists to this day. For example, a liturgy professor in Rome published an erroneous explanation of why the Spoken Propers differ from the Sung Propers on 19 June 2011. In any event, Christoph Tietze notified the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy of this error, and (as will be explained below) his efforts ultimately bore fruit.


Bishop Donald Trautman, Chairman of the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, acted swiftly upon the research done by Tietze. In November of 2007, his Excellency proposed to the entire body of American bishops the following:

      * *  “Action Item #2” — Bishop Trautman (November, 2007)

Immediately before citing the 1970 article by Fr. Franquesa, Bishop Trautman says:

Recent research, confirmed by unofficial discussions with officials of the Holy See during the past several years, has made clear that the antiphons of the Order of Mass were never intended to be sung, but are provided without notation to be recited whenever the Graduale Romanum or another song is not sung. The antiphons of the Missale Romanum, which differ substantially from the sung antiphons of the Roman Gradual, were never intended to be sung.

At the very last moment, however, Bishop Trautman withdrew his Action Item. 2


Faithful Catholics concerned about the 2002 faulty wording continued to lobby the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy to correct the error. Here is an example:

      * *  2009 Letter (and Reply) Re: “Spoken Propers” — Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy


When the new English translation of the Roman Missal was promulgated in 2011, the GIRM wording for the “American Adaptation” was finally corrected, due in large part to Christoph Tietze’s persistence. However, the Spoken Propers were added alongside the Roman Gradual as First Option (whereas before they had been Fourth Option). No explanation was given, but perhaps the 2009 letter by Bishop Serratelli (see above) provides the thought process behind this curious American variation.


6124 Sung v Spoken In early May of 2014, a crucial announcement for Ordinary Form Masses was made (regarding the Graduale Romanum).

Moreover, there are thousands of pages (available for free download) with versions of the Graduale in English.

Here are just a few:

Lalemant Propers (CCW, 2013)

Graduale Parvum (Birmingham Oratory, 2012) *

Arbogast Propers (St. Joseph’s College) *

American Gradual (Bruce E. Ford, 2008)

Simple English Propers (CMAA, 2011) *

Plainchant Gradual (in English) (St. Mary’s Press, 1960s) *

Simple Choral Gradual (Richard Rice, 2011)

Laudate Dominum Communion Antiphons (Motyka, 2012)

* Courtesy of the CMAA.


We have seen that great confusion existed with regard to the Proprium Missae. For example: even the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy claimed the Offertory antiphons were printed inside the 1970 Missal (they’re not and never have been!):

      * *  1970 Newsletter (February-March) — Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy

All these decades later, it seems fair to ask: Was it truly beneficial to add such confusion? I agree with the comments of Professor László Dobszay:

As I see it, the only reason for some of the changes was, unfortunately: change for its own sake, change itself. For example, the new Missal gives on one day the chanted Proper piece from the Graduale, and on another day, a different text (without tune) which is neither better nor worse than the one from the Graduale. I cannot recall that anyone has demonstrated the spiritual benefit (cf. SC 23!) of this device. But it was quite sufficient to loosen the link with the sung Proper, thus diminishing the inner coherence of the liturgy and consequently also its external discipline.

      * *  Some further conclusions to be drawn from this discussion

In the midst of confusion, we can follow Bishop Trautman’s example (see above). In other words, let us do our “research,” find out what’s correct, and adhere to the authentic traditions. Don’t be bogged down by errors of the past. Remember: there’s no salvation from decrees … especially when those decrees make erroneous statements! The saints followed the authentic traditions, and we are called to do the same.


1   To see truly “abrupt” antiphons, they should look at the Breviary antiphons prior to the 1950s, where the first antiphon was literally one word !

2   The reason for this withdrawal remains a mystery. One rumor says Bishop Trautman balked at submitting an amendment to an adaptation which had already been approved by Rome. Another rumor says he withdrew the Action Item due to “certain ambiguities” about the Spoken Propers. I’ve also heard other plausible rumors.