HERE WAS A TYPE of “schizophrenia” in the liturgical movement of the last 150 years. On one hand, leaders of the liturgical movement wanted to control rigidly the participation of the faithful, claiming the “best” type of participation is saying the exact prayers the priest does—an idea which was condemned by Pope Pius XII in §108 of Mediator Dei (20 Nov 1947). On the other hand, leaders of the liturgical movement often encouraged (sometimes illicitly) “paraphrases” of the Mass, similar to a BETSINGMESSE.1
The Situation We Have • The reformers of the 1960s said they wanted people to “sing the Mass” rather than “singing at Mass.” However, when the time came they did the opposite; they de facto eliminated the Mass propers and replaced them with religious songs and hymns. We are 100% free to complain about this situation; but that’s the situation we have, whether we like it or not. A mature person knows how to work within the confines of reality. The conscientious choirmaster takes people where they are and then—carefully and prudently—leads them to something higher.
“RRRC” • In many situations, it would not be prudent to “rip away” and destroy everything the congregation knows. If the congregation is accustomed to singing hymns at Mass, only a lunatic would come in and ban all hymns. A better approach would be to replace the goofy modern songs with RRRC: “Rich, Robust, Roman Catholic” hymns. Sophia Institute Press has put together a list of hymns for each Sunday. See what you think of it:
* PDF Download • “Hymn Suggestions For Each Sunday”
—For the “Ordinary Form” (Lent until Pentecost); “Extraordinary Form” charts are also being produced.
Personal Preference • For myself, I never use a “hymn list.” The Brébeuf hymnal has about 900 hymns; terrific texts with marvelous melodies. Sometimes I even switch the hymns at the last moment. It may depend on which singers are available; or we may be focusing on a particular SATB setting; or I might want to explore a new tune I’ve not done as often; or one of the choirs may be having “issues” with pitch that day; and so forth. I love the enormous range of options the Brébeuf hymnal provides, and choosing them is a breeze thanks to the impressive snippets index.
Hymns At Mass? • Occasionally, someone will say: “Hymns don’t belong at Mass—they only belong in the Divine Office.” But such a statement cannot withstand scrutiny. A position paper from Sophia Institute Press handles the matter very well—and I’m not going to repeat what is said there. I would simply note that “general Communion” (viz. the faithful receiving the Eucharist during Mass along with the Celebrant) fell out of favor for about 1,000 years. By the 1960s, it had been revived—and it made a huge difference at Mass. It adds approximately 15 minutes to each Mass. To give you some idea, let’s say there are 20,000 parishes in the United States. Doing a few basic calculations, “general Communion” added something like 3,920,000 hours to the celebration of Mass. The notion that hymns would not be used to “fill in” the liturgical action strikes me as absurd. Of course, motets and organ music would also work very nicely.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 Indeed, the young Annibale Bugnini made a name for himself by forcing his congregation to participate according to his preferences. Specifically, Bugnini created Italian signposts with a vernacular “paraphrase” of the Mass prayers, and he forced the congregation to recite these signboards aloud while Mass was going on. On this, cf. Yves Chiron (Annibale Bugnini, 2018) page 25.