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Liturgy & Liturgical Law Forum: Singing Parts of Mass...

by Catherine Frakas 10 May 2002

Singing Parts of Mass... QUESTION from J More on December 16, 2002 Are any of the following 'hypothetical' practices illicit?
1. Singing the Penitential Rite: After the Greeting (during which the piano quietly tinkles in the background) the melody of the entrace hymn continues during the penitential rite, with the congregation singing the hymn's refrain, and the priest singing the Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy, etc. in the background?
2. Singing Intercessory prayers: In addition to singing the intercessory prayers and responses using a contemporary melody, some prayers (e.g. for the church and the dead) are omitted?
3. Singing the Eucharistic prayer: The priest sings the Prayer up to the Memorial Accalamation, with piano or organ accompaniment, using a Marty Haugen-esque melody. After the Memorial Acclam., the priest recites the Prayer, with musical accompaninment in the background?
Thank you!
ANSWER by Mr. Jacob Slavek on December 22, 2002 Dear Mr. More,
1. Singing the penitential rite is not illicit; in fact I highly recommend it for Sunday Mass. However there should be no tinkling since it has nothing to do with the rite, especially since in your hypothetical case the congregation is singing illicit text, that is, the text to the entrance hymn, which at this point in the Mass is finished. The priest singing Lord, have mercy, Christ, have mercy should NEVER be considered for the background.
2. I can give almost the same answer for the General Intercessions, they can and should be sung at Sunday Mass. In fact the rubrics state that a cantor may announce them. I do not see anything wrong with supporting music by an organ or other approved instruments, but it must be remembered that the focus is the intentions and NOT a musical number. There really is no defined formula for these intentions, so I don't see a problem with occasionally omitting the one for the church or the dead. I can't see why anyone would want to though. This occasionally happens in the sample formulas.
3. Again, singing the eucharistic prayers is VERY good and should be done regularly in parishes. (although not required) Rome however is very clear that there must NOT be any background music whatsoever during this prayer. I have taken this from Notitiae, an official journal published by Rome:
An organ accompaniment for the recitation of the eucharistic prayer is a practice that has developed in some places. Is this acceptable? The GIRM no. 12 clearly states: The nature of the presidential prayers demands that they be spoken in a loud and clear voice and that everyone present listen with attention. While the priest is reciting them there should be no other prayer and the organ or other instruments should not be played. This is a clear rule, leaving no room for doubt, since it is a reminder of wrong practices that have greatly impeded and diminished the people's participation in this central part of the Mass.
Further, it is obvious that the organ's so-called background music often puts into the background what should be foremost and dominant.

Thank you for writing,
Mr. Slavek
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