Dear Fr. Joe: I can’t carry a tune – why do we have to sing everything at Mass?

Q: My pastor is apparently a major music fan. It seems as if we sing the entire Mass. I find it very distracting – shouldn’t some parts of the Mass, such as the Our Father, be said?

A: I’ve gotten a few of these types of questions. It seems that more and more of the men coming out of seminary are singing the Mass more often.

I know for some it’s incredibly distracting while, for others, it’s incredibly uplifting. I don’t know what to say, except that if it is difficult for you, please take some time to see if you can’t get used to it.

So, why are some priests now doing this? I’m learning that it’s not coming out of nowhere, but from our tradition.

We need liturgy to be holy, meaning “set apart.” The liturgy should look and feel like something unique to our experience, all the while incorporating elements of the daily lives we live.

Singing is a good example of that: it’s a part of our daily lives, but also it’s a different enough thing that, when we hear it in Mass, for example, we pause and recognize its “differentness” (I just made that word up, I think).

There is a document called Sing to the Lord that gives preferences for singing the Mass parts. Essentially, it says that singing by the gathered assembly and ministers is important at all celebrations. Not every part that can be sung should necessarily be sung at every celebration; rather, “preference should be given to those [parts] that are of greater importance.” So, if you are going to sing parts of the Mass, you have to sing those things that are most important – you shouldn’t sing the less important parts unless you’re also singing the most important. Hope that makes sense.

So, what are the parts that are most important?

1. The Dialogues and Acclamations

2. Antiphons and Psalms

3. Refrains and repeated responses

4. Hymns

So, there we have the beginning of the discussion – let’s always remember to pray that God continues to guide us and that we continue to follow.

I think in the end, we can all agree that the most important thing is our liturgy. This is what defines us as Catholics and, as a result of that, we simply must “get it right.”

Enjoy another day in God’s presence!