The revised translation of The Roman Missal will give us a chance
again to sing and hear more sung chants in our liturgies. This
sung prayer will connect us with the centuries-old prayer of the
Church. As Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, 72, states,
||Gregorian chant is uniquely the Church's own music. Chant is
a living connection with our forebears in the faith, the traditional
music of the Roman rite, a sign of communion with the
universal Church, a bond of unity across cultures, a means for
diverse communities to participate together in song, and a
summons to contemplative participation in the Liturgy.
Chants are natural speech rhythms in which many words
can be sung on the same pitch. In some instances, the words can
be more easily chanted than said and can be sung more slowly
This third edition of The Roman Missal encourages both
the assembly and priest celebrant to chant more parts of the
Mass, especially the dialogue prayers. The priest is also encouraged
to sing the gathering rite, the collects, the Gospel on special
occasions, and the Eucharistic Prayers with the chant notes
included in The Roman Missal.
Sing to the Lord describes the principles of progressive
solemnity. This means that during the Masses on holy days,
greater feast days, and solemnities such as Christmas, Easter,
and Pentecost, more music can be sung, making the Mass more
elaborate musically than other Sunday Masses.
The Roman Missal suggests that the congregation should
be able to chant some parts of the Mass. This brings unity to the
sung prayer of the universal Church. The new chants have been
revised into English from some of the Gregorian chants. Many
of the melodies will sound familiar, since some parishes are
already familiar with singing the Gregorian chants in Latin.
Chants are natural melodies, most having only four or five
musical notes. The chants are sung in unison and are usually
done without accompaniment. The distance between the notes is
small steps of a second, third, or fifth, which make it easy to sing
and to learn.
What are some ways to teach the chants to our assemblies?
The following ideas may help you to prepare the parish musically
for The Roman Missal.
- The organist could start using the chant melodies as prelude
and meditation music during the Mass. Doing this will make
the melodies more familiar to the assembly.
- The choir could use the
chant tones as vocal
warm-up exercises, familiarizing
themselves with the
tones and melodies so they
can confidently, without
hesitation, solidly support
the congregation in the new
chants until they learn them.
- After the cantors have
received training in their
role in introducing the
chants of The Roman Missal to the assembly, they could
begin to teach the assembly
the chant parts of the Mass
(Responses, Holy, Holy,
Holy, Memorial Acclamations,
and Gloria), in October and November.
Although other musical settings besides the chanted Mass
parts are also available, every church should learn the chant settings
so they could be used not only in the parish but also for
diocesan celebrations where familiar music is important for
The priest, in particular, should learn to use the new chants
in The Roman Missal. In some ways, chanting can be easier than
saying the text since, chants can be said more slowly and reverently.
The priest should practice the chants so that he is able to
sing his parts confidently and without hesitation. This will help
the assembly in singing their parts well. If the priest and assembly
begin to sing their parts from the beginning, it will become
part of how the liturgy is done in the parish and will help for a
Chants have been a part of our Catholic faith for centuries.
We now have another opportunity to grow deeper in our faith
and knowledge of our Catholic heritage. The Roman Missal will
give us a chance to become better catechized in understanding
the mystery of the Mass and pray as the Church says, with fuller,
active, and conscious participation, chanting the praises of God
together in song.
is a Franciscan Father of the Third Order
Regular. He is the parochial vicar at Our Lady Queen of Martyrs
Parish in Sarasota, Florida, and is the director of Worship for the
Diocese of Venice.