Chant at Masses mandated for US diocese

A US bishop has directed that all parishes in his diocese will be chanting some parts of the Mass by 2020.

Marquette Bishop John Doerfler wrote a letter to priests in his diocese in January spelling out what he wants.

The Kyrie, Sanctus and Agnus Dei will be sung and the Communion antiphon will be chanted.

An approved diocesan hymnal will be implemented by 2017, with other hymnals forbidden.

A series of liturgical music workshops and seminars will be offered in the meantime to get parishes on board.

Bishop Doerfler told the National Catholic Reporter that the musical initiative is intended to promote Pope Francis’s emphasis on evangelisation.

“Music is a key part of the Sunday liturgy,” he said, arguing that if fallen-away or potentially new Catholics experience good music at Mass, they will be more likely to return.

Bishop Doerfler’s predecessor in Marquette, Bishop Alexander Sample, had been critical of some contemporary church music.

In a 2013 pastoral letter, Bishop Sample stated: “Some hymns in approved hymnals, music issues and misallettes do not reflect Catholic theology and should not be used.”

Bishop Doerfler said his proposed Marquette hymnal will include about 300 pieces, ranging from traditional favourites such as “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”, Gregorian chant-style antiphons, and more contemporary pieces such as “Be Not Afraid.”

“We are not banning music,” he said. His goal, rather, is “to enhance what parishes are already doing.”

The addition of chant will improve liturgical music in the diocese and it is accessible in style for even the smallest of parishes, said Bishop Doerfler.

Benedictine Fr Anthony Ruff, a liturgical music expert, appreciates Gregorian chant, but he questioned whether small parishes will have the resources to do chant well.

He also questioned whether a diocese can gather together copyrights for a hymnal from publishers who have their own products to promote.

Fr Ruff suggested that dioceses look to the US bishops’ 2007 document “Sing to the Lord” as the basis for reflection on liturgical music.


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