Did you ever wonder what it takes to celebrate Mass on Saturday or Sunday? Well, from the musical perspective it’s pretty amazing. A“normal” Mass has 11 (yes, 11!) pieces of music. From the “Gathering” hymn to the “Sending Forth” there are pages and pages of music that are sung and played.
On one recent Sunday alone I played 31 pages of music. And the cantor deals with the words and music, which can be tricky at times. We also usually rehearse about 30 minutes before Mass.
Once the Mass begins we are always “on.” We really don’t get a chance to let our guard down. We listen for cues. How long is the collection taking? Should we start that third verse or end now? (That’s a spur of the moment decision). How many are left to receive communion?
That’s a “normal” Mass. Baptisms, funerals, weddings have their own protocol.
Liturgical musicians are experts at non-verbal communication. We give a look, a nod of the head, a shrug of the shoulders, a fist to indicate “end,” a glance out of the corner of our eye.
We are always watching and listening. That doesn’t allow for much time to pray in the usual way, so our singing and playing becomes our prayer.
Most cantors are not professional singers. They are members of your parish who give generously of their time so that a congregation can have a smooth celebration of the Eucharist.
They practice at home – in between their jobs, running to the market, picking up their kids. They must literally be prepared for anything from a sudden funeral to microphones that don’t work.
So the next time you are at Mass give thanks for your cantor and musicians. We need all the prayer we can get.
Joanne Crystal is the organist at Our Mother of Good Counsel Parish, Bryn Mawr.
Join the CatholicPhilly.com family
CatholicPhilly.com works to strengthen the connections between people, families and communities every day by delivering the news people need to know about the Catholic Church, especially in the Philadelphia region, and the world in which we live.
By your donation in any amount, you and hundreds of other people become part of our mission to inform, form in the Catholic faith and inspire the thousands of readers who visit every month.
Here is how you can help:
- A $100 gift allows us to present award-winning photos of Catholic life in our neighborhoods.
- A $50 gift enables us to cover a news event in a local parish, school or Catholic institution.
- A $20 gift lets us obtain solid faith formation resources that can deepen your spirituality and knowledge of the faith.
- A small, automated monthly donation means you can support us continually and easily.
Won't you consider making a gift today?
Please join in the church's vital mission of communications by offering a gift in whatever amount that you can ― a single gift of $40, $50, $100, or more, or a monthly donation. Your gift will strengthen the fabric of our entire Catholic community and sustain CatholicPhilly.com as your trusted news source. Thank you in advance!
Make your donation by credit card here:
Or make your donation by check:
222 N. 17th Street
Philadelphia, PA 19103
PREVIOUS: Today’s parents bring a different way of parenting
NEXT: Pa.’s Catholic bishops call for fair, realistic immigration reform
Dear Joanne, My name is Norbert Elberson and I am the organist/choir director at St. Anastasia Church in Newtown Squqre PA. I have MINISTERED to the people of the Archdiocese of Philaselphia for over 40 years. Your article is quite well written. I agree that MINISTRY to our Parishes takes a lot of preparation, study and sacrifice. I know that you did not mean to seek praise or anything of the sort. Many GOOD people come to Church and are encouraged to pray by the music ministry (AND LECTORS) and may not realize how we strive to sing the gospel.
In response to the comment by terri: I’m not sure what you mean by “basics”. Truly only a PRIEST can consecrate the bread and wine into the body and blood of Christ.
Most imperfect humans need to worship God in prayer and song. It we just had a Consecration without the rest of the Liturgy (including readers, musicians, servers, ministers of communion)many of us plain Catholics would not worship as fully and actively as we do with all the other aspects of “LITURGY” offered by the rest of the assembly. I like to think that we mere humans are worshiping the body and blood consecrated by the PRIEST.
I don’t believe that we are “going astray” but coming as close as we are able, as humans, to worshiping the Body and Blood of Christ consecrated by the PRIEST.
Norbert, with all due respect, we participate in God’s salvation of us at Mass. It’s more than just worshiping the consecrated Body and Blood of Christ. Heaven touches down on earth, and we step outside of worldly time at Mass and into eternity.
And at the daily Mass, there is usually one person serving, no extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion, and no musicians. The Liturgy of the Word is part of the OF Mass, period; you can’t have the Mass without that, just as you can’t have the EF Mass without the Epistle and the Gospel, so I don’t think terri is even suggesting that it be just a consecration. You can have an OF Mass without musicians and without extraordinary ministers of Holy Communion. It’s completely possible to “participate fully” at Mass without music and without extraordinary ministers: regulars at the daily low Mass do it all the time.
Unless we know what the Mass is, we wouldn’t know what we participate in, and how to participate, even. One can participate in the Mass when one is silent and still, which is why there should be time for sacred silence: the point is engaging God and allow Him to engage *us*. As per Scripture, that’s when God speaks to us (it’s also why Adoration is silent). While Vatican II has stated that the faithful should be able to sing the Ordinaries of the Mass (Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Agnus Dei), it has not said that “full and active participation” necessarily means “doing more stuff.” One visiting priest at our parish said that we encounter God when we pay attention at Mass: when we are more Mary, less Martha.
I think what terri means by “basics” is what the spiritual reality of the Mass is.
The Mass is Christ’s Sacrifice on Calvary made present (re-presented) to us in our now. We also look forward to His Coming. We partake in the Liturgy of Heaven.
Our behavior should reflect that we know that this is what happens at Mass, and so should the music we choose. That most parishes on average make Mass primarily about the community and how people “feel” and what they “like” rather than putting the focus on God and what we believe about Him, and the above spiritual reality, is what I think terri means. I don’t think anyone does it on purpose. But it’s also true that post-Vatican II, we’ve had some truly awful catechesis based on false ideas of what Vatican II is about. Mass is not first and foremost about the congregation. It’s about Christ, without Whom we’d be no Church at all; it is the Eucharist through which He draws all men to Himself. It’s also more than just a communal meal; it’s a sacrifice.
At Mass music and a cantor are not necessary! Only the priest is necessary. Let’s stop trying to make Mass a performance where we celebrate ourselves and not God.When asked about applause at Mass Bendict XVI said when we start to celebrate ourselves and not God we have gone astray. Let’s get back to basics!!!!!!