An Ordinary-Form Missa Cantata…almost

Given the events that are taking place in the Church these days, I doubt that this post will receive much attention; however, as restoration of liturgical beauty has been a hallmark of Pope Benedict's papacy, mentioning the local impact of his leadership seems noteworthy.

Last Saturday marked the third consecutive time that I was asked to lead the Knights of Divine Mercy schola cantorum at the closing Mass of the Diocese of Madison's Men's Lenten Retreat. This year's Mass (an anticipated Mass for the Second Sunday of Lent) was as close as it has been to the Missa Cantata, the Sung Mass so desired by the Church to be the norm in the Latin Rite but so exceptionally rare in practice, especially in the Ordinary Form.[1] The Mass, which was celebrated by Msgr. James Bartylla,[2] the Vicar General of the Diocese of Madison, was sung a cappella or said in English unless otherwise specified:
  • Introductory Rites
    • Entrance Procession and Incensation of the Altar (Psalm 25: 6, 3, 22; 1–3; Glory Be; Simple English Propers, pp. 64–65): sung by the schola cantorum
    • Sign of the Cross: Missal, solemn tone
    • Greeting "Grace and peace…": Missal, solemn tone
    • Penitential Act "Have mercy on us, O Lord…": Missal, solemn tone
    • Kyrie: Mass XVI, Greek, sung by all
    • Collect[3]: Missal, solemn tone
  • Liturgy of the Word
    • First Reading (Gen 15: 5–12, 17–18): Missal tone for the first reading, sung by a server/reader
    • Responsorial Psalm (cf. Ps 27: 1a, Modal Responsorial Psalms, p. 39): sung by psalmist; response sung by all.[4]
    • Second Reading (Phil 3: 17–4: 1): Missal tone for the second reading, sung by another server/reader
    • Gospel Acclamation ("Praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ…", Modal Responsorial Psalms, p. 39): led by cantor; response sung by all
    • Gospel (Lk 9: 28b–36): Missal, simple tone, sung by the Priest
    • Homily: spoken (of course!)
    • Creed: spoken (the Missal provides two melodies)
    • Prayer of the Faithful: spoken (the Missal provides four melodic formulas)
  • Liturgy of the Eucharist
    • Preparation of the Offerings and Incensation (Psalm 119: 47, 48; Psalm 119; Simple English Propers, pp. 65–66): sung by the schola cantorum
    • Invitation to Prayer "Pray, brethren, that my sacrifice": Missal, solemn tone
    • Prayer over the Offerings: Missal, solemn tone
    • Preface: Missal tone
    • Sanctus: Mass XVIII, Latin, sung by all
    • Eucharistic Prayer II: Missal tone
    • Mystery of Faith "Save us, Savior of the world…": Missal tone
    • Doxology: Missal, solemn tone
  • Communion Rite
    • Lord's Prayer: Missal tone for the Dioceses of the United States
    • Embolism and Doxology: Missal tone
    • Sign of Peace: Missal tone
    • Agnus Dei: Mass XVIII, Latin, sung by all
    • "Behold the Lamb of God" dialog: Missal tone
    • Communion Chant I (Matthew 17:9; Psalm 45; Simple English Propers, pp. 66–67): sung by the schola cantorum; Latin Gregorian antiphon sung by a solo cantor
    • Communion Chant II (John 6:51a; Psalm 23; English chant derived from the Latin original found in the Graduale Simplex): sung by a solo cantor
    • Prayer after Communion: Missal, solemn tone
  • Concluding Rites
    • Blessing: Missal, solemn tone
    • Dismissal "Go and announce…": Missal tone
  • Hymn: "What Wondrous Love is This"
This year the schola cantorum was spread rather thinly, as only four men including myself were able to chant; others in the group were called to serve at the altar.

I think moving towards actually enacting what the Church asks in regard to the singing of the words of the Mass instead of relegating it to a printed book ought to be a primary objective, given the Year of Faith theme for our diocese: "Evangelization through Beauty".[5]

[1] "For the celebration of the Eucharist with the people, especially on Sundays and feast days, a form of sung Mass (Missa in cantu) is to be preferred as much as possible, even several times on the same day." Musicam Sacram Instruction on Music in the Liturgy, ¶27, emphasis added. Although some may argue that this instruction doesn't apply to the current revision of the English-language Roman Missal, in fact the 2010 revision provides almost all of the resources needed for the priest to sing: the parts of the Mass proper to himself; many of the parts he sings with the faithful, e.g., the Sanctus; and the parts of the Mass that are better delegated to others, e.g., lector.

[2] From September to May as his schedule allows, Msgr. Bartylla celebrates a Latin Missa Cantata with Gregorian chant and vernacular readings on the first Tuesday of each month at noon; he celebrates an English Missa Cantata with Gregorian-inspired English plainsong on the third Tuesday of the month at noon. In the case of a scheduling conflict these Masses are usually transferred to the following Tuesday. All of these Masses take in the chapel of the Bishop O'Connor Catholic Pastoral Center [map].

[3] Why this was ever called the "Opening Prayer" in the defunct English translation mystifies me. Does not prayer occur from the beginning of the Mass? It's more logical to understand the Collect as the closing prayer of the Introductory Rites.

[4] "Faith comes from hearing." Thus, I propose that during the Responsorial Psalm and other liturgical texts that share its nature, audible cues—such as slowing down at the final line of a verse and maintaining a consistent breathing pattern—are better than visual cues at fostering actual participation, i.e., intentional listening and prayerful singing. No visual cues were used to prompt the people's singing of the refrain other than psalmist's looking up from the ambo, which was done in conjunction with the aforementioned audible cues.

[5] A friend recently relayed to me a question asked of her by another friend regarding the difference between the High Mass and the Low Mass (within the context of the Extraordinary Form). I quipped: At High Mass, all the texts that are supposed to be uttered in song are sung. At Low Mass, all the texts that are supposed to be uttered in song are…muttered. There are other differences to be sure, but given the weight Church teaching has placed on sacred music, I focus on that primarily. And the musical differences between High Mass and Low Mass also apply to the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite regardless of whether it is celebrated in its sacral languages.


  1. I don't quite see why there is a need for an Ordinary form when it seems to be morphing towards what the Traditional Latin Mass has always had. Glad they are adding more beauty and reverence in the Ordinary form, but the Latin Mass has always had that.

    1. Fair point.

      There may not be a need for an Ordinary Form of the Latin Rite—especially among those who frequent the Extraordinary Form!—but it still needs to be demonstrated to those in the Ordinary Form that authentic beauty need not be alien to it. The Pope has underscored this point repeatedly with his own liturgies throughout his eight years at the helm of the Barque, especially under Mons. Guido Marini.

    2. The hard thing is, is that there is still so much discrepancy within the Ordinary Form. You get those who would like to instill beauty and reverence, but it is all too easy for those that have a skewed view to put that into the mass liturgy and make a mockery out of the Sacrifice. The rubrics of the Latin Mass make that hard to do. A priest saying the Latin mass may have some heretical views/opinions in his own mind, but it's harder for him to take that into the mass.

      I'm really not trying to be uncharitable or argumentative. It's just a passionate topic of mine! :)

    3. Before I moved out here, I spent many years singing Gregorian chant and polyphony for any number of indult/TLM Masses in the NY/NJ/CT area. So what you say about a priest also applies to the musicians. It's often agonizing for an Ordinary-Form musician trained in the Extraordinary Form to choose between even the options that express most closely a hermeneutic of continuity.

  2. Love GodAndAsHeLovedFebruary 27, 2013 at 11:15 PM

    Excellent news about the recent sung Mass! Praise be to God!

  3. Don't forget about the tract that you sung!

    Also, I would point out we planned to sing the universal prayer according to tone C in the missal, but I completely spaced it... whoops...

    Fantastic post though. We need more sung Masses in the ordinary form.

  4. So beautiful to know that many, if not most, of the Sunday Masses at the Cathedral Parish follow this format (with very few exceptions), whether Bishop Morlino or Monsignor Holmes is offering the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. Thanks for this post.

    It's an amazing time to be a musician who's Catholic, especially one who's come so lately to a full reversion to the Faith. To have the Holy Father encourage such a strong return to all things beautiful and reverent not only in the Mass but in our daily lives has been a tremendous blessing to me and to my family. And thanks to good people like you, Aristotle, it's a seemless transition for many of us. :) LauraZim


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