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Michael wrote:

Hi, guys —

I play in a Catholic choir (the violin) and just had a question about what is okay to play in church.

  • If a slow Irish traditional air sounds reflective and beautiful, can it be played during the offertory or Communion reflection?

For example, if pieces are used like:

  • Wind
  • Prairie Spring
  • Ashoken farewell
  • Easter Snow
  • Gentle Breeze
  • Thanksgiving Hymn, or
  • Neil Gow's Lament.

When I went to a Catholic youth day, a lot of the hymns were modern Christian Protestant- Pentecostal hymns that were sung. I like these lively praise hymns.

  • Are they okay to use in the Catholic Church?

God bless,

Michael

  { What kind of music or hymns are allowed during the Mass and in a Catholic parish? }

John replied:

Michael,

First of all, there is nothing particularly Protestant about the contemporary Christian Praise that is sometimes played at certain types of Liturgy, whether they be Charismatic or youth-oriented Masses.

They don't espouse Protestant doctrines like Faith Alone or Scripture Alone . . . rather they are mostly God's Word set to music. Now they might be written by non-Catholic Christians [and/or] they might often be played and sung in non-Catholic Christian services but they aren't, in and of themselves, Protestant.

Let's look at some more classic Hymns written by Protestants and associated with Protestant worship:

  • Holy Holy Holy . . .
  • Lord God all Mighty, early in the morning my song shall rise to the . . .
  • God in 3 Persons, Blessed Trinity . . .

Well, the theology there is Catholic. When a Protestant espouses a doctrinal truth that they share with us, it is Catholic. Protestants are nothing less than protesting Catholics. They protest the Pope and certain Catholic doctrines and therefore are not in full Communion with Holy Mother Church but when they get something right, they are doing or saying something Catholic.

I've heard hymns like Mighty Fortress is Our God played at Mass. It's a beautiful piece, both musically and lyrically . . . It was written by none other that Martin Luther.

Amazing Grace . . . that's another song written by Protestants.

In terms of the music, so long as the lyrics don't espouse heresy are germane to the Liturgy, (the readings of the day), then they are appropriate.

Of course, music style and how it is presented in the Liturgy is also very important. We're not at a concert or performance. The music should not take the focus of God and put it on:

  • the choir
  • the praise ministry, or
  • what not.

The Mass is after all solemn. It is both a celebration of Wedding Feast of the Lamb and it is the one Sacrifice of Calvary made present to us in an unbloody fashion so we must be sensitive to this.

As a Charismatic Catholic, I very much enjoy those praise tunes you refer to. I've played them and sung them but again, we must remember the context. If it's a bunch of Charismatics worshiping together, genuinely expressing their spirituality and approach to worship, then it's fine but even then, we must be always be careful and sensitive not to distract from what the focus of the Mass is . . . Jesus Christ, made present through the ministry of the priest.

I also like those tunes, especially in a youth context, because music is powerful teacher. If a melody sticks in your head, you are likely to sing in your head throughout the week. As you sing the tune, you meditate on words . . . usually God's Word.

So there are always trade offs. What you want is to strike a balance and always be cautious that you're not singing something that contains a doctrinal error.

I hope this helps,

John DiMascio

Paul replied:

Hi Michael,

I used to be in rock bands and I was the liturgical folk music leader for five years for what is equivalent to a Newman Center at the University of South Florida.

When I was doing it I remember there was no hard and fast rule about what music to select but there was one ambiguous rule of thumb:

The music should not be profane, but prayerful.

Popular music should be avoided in that it usually speaks of the temporal here and now rather than pointing to God. Although every liturgy must be understood in its own context, it would seem to me that the reflective, beautiful music that you referred to would be fine during Offertory or Communion, especially if there are no words.

Paul

Bob replied:

Michael,

I can only add a bit to what John and Paul have said. Instrumental violin music, if done well, can take the place of instrumental organ music for the same effect. Those pieces are likely fine, particularly if they are not based on lyric-based songs, which could distract.

Peace,

Bob Kirby

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