CNP Logo Home
Online Catalog
Musical Musings
Liturgical Planners
Submit Your Music
Contact Us
Company Description
CanticaNOVA Publications
Bookmark and Share

CNP Feedback - Ultreya Music

Q. Dear CNP:

First, I very much enjoy your website. It's so in keeping with the GIRM and other few documents I know. I learn so much reading your essays, thank you and God bless you.

Second, last evening I went to a Grand Ultreya Mass. It was well prepared, enthusiastic, and people participated. However, the choice of hymns had me questioning. To be honest I had never heard them so I just listened. But I questioned if they were really appropriate for liturgy. When you have a minute could you please advise me.

  1. Entrance Alive Again by Matt Maher
  2. Offertory 10,000 Reasons / Bless the Lord by Matt Redman
  3. Recessional Your Love Never Fails (Jesus Culture).

Third, I question the use of the ambo for all the pre-announcements before Mass and after Mass, used extensively for talks, announcements, etc. I must admit that I felt extremely uncomfortable in light of GIRM #309, which says "only."

Am I being too critical and over-sensitive? It seems that we are too willing to "concertize" liturgy. And having the music ministry in front facing the people really supports the concert idea. Thank you for your advice, and again, God bless you for your work and promoting good liturgy.

Kersie O'Dowtfull

A. Dear Kersie:

Thanks for your kind words about the CNP website. We're glad you find it useful — our philosophy is to stay very close to the Church and her documents [like the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy and the GIRM].

Let me try to help with your questions about the music at the Grand Ultreya Mass you attended. This is part of the Cursillo Movement, and I must admit my lack of experience here. I've never been to any Cursillo events, but they have been sponsored at my parish, which tends to be very orthodox and faithful. I understand that much good can come from these sessions / retreats / meetings and my remarks should not in any way denigrate the spiritual benefit to be had through Cursillo.

I do know that the music is almost exclusively "contemporary" and "folksy" in style. I'm not sure if that's a "requirement" by the Cursillo organization, or simply a result of using the songbooks that they publish, which are filled with that kind of music. Curious … could one do a whole Cursillo with Gregorian chant? Now that might interest me.

Here are the contents of three music collections published by Cursillo:

Serenade Songs

  • I Love You Lord
  • Somebody Touched Me
  • On the Wings of a Dove
  • DeColores
  • Open Our Eyes
  • Abba Father
  • Turn Your Eyes Upon Jesus
  • Alleluia He Is Coming
  • Come to the Water (For Those Tears I Died)
  • Rise & Shine
  • Freely Freely
  • Shine Jesus Shine
  • One Bread, One Body


  • Arise, Come to Your God
  • Come Holy Spirit
  • Look Out Your Window
  • Tell the People I Love Them
  • I Am the Bread of Life
  • Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?
  • On Eagle's Wings
  • Amigos de Cristo
  • Apple of My Eye
  • DeColores!
  • The Greatest Thing
  • Sing a New Song
  • Las Mananitas/Morning Has Broken
  • I Am the Light (Medley)
  • Let Us Break Bread (Medley)
  • Those Who See Light
  • Alleluia/Doxology

Palanca Songs

  • Prayer of the Holy Spirit
  • Look Out Your Window
  • Seek Ye First
  • Just a Closer Walk
  • A Place in the Choir
  • Sing a New Song
  • Ah..La..La..La.. (Shake a Neighbor's Hand)
  • Our God Reigns
  • Apple of My Eye
  • Do Lord
  • DeColores!
  • Have You Seen Jesus My Lord?
  • On Eagles Wings
  • Here I Am Lord
  • Take Our Bread
  • Las Mananitas
  • Amazing Grace
  • When the Saints Go Marching In
  • Those Who See Light
  • Doxology

There is nothing wrong with singing all of this kind of music at meetings, at prayer services, at concerts, etc. Most of the titles, I don't know at all. Of the ones I recognize, I'd only consider singing one or two at Mass. These all really represent what could be called "religious/inspirational" music, which has its place in car stereos, homes, prayer meetings, iPods, etc. A major problem in our Catholic parishes is confusing "religious/inspirational" music with "sacred/liturgical" music. The first does not belong at Mass; the second does.

The three songs you mentioned, while not found in these Cursillo songbooks, were certainly in the "coffee-shop" or "rock concert" style.

Here's the beginning text of the first one:

I woke up in darkness surrounded by silence
Oh where, where have I gone?
I woke to reality losing its grip on me
Oh where, where have I gone?

'Cause I can see the light before I see the sunrise

You called and You shouted
Broke through my deafness
Now I'm breathing in and breathing out
I'm alive again

It seems like a para-psychology song, focused intently on the singer … not on God.

The second has lyrics a bit more suited to worship, almost a psalm paraphrase:

Bless the Lord O my soul
O my soul
Worship His Holy name
Sing like never before
O my soul
I'll worship Your Holy name

Verse 1
The sun comes up
It's a new day dawning
It's time to sing Your song again
Whatever may pass
And whatever lies before me
Let me be singing
When the evening comes

Again, it's very ego-centric — all about what I'm doing and what's happening to me. The music, though, is very simplistic; it sounds like a song for a country road rather than a church.

The third one:

Verse 1
Nothing can separate
Even if I ran away
Your love never fails
I know I still make mistakes
But You have new mercies for me everyday
Your love never fails

You stay the same through the ages
Your love never changes
There may be pain in the night but joy comes in the morning
And when the oceans rage
I don't have to be afraid
Because I know that You love me
Your love never fails

has music that puts me in mind of a commercial for a Vacation Resort Destination.

So, aside from the strong secular connotations and the introspection, what's wrong with these songs at Mass?

These are not appropriate for liturgy because they deviate and fall very short of what the Church asks of us at Mass, both in text and in music. Holy Mother Church offers her children the ideal texts for the Sacrifice of Jesus Christ to his Father in Heaven. We don't need to move any further than the Proper texts given by the Church.

On whatever day you attended the Mass after the Grand Ultreya, there was a Proper text that should have been sung at the beginning — a text from Scripture itself: God's divinely-inspired words, not a contemporary composer's. For example:

Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I cry to you all the day long.
O Lord, you are good and forgiving, full of mercy to all who call to you [Psalm 86:3,5].

How can we substitute that Scripture with, "I woke to reality losing its grip on me"?

As insanely far as these contemporary lyrics have moved from sacred Scripture, particularly the Psalms, that's how unsuitable they are for worship.

The music, too, needs to be examined. The ideal music for singing the Proper texts is noble and ancient Gregorian chant, given in the Church's official songbook, the Graduale Romanum. This music is our history and tradition as Roman Catholics. In his motu proprio, Tra le sollecitudini (a document having profound influence on the liturgical writings of Vatican II), Pope Saint Pius X writes,

The more closely a Church composition approaches Gregorian Chant in movement, inspiration, and feeling, the more holy and liturgical it becomes; and the more it deviates from this supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple.

One can hear just how far these "religious/inspirational" songs do indeed deviate from Gregorian chant. Never could we mistake one for the other!

It's my opinion that the music you heard at the Grand Ultreya Mass, and almost all of the "feel-good" music from the end of the 20th century, is mired in personal emotions and individual feelings — both of which are supremely antithetical to the corporate, universal and sacred dimension of true liturgical worship.

"I can see the light before I see the sunrise" while I'm jogging; but "Have mercy on me, O Lord" while I'm praying with the Church at Mass.

Regarding the use of the ambo for "mundane" announcements, it's certainly not ideal. However, the rubrics [reserving the ambo for sacred purposes only] never expect us to do the impossible. If the church was large and there was no other microphone available with which to be heard, perhaps an exception was in order.

The perfect placement of the singers: a choir loft. Traditional churches had lofts so the singers could be easily heard without being seen and "admired" or "idolized." I know churches, though, whose choir loft is used as storage or overflow seating, while the folk ensemble stands in the front, concertizing. Until pastors find the humility to at least understand the ad orientem posture (which puts them and the people facing the same direction), there will be little incentive to deny prideful singers their elated rush of "interacting with the audience."

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications
Article written 06 December 2013

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388
Send website comments or questions to: