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CNP Feedback -
How Many Masses?

Q. Dear CNP:

I'm writing to ask your advice: what is a good number of Mass settings for a parish to know and use over the liturgical year? Three, four? Can we start out simply, with two? At the moment, we only have one. It's a lovely setting, but the only thing sung, no matter what! Also, what determines which Mystery of Faith we ought to use?

Howie Manny

A. Dear Howie:

It's important to ponder the balance of too few or too many Mass settings in a parish repertoire. People should feel comfortable with the music, being able eventually to sing from memory, but not bored to death from singing the same music too often.

I feel that Mass settings (including the Gospel Acclamation) help to delineate a liturgical season. For example, at my church, we use Stirling Bridge Mass and Alleluia Noel during Christmastide and nowhere else — thus the music eventually sounds "Christmas-y" to the congregation.

Over many years, I've come to divide the year into 9 chunks, mostly lining up with the seasons:

  • Advent
  • Christmastide
  • Winter Ordinary Time
  • Lent
  • Eastertide
  • Summer Ordinary Time 1
  • Summer Ordinary Time 2
  • Fall Ordinary Time 1
  • Fall Ordinary Time 2

We change the Mass settings for each of these, although there is some overlap and duplication, especially during Ordinary Time. The repertoire has been fairly stable over the last 12-15 years, so while we do a lot of settings, they're repeated often. That is, however, a lot of music — not something to pull off quickly.

My suggestion would be to introduce one more setting over the next year. Perhaps you could use a chant setting [every parish should know the English chant Mass in the Roman Missal]. Maybe the new setting could be used for Advent and Lent, with the original setting for Christmas/Easter. For the first year, I'd divide the big Summer/Fall Ordinary Time into two (or four) chunks, using those two settings alternately. Always have a schema in mind [lay out the times on paper]. Change as necessary or whenever new material is introduced.

I think ultimately, a parish should know at least four settings:

1. Advent/Lent – quiet, contemplative setting
2. Christmas/Easter – bold, festive setting
3.4. Ordinary Time – two comfortable settings that alternate during those 3 times

In addition to your original Mass, I would highly recommend the English chant Mass [Gloria, Sanctus, Mystery of Faith, simple Amen, Agnus Dei] from the Roman Missal. Also, a Latin chant Mass, either the simple version (Missa XVIII) or the Missa de Angelis (VIII) that many people know. You eventually might want another non-chant Mass as a complement to the original. There are some familiar ones from our 50-year vernacular history [People's Mass (Vermulst), Community Mass (Proulx)]. There are some on the CNP website . Just stay far away from the "Mass of Creation."

These are the Gospel Acclamations we use:

  • AdventWinchester Alleluia
  • ChristmastideAlleluia Noel
  • Lent — Benedictine (Nicholas Daub OSB), Orbis factor (arr. Proulx), Russian chant
  • EastertideRenaissance Alleluia
  • Ordinary Time — Vulpius Alleluia (Melchior Vulpius), Bell Alleluia (Peloquin), John Carroll Alleluia (Joncas), Chant Alleluia (mode VI)

There is nothing in any rubrics that determines which Mystery of Faith to use. Any may be sung at will. I think Option C ("Save us, O Savior of the world") is very appropriate for Lent, so I use it then (and elsewhere during the year). Apart from that, I just schedule whichever one goes with the Mass setting in use.

Gary Penkala
CanticaNOVA Publications

Article written 12 November 2018

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