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

One Pastor's Message:
Communion Antiphons

by The Rev. Eric L. Kowalski

This article first appeared in the November 9, 2014, bulletin of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. It is reprinted with the kind permission of the author, Fr. Kowalski, pastor of OLG Church.

Laudetur Jesus Christus! (Praised be Jesus Christ!)

Father Eric Kowalski I became the organist at my parish church when I was in the 6th grade. The year was 1975, and I remember looking at the flood of magazines about the "liturgy" that were marketed toward the amateur organist (now called the "pastoral musician"). In that generation following the Second Vatican Council, the vocabulary that had for centuries been customary suddenly changed overnight in an effort to be more "relevant" to modern men and women. "Holy Mass" or "The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass" became the "liturgy" or just "Eucharist." No longer did the priest offer the Holy Sacrifice. Instead, we gathered as a community and "did" liturgy together — especially in the "hip" or "mod" parishes. Please understand that this is not meant to denigrate these parishes, only to draw a distinction between the myriad of experiences most folks had in various parishes. During this time, a great emphasis was placed upon having everyone except the priest involved in "planning liturgy," as if this no longer was the sole domain of the priest. I can remember in the Jesuit high school I attended, the weekly "planning sessions" where arguments broke out among the participants about which song to sing and when. Why do I mention this past history?

On occasion a question is asked about why a certain thing is done the way it is. At this time, I’d like to spend a few moments and answer why we follow the practice of chanting the Communion Antiphon and verses and do not substitute another "song" as folks come up to receive Our Lord in Holy Communion. To begin, the first and ultimate authority regarding the way Mass is offered is the Church herself. It is her prerogative to govern and control how, why and when the Mass is offered the way it is. These norms are found in the document called The General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM, for short). As such, they are not just suggestions, but are authoritative rules and regulations that are to be followed whether the individual priest, deacon, bishop or member of the laity like, dislike, agree with or disagree with them. For some today, this concept is very difficult given our subjective and "option-oriented" culture. With the promulgation of the Third Edition of the Roman Missal in 2011, a new more accurate translation of the GIRM was promulgated.

In the new GIRM are changes with regard to what is sung at Mass and when. Paragraph 87 states:

In the Dioceses of the United States of America, there are four options for singing at Communion:

  1. the antiphon from the Missal or the antiphon with its Psalm from the Graduale Romanum, as set to music there or in another musical setting;
  2. the antiphon with Psalm from the Graduale Simplex of the liturgical time;
  3. a chant from another collection of Psalms and antiphons, approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop, including Psalms arranged in responsorial or metrical forms;
  4. some other suitable liturgical chant approved by the Conference of Bishops or the Diocesan Bishop. This is sung either by the choir alone or by the choir or a cantor with the people.

The thing to note is that the four options are listed in order of preference by the Church, meaning that Option One is the ideal and is meant to be the norm. If for serious reason, that norm is not attainable (in parishes with no musicians or musicians with lesser degrees of skill), then Option 2 should be normative, and so forth down the line. Our Lady of Grace Parish is blessed to have the skilled musicians which make it possible for us to make Option One normative at our weekend Masses. All are encouraged to lift their voices in the chanting of the Communion Antiphon (which is found in the bulletin). One of the many spiritual benefits that I have noticed as a result of our doing the mind of the Church is a marked increase in reverence during Holy Communion. I personally attribute this to the beauty of hearing the words of Sacred Scripture echoing throughout the Church as we, God’s People, dare to approach the Altar to receive Our Lord’s Body, Blood, Soul and Divinity in Holy Communion.

One final note: I know that some folks will be tempted to bring up that at "Saint Slippers by the Bedside" parish or any other parish they know, they don’t follow the directives of the GIRM. I can only say that I am not the Pastor at any of these parishes and that those entrusted to the Pastoral Ministry at these parishes will have to answer to God, as will I have to give an account for my pastoral care of the souls entrusted to me here at Our Lady of Grace. I hope this has been helpful for us all to learn the how and why of what we do during Holy Mass.

Oremus pro invicem. (Let us pray for one another.)


Article written November 2014

Rev. Fr. Eric Kowalski is pastor of Our Lady of Grace Catholic Church in Greensboro, North Carolina. In 1993 he was ordained to the priesthood in Newark NJ by then Archbishop Theodore McCarrick. In the Diocese of Charlotte, he also served as pastor of Holy Angels Church in Mount Airy, before recently coming to Our Lady of Grace Church.

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