Chant and the Mass

Music is a path to the good, and to the true. Music is a path to God.

To navigate this website, it is helpful to establish the difference between LITURGICAL MUSIC, DEVOTIONAL MUSIC and CULTURAL MUSIC.

  • The goal of Liturgical music is sacramental, to make visible the invisible. The divine liturgy starts with the Trinity, not with humans. Liturgical music is a corporate action, not an individual one.
  • The goal of devotional music is to praise God, as individuals, or as a group representing a certain culture. It starts with humans, not with God.
  • Human cultural groups identify themselves with certain styles of music. Music is often an important identifier for these groups. Therefore we can describe most music as “cultural”.
  • These three categories can intersect: music can be both cultural and devotional, both devotional and liturgical… However, most music is of one category, nor several.

These pages focus on Liturgical music in the Catholic tradition. Hence the title “singing the Mass”.

In the Catholic Church, “singing the Mass” calls on the tradition of Gregorian Chant. What is Gregorian chant? Why is it given “first place” in the Catholic Mass? How can I start chanting?

The answer lies in the vocal and liturgical characteristics of Gregorian chant. We therefore propose to first focus on the voice:

Singing the Mass – Part 1 – Find your center, find your voice, practice.

Then to read carefully the Church documents on music in the liturgy.

Singing the Mass – Part 2 – The Church liturgy documents, active participation

We can then understand how the Church guides us into the mystery through her liturgy.

Singing the Mass – Part 3 – Mystagogy, sacramental aesthetics.

Proper of the Mass (Roman Gradual)


The Roman Rite has two forms: Ordinary, and Extraordinary.

The Ordinary Form (OF) is often called “Novus Ordo”, or “Vatican II” Mass. The Extraordinary Form (EF)* is often called “Tridentine Mass” or “Traditional Latin Mass” (TLM).

The sacred music recommended by the Catholic Church for both forms of the Roman Rite, Ordinary and Extraordinary, have a lot in common:

  • Gregorian Chant is the preferred music of the Church,
  • When the Catholic liturgy calls for “necessary” music, it is always vocal and monophonic music (chant), not instrumental and/or polyphonic (several voices).
  • Musical instruments, especially the organ, are welcome in both forms of the rite as a complement, a support and an enhancement of the vocal music. The human voice is however the primary “instrument” of the Liturgy.

To know more about

  • The Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite, click here.
  • The Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, a good place to start is reading :
Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, issued by USCCB, on November 14, 2007 (a quick 70-page read, download here: SingToTheLord )
To go deeper, read:
Musica Sacram : 1967, post-Vatican II, instructions on Music in the Liturgy.
Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy : the “original” text from the Vatican II Council on the Liturgy.

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