How Are Songs Chosen? (Musical Catechesis in SAP 4.28.24 Bulletin)

The Church’s two official hymnals (sorry, it’s neither of the hymnals in our pews), the prescribed entrance songs are largely based on the psalms. In fact, 160/164 entrance songs in the Roman Gradual are psalms, while 56/63 entrance songs in the Simple Gradual are – you guessed it – psalms. These psalms form the basis for the antiphons that we sing at Mass.

Just like the Scripture Readings, antiphons are set to a specific calendar. If the antiphon option is used at all (as we’ve discussed previously, 3/4 options permissible in the GIRM call for antiphons), the Church gives very little to no leeway in changing the texts. It is important to note that these antiphonal and Scriptural texts, among others, differ from what is called the ordinary. The Ordinary are texts that never change, such as the Glory to God, Alleluia, or Lamb of God. The propers are the texts that change from day to day or celebration to celebration.

When we began implementing the antiphons in 2020, we discovered a very sobering fact: We’re not as familiar with scripture as we probably should be. While there has been the historical “joshing” between Catholics and Protestants over our knowledge of Scripture, it really does beg the question – why is this the case? Over time, our parish has really picked up to singing them. So much so that other parishes within the archdiocese have begun implementing their use in their own respective liturgies, and our parish has been used as an example.

While the propers change from Mass to Mass, there are obviously overarching themes that we call seasons. Advent, Lent, Triduum, Easter, and Ordinary Time are the ones that I’m sure we all know and love for their differences. It is entirely possible to have common themes throughout a season.

One thing that you have probably noticed last summer was a lot of repetition in the hymns we sing at Mass. For example, in July, we sang “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name” every weekend. In August, we sang “Christus Vincit” and “All Creatures of Our God and King” every weekend. Starting last Labor Day Weekend, we sang Fr. Liam Lawton’s “Where Two or Three Are Gathered” for nine weekends straight. Why?

To eliminate the feeling that the songs we sing aren’t familiar. I recently read an article from a musicologist who proposed that Western culture is the most musically illiterate that it’s ever been because of the emphasis of Western governments on pushing math and science at the expense of the arts, philosophy, and trades. In my tiny sphere of music, I do personally think that this researcher is onto something. It takes a long time to learn anything new. Even with the repetition, there are still issues.

On any given weekend, someone will comment that we sing the same music over and over. On that very same weekend, someone else will remark that all the music is new. While Fr. Steve, Fr. Vincent, Archbishop Thomas, and I have zero control over, like the readings, the antiphonal texts, we do have control over the hymns and the Ordinary of the Mass. This is why you’ll find a lot of repetition from week to week.

The repetition of hymns and songs balances out the fact that antiphons change from week to week. One thing we can control. The other thing we cannot control.

We do try our best.

Ultimately, the Christian faiths are singing faiths. The Catholic faith, as the one church founded by Christ himself, established that tradition very on.

The Catholic Church teaches us that the true purpose of sacred music “is the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful” (Musicam Sacram, §4).

It is because of this Church teaching that we put so much focus on signing authentically Catholic music at this parish. While there are a lot of different musical styles that often vary with generation, there is one absolute measure: the theology in the lyrics.

If we’re singing bad theology, are we glorifying God? Are we sanctifying the faithful?


Incorporating the antiphonal propers into our liturgy helps us meet this aim and ultimately helps us become much more intimate with Scripture.

While Fr. Steve, Fr. Vince, Bill, and even Archbishop Thomas have no control over the antiphonal texts changing from week to week, we hope to provide you with the ability to use our sung prayers in your spiritual life outside and away from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.