Songs mixed with Gregorian Chant:

An angelic recipe for a singing soul

by Father Jean Paulin E. Lockulu, pastor St. John by the Sea, Klawock

One of the things I just enjoy doing in my life is chanting, as some might have noticed already. This started since my young age. For me, chanting on Sundays at Mass for God is the joy of my soul. This is the reason why I want to encourage all of you to start doing this as a way to take off with the New Roman Missal.

As we all know, the New English-language translation of the Roman Missal will be effective in the United States beginning the first Sunday of Advent, Nov. 27, 2011; and we all also know the aim of this New English translation is to recover the accurate meaning of the Latin. It is a pleasure and an opportunity for me to share with you my thoughts about the place of Gregorian Chant in our Roman Catholic Liturgy.

Gregorian Chant is a form of monophonic liturgical music that accompanied the celebration of Mass and other ritual services. It is named after Pope Gregory I, known as Gregory the Great for liturgical reform and chant in the sixth century. He is one of the Doctors of the Church. His feast is on September 3.

The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions makes it says clearly through its “The History of the Roman Missal” as follows, “The Roman Missal, like every liturgical book used in the Catholic Church, is first published entirely in Latin. For centuries, Latin had been the preferred language not only of the Church but also in scholarship, politics, philosophy, science and the arts. The Second Vatican Council maintained the Church’s preference for the Latin language, but also allowed for “a more extended use of the mother tongue within the Mass” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 54).

Most of you may remember in 1969 when the Mass of Pope Paul VI (the “Novus Ordo”)was published; this is the ordinary form of the Mass in the Latin Rite churches, the way we do it today, as we see it on ETWN TV Channel. Those of you who have been in Rome, have also seen that this is the Latin Version celebrated by the Holy Father and many other priests. Though a few other changes had been done by Pope John Paul II, the Novus Ordo has been the Latin version from which the New English-language translation Roman Missal comes.

In 1963, as they ordered a “general restoration of the liturgy itself,” the bishops of the Second Vatican Council acknowledged one musical repertoire as “specially suited to the Roman liturgy:” Gregorian chant. Therefore, they said in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC), “other things being equal, ‘chant’ should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

While in High School back home in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, I was very active in the Latin Choir which sang all songs for Mass in Latin from the procession to the recession. When I was back there for vacation in December and January, I noticed that in some parishes, they are still singing in Latin some of the Masses.

Songs mixed with Gregorian Chant are an angelic recipe for a singing soul. It gives primacy to the voice in worship; it sets texts that are, for most part, drawn from Scripture, and it unites us to the worship carried out by generations of our ancestors.

My experience has told me that singing Latin chant is much easier than speaking or learning Latin. Just try it and you will certainly agree with me. I do encourage you to start doing it.