What Mass Settings Are We Using?

At the recent Collegeville Conference on Music, Liturgy, and the Arts, Michael Silhavy (now at GIA Publications) gave a plenum presentation on Mass settings with the revised Missal translation. This post is based on his remarks and the participants’ comments.

Seven comments on the implementation of the new missal

1. The implementation wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be.

The unkind way of saying that is that some folks may have felt cheated that there wasn’t more rancor in the pews! Some may have been demoralized about the text and the process, which reduced their energy to do catechesis. But places that wanted the translation to work made it work. Leadership is everything.

Our people are used to having too much new music thrown at them. But the positive side is that this made it easier to throw all this new music at our people!

The implementation was an opportunity to weed out some bad habits and bad music. It helpfully forced some parishes to introduce some needed variety in their stale music program.

It is sad to see that things are no longer known by heart, and to witness congregational indifference and decreased participation because of the new texts and music.

If nothing else, we can remember Henry V’s speech before the battle of Agincourt: we can say we were there!

2. Experimentation reigns.

Well over 50 different settings are being used in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. There are probably regional differences across the country, with more hymnals and GIA products in the Twin Cities, more OCP on the west coast, for example.

There is a proliferation of web-based resources – but how much are they being used?

Some used the implementation of the new Missal as a pretext to push other agendas – for example, to claim (falsely) that the Church says opening hymns should no longer be used.

The new Missal doesn’t (yet) seem to be uniting parishes. It is dividing them more than every by Mass setting used, which may differ from the parish next door.

There seems to be more parish-wide unity, and less music specifically for kids, adults, teens, etc.

3. We were largely wrong in our assessment of revised settings.

We thought revised old settings would be too confusing. But a survey of publishers (below) shows that revised settings are doing well.

Simultaneous singing is helpfully possible with some revisions, with old words and new words sung at the same time.

“Mass of Creation” (GIA, Marty Haugen) still seems to be the standard wedding and funeral setting.

4. The Missal chants have received, to put it kindly, modest usage.

Chant continues to have a bad name: strange four-line notation, square notes, Latin text. Chant is associated with penitence.

We should have spoken of “dialogical singing” rather than “chanting.”

Priests are struggling to read new texts, let alone sing them. The results sometimes are simply not beautiful.

5. The Gloria has suffered the most.

Refrain settings of the Gloria keep the whole Gloria from being learned by the people. But refrain settings for Christmas with the carol refrain Gloria in excelsis Deo will continue to grow. Why not an increase of choir-only Glorias, as allowed for in the GIRM, especially at Christmas and Easter?

The Gloria offers great possibilities for musical satisfaction. Composers: get at it!

6. You can’t regulate what people will use.

Try as they might, publishers or organizations can’t force settings via their hymnals, publications, or contests.

Our most successful music usually grows out of actual usage, not commissions. For example, Richard Proulx’s Community Mass first composed in 1966 was used in a parish in Seattle beginning in 1970, and then it spread from there.

7. More new settings are needed.

Consider the thousands of settings that were attempted in the 25 years between 1970-1995. It is a long winnowing process between this and the 6 or 8 settings a parish selects and learns.

Data from Publisher on Customer Interest in Mass Settings

World Library Publications reports that the four top-selling settings are:

  • “Mass of Wisdom,” Janco (new)
  • “Mass of Redemption,” Janco (revised)
  • “Sing Praise and Thanksgiving,” Joncas (revised)
  • “Mass of Saint Ann,” Bolduc (new).

Then, after a gap, these settings have similar levels of interest:

  • “Mass for Christian Unity”, Vermulst/Proulx (revised)
  • “Missa Simplex” Proulx/O’Connor (new)
  • “People’s Mass,” Vermulst/Proulx (revised)
  • “Mass of Awakening,” Soper (new).

Liturgical Press reports the greatest customer interest in:

  • “At the Table of the Lord” (Psallite), Collegeville Composer Group (new)
  • “Mass in Honor of Michael,” Vogt (new)
  • “ Mass in Honor of Mary,” Krubsack (new).

OCP (Oregon Catholic Press) reports that its top five settings are:

  • “Mass of Christ the Savior,” Schutte (new)
  • “Mass of Renewal,” Curtis (new)
  • “Heritage Mass,” Alstott (revised)
  • “Mass of Resurrection,” DeBruyn (revised)
  • “Mass of Glory,” Hurd/Canedo (revised)

The most popular bilingual Mass from OCP is “Missa Santa Cecilia Lopez,” García-López/López (new).

GIA Publications reports that its top five settings are:

  • “Mass of Creation,” Haugen (revised)
  • “Community Mass,” Proulx (revised)
  • “Mass of Angels and Saints,” Janco (revised)
  • “Mass of Joy and Peace,” Alonso (new)
  • “Mass of Light,” Haas (revised)


20 responses to “What Mass Settings Are We Using?”

  1. Jack Rakosky Avatar
    Jack Rakosky

    Great well organized post helps me organize my comments:

    1. The implementation wasn’t as bad as we thought it would be. Much ado about nothing, in both senses. Nothing much bad or good has come of it. Parishes had the great common sense not to make much of it and to do the minimum they needed to make it work, i.e. to minimize change. Lot more talk than action.

    2. Experimentation reigns. Not in my neighborhood parishes. Things are mostly the same; hymns have not changed at all which is good in my favorite parish and bad in my nearby parish.

    3. We were largely wrong in our assessment of revised settings. The Haugen Mass used regularly at my favorite parish is alive and well.

    4. The Missal chants have received, to put it kindly, modest usage No evidence in my neighborhood except that the many “Lord be with you” are often sung because singing more easily elicits the correct response. Lot of difficulty getting people to say the correct response.

    5. The Gloria has suffered the most Not really. We are still singing the Haugen Gloria at my favorite parish; the new Gloria which the diocese is promoting all parishes to learn is doing well at my nearby parish.

    6. Our most successful music usually grows out of actual usage as it should. People bring to every liturgy all the liturgies they have experienced, and so all newness of the liturgy has to take place within that context.

    7. More new settings are needed. My favorite parish has had music directors who were also composers. This is were new music should originate and be tested. I am very much in favor of parishes (with diocesan subsidies) giving the level of salary that these composers deserve.

    I am also in favor of musicians getting higher salaries when they are credentialed, and also serve as music teachers by developing the skills of parish members. This is where we build the foundation for good parish music. I don’t see these people getting diocesan subsidies though unless they are also composers.

  2. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

    As everyone knows, I pushed this renewal in a very positive way and there have been no negative repercussions whatsoever. It does depend on leadership and if the leader is negative about it and makes that known, then guess what?–people are negative about it too and wallow in that negativity. But the converse is true too and a positive attitude is contagious as well. I’d say that 99.9% or higher of my parishioners could care less about the politics of how this translation came about. Now in our 9th month of this new translation it is as though we’ve always done it this way spoken or sung. We’ve even overcome to most difficult, the “Lord, I am not worthy…”

    In terms of Mass settings, we maintained the Mass of Creation except for the Gloria for which we use the Missa Simplex. I have and still have a hard time not reverting to the older translation for the Sanctus and Agnus Dei because of its familiarity. But that is slowly changing for others and me. The Gloria Simplex has been a piece of cake and most of us can sing it now without the words in front of us, although I see a few reaching for the hymnal.
    This new translation really has been a welcome bit of renewal leading down the road to even greater things on and off church property.

    1. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
      Anthony Ruff, OSB

      @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #2:
      In my view, “No negative repercussions whatsoever” is an over-statement. I realize you’re speaking about the perspective of people in the pews, and they (many of them, most of the time) don’t care about the Church politics.

      But: there is the teaching of Jesus to contend with, and how he said we are to treat one another (Don’t lord it over, etc.). We should consider not only the people in the pews, but also the clergy, liturgical scholars, musicians, lay ministers. Some of those groups were very opposed to this process – approaching unanimity for liturgical scholars in NAAL, for example. These groups learned that their voices don’t count, they have no say, they are not respected, church leadership will simply ignore them. I believe that this is wrong – not faithful to Jesus’ teachings. I believe there are “negative repercussions” to a process that saps the energy and demoralizes such a large chunk of people most engaged in Church life. We don’t need that dragging us down as a Church.


      1. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #3:
        I don’t deny that the circle in which you live and minister is extremely different that mine, but it does strike me as “clericalism” or at least “hot house politics” that this “in-house” bitter dispute that revolves around various power struggles of cliques has pushed good people into corners. And we all know that musicians and liturgists can be hotheads and I say that as one! The sausage is now made and rather tasty and it is way past time to bury the hatchet, reconcile and do the rest of the clergy and laity in the trenches the favor of getting on with the Church’s liturgical life and especially now in recognition of the the fact that this translation is being well received by the majority of parishes in the USA and the professional musicians’ coalitions that are there to serve us and extremely well in such groups as the NPM, CMMA and others.

      2. Anthony Ruff, OSB Avatar
        Anthony Ruff, OSB

        @Fr. Allan J. McDonald – comment #5:
        Alan, sometimes you respond by avoiding the point someone made, and I think that’s the case here.
        All of what you say may be true, and it may well be good advice to bury the hatched and move on it with.
        But my point – and this is what you didn’t respond to – is that there ARE “negative repercussions” when the hierarchy acts in a way that ignores so many scholars and theologians and liturgists and musicians, and those negative repercussion affect the ‘soul’ of the Church when these groups have been hurt. However much the laity are doing fine and the translation is working, that doesn’t change the fact that the hierarchy operates in ways that do hurt people.
        I agree it’s time to move on, and I’m doing that as best I can. But moving on doesn’t mean pretending or denying the uncomfortable realities – they’re still there! – about how our hierarchical system isn’t working perfectly.

      3. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

        @Anthony Ruff, OSB – comment #8:
        You are referring to macro situations and I can only speak to micro situations and that of my own. I only have two bishops that affect me and they are my bishop and the Bishop of Rome, neither of whom I have any real influence whatsoever. That’s not avoiding the topic; that is being realistic. Yes, the hierarchical system isn’t working perfectly and neither is LCWR’s system, evidently. In fact neither is my parish system and I’m as wonderful as it gets as a pastor! 🙂
        Now I have to go, along with my parochial vicar, to hear all the confessions of my perfect parishioners.

  3. Karl Liam Saur Avatar
    Karl Liam Saur

    One note, per my cautions a year ago: whatever the issues are for that chunk of people, I do think the resilience of the people in the pews was underestimated for rhetorical effect by some, and that did not reflect well on them that did so. (Rhetorical overreach bears interest, sometimes usuriously high.)

    The lemonade from the lemon, as it were, is that, if and when the time comes for new translation principles or a different application of the current ones, and a new translation is considered, we can remember the resilience of the people in the pews, even with exceptions at the margins.

  4. Fr. Jack Feehily Avatar
    Fr. Jack Feehily

    Last Fall when we were encouraged to begin preparing the people for the new translations of the Gloria and Sanctus, we bought into the notion that revised settings would be harder than new settings, so we chose Haugen’s Storington Mass which we used through the Christmas cycle. It was a difficult transition especially for the gloria. I never really got it down well, nor did the people. So we switched to the revised Mass of Creation after Epiphany and noticed right away everyone was doing better with that. With summer ordinary time we introduced the Mass of the New World by David Haas. The people are actually singing it with gusto. Lots of people are no longer using the cards or the hymnals. The “echo” Lamb of God has proven very effective since it is so easy to repeat the phrases after the cantor.
    We took an extensive survey of the all the changes on our parish web page–got about 160 responses–and the results were surprisingly positive. That might just reflect the good job we did in the catechetical runup to Advent. The focus was on the meaning of the Mass and its parts and how we can offer together the Church’s sacrifice of praise, but the new translation was introduced within that wider context. We are using Gather 3rd Edition and continuing to use the wide repertoire we have mastered over many years of using its predecessor. Most of our music is taken from that composed in the 20th century, with a smattering of older tunes from time to time. During Lent we have a Kyrie, a Latin gospel acclamation, and a Latin Lamb of God. It is the Latin Rite after all.
    I still believe the translation has many unprayable prayers. I do the best I can and no matter what text I choose it is always clearly what the church actually believes. Thanks to Pope Benedict’s clarification in SP that what was the prayer of the church can’t all of a sudden no longer be that, can’t we apply that not only to 1962 but to 1973. Just asking.

  5. Bari Colombari Avatar
    Bari Colombari

    Thanks for the informative post.

    FWIW, Randy DeBruyn’s “Mass of the Resurrection” is a new setting, not revised as stated.
    -bari (@ the OCP Mothership)

  6. Todd Flowerday Avatar

    I’ll comment that on the surface my parish is pretty close to Fr Allan’s. But I can’t escape a certain sense of disloyalty to the people for promoting MR3 in the positive way I did.

    I’m not surprised that the music has been the easiest of the implementations. We sifted through twenty Mass settings, found one (Bolduc, St Ann) as high as a B on our list. People still aren’t quite singing the through-sung Gloria all the way through. The Holy took awhile to latch on. But it’s far more of a contemporary setting than we’ve used in the past. Make of that what you will. We think we need a lot more good new Mass settings. (The Bolduc, by the way, isn’t new. It’s 1990.)

    The Missal chant I wouldn’t use and was almost universally panned by our music gathering and leadership group. Except for Agnus Dei XVIII. Paul Ford has better material in BFW. I’m trying to convince people to give the Ambrosian Sanctus and associated acclamations a try. I wish it weren’t but it’s uphill, folks.

    The priests’ prayers are a real problem. We have a pastor who was St John’s trained, and appreciates good liturgy. But he chooses to spend more time on homilies than singing or preparing presidential prayers. One of our associates is from Ghana. I have to pay attention carefully when he preaches. So you can imagine what the convoluted English of the Missal is like. One amusing adventure was on Trinity weekend when he thought chanting the preface dialogue (without my preparing the choir or people) would be a good idea. Everybody lapsed to the old words.

    I think the implementation has gone about the way I thought it would. Good music and loyal implementation by the disrespected has saved the institution’s a**. The people in the pews lose a major opportunity to pull the texts of the Missal into their liturgical imagination. But they still have the Lectionary and vernacular song. So it’s not like a total loss.

    Privately, I laugh. Vox Clara and ICEL are like the Keystone Cops. I just do my part to divert attention from the sad comedy and do the best with what I’m given to work with.

    1. Thomas Strickland Avatar
      Thomas Strickland

      @Todd Flowerday – comment #10:The Great Amen and the Lamb of God from “Mass of Saint Ann” were published in 1992 (not as part of a setting); the remainder of the Mass was composed for the new translation. I don’t recall whether Ed wrote it in 2010 or 2011.
      Tom (@WLP Curiosity Rover)

      1. Todd Flowerday Avatar

        @Thomas Strickland – comment #16:
        Good to know. I saw the copyright on the Lamb I think, and slapped my forehead and lamented I had presented this to the parish as something new. I heard more voices on the Gloria at noon Mass today than I’ve heard in awhile. It was actually quite thrilling, plus we had piano+organ accompaniment.

  7. Amanda Wydasimi Avatar
    Amanda Wydasimi

    Not getting into the sub-conversation here, but…

    We used “Mass of Christ the Savior” here. I made a promise to myself that we would not use anything else for a year. Promise kept! The people are singing it “with gusto” as someone else said. I don’t think it would have been fair to change the setting each season; I can see the eye rolls when a cantor gets up there and says “we’re going to learn something new today!” I am nervous to change this coming Advent, but will do so… this list you provided will help.

    We are chanting… the greeting, the preface dialogue, the invitation to the sign of peace, and the blessing/dismissal…

    The people respond to everything very well. The only thing they don’t really seem to sing well is the “Lamb of God” from the Mass of Christ the Savior — it doesn’t seem to “fit” with the rest of the Mass.

    I have to think very hard as to what setting I will use this coming December.

    1. Paul Inwood Avatar
      Paul Inwood

      @Amanda Wydasimi – comment #11:
      I can see the eye rolls when a cantor gets up there and says “we’re going to learn something new today!”

      Not surprising. That’s one of the things a cantor should never ever say to the assembly. Unfortunately many cantors have never received a how-to-talk-to-the-people module as part of their formation, and I often hear things that make me (and, I’m sure, everyone else) squirm. But that particular form of communication is a sensitive and delicate one, and an essential component under the heading “how to elicit a good response from your people”.

      1. Amanda Wydasimi Avatar
        Amanda Wydasimi

        @Paul Inwood – comment #12:
        Paul, what do you suggest? I’d be interested in tips!

    2. Fr. Allan J. McDonald Avatar

      @Amanda Wydasimi – comment #11:
      I’m fortunate to be in a parish that loves to sing the Mass and the parochial vicars I’ve had can chant as I can. Our leadership in singing encourages the congregation to pick up their hymnal and sing too. My current parochial vicar from Poland has excellent English diction as does my currently away one who is in Ghana getting his work visa renewed which is taking about a year due to bureaucratic nonsense here. I’ll take the Church’s bureaucracy over the government’s any day!
      But the other key to this parish’s singing ability and with gusto and my previous parish in Augusta is that both have hardback hymnals and now for many years and the repertoire is a tradition in these parishes. My current parish only knows 4 settings of the Mass (only two for the Gloria, but we are going learn a Latin one and Credo III in English) and we rotate those depending on the season. We never have rehearsals before Mass because what we ask them to sing is within the parish’s tradition. Our choirs or cantor sings new stuff that eventually might be given to the congregation to do. We never even rehearsed the new parts of the Mass, we made sure that the cantors and choirs knew what to sing and we simply have done it now for 9 months and the congregation knows their stuff because of it. If you are introducing something new, why rehearse? Make sure the leaders can sing it and then tell the congregation what’s happening and ask them to join in when they are comfortable. It might take weeks, but so what?
      Rehearsals before Mass in my estimation stink!

  8. Fran Rossi Szpylczyn Avatar

    As a non-musician, but liturgical coordinator, I can only add that we have been using Mass of Christ the Savior as our setting. When we sing the Gloria, it seems to go well, but we do not always sing it so, the spoken one seems to suffer.

    People are still relying heavily on the worship aid for the words to the Gloria when it is not sung, and very much so for the Creed.

    I have a hard time with the priest’s prayers, sometimes they just sound so stilted, I find myself straining to hear and receive them. Overall however, it was not as difficult to implement as I had once imagined.

  9. Dan Craig Avatar
    Dan Craig

    I found some really great settings that we use a lot. These settings can be found here:


    I noticed that they’ve been downloaded more than 40,000 times in just two years. I guess other people use them, too!! They are published by the Corpus Christi Watershed in Texas, and they are fully approved by the USCCB for liturgical use in the United States.
    I find them very beautiful, and easy for the congregation to follow, too!!

  10. Charles Culbreth Avatar

    Should you happen to correspond with Ed Bolduc, the St. Ann was the consensus setting chosen last summer in plenum of our four parish merge music leadership.
    Just this morning at the 8am Assumption Mass, about 35-40 gathered folks at one of our smaller churches at which I normally do not “lead” on Sundays all sang each movement with such a vitality that I haven’t heard at our mothership and other parish locations!
    Please feel free to thank Ed and acknowledge his work lives in our prayer lives out here in California

  11. Sean Whelan Avatar
    Sean Whelan

    I thought many people were selling the congregations short by saying revised settings would be too hard for them. Last summer, I began preparing to use Mass for Christian Unity – a setting our parish used in it’s original form and it’s 2nd revision. Our bishop dragged his feet, though, and we didn’t start using the new translations until mid-October. I wasn’t going to move through Christmastime with a setting that didn’t have instrumental parts, so I changed gears to Storrington Mass. This worked well and the people embraced it. For Lent, we used the Missal chants. They just… “were.” People were not excited about them, nor upset with them. Participation was ok. Beginning on Holy Thursday and continuing until September, we use Mass of Creation. People caught the refrain of the Gloria without a problem. The Holy took a little work, but it didn’t help when the associate would loudly sing the old… now, the congregation sings it with the same gusto as they did the original setting. We are in a heavily tourist-area, and even the visitors join in very well. Considering the poor translation, I think Haugen did a masterful job revising it. He has a gift with Mass settings, for sure.

    It will take years to get back into the rotation that I prefer – seasonal settings. I don’t wish to stress the assembly with too much Mass settings, as I have other things to teach as well. But as we move into Autumn Ordinary Time, I’ll teach “Mass of St. Ann.” I think it’s important to have a “contemporary” setting in addition to chant and more stately settings.

    How sad that the Church really blew the 3rd edition with this awful translation. My enthusiasm for ministering at the weekend liturgies has plummeted. I hate, yes, hate, the Confetior. This obsession with guilt and fault makes me ill. I gave up trying to pray the collect after the Sunday in which we used to pray, “Christian is the name, and the Gospel we glory in…” Unless the presider choses EP 2, I generally tune out here as well. Oh well… I await in…

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