Singing — or not singing — the antiphons of the Roman Missal

This is a revised and much-expanded version of comments made in several previous threads.

Purpose of the antiphons

Fr Pierre Jounel, the French liturgist and teacher who was a member of a number of the working groups of the Consilium in the years following Sacrosanctum Concilium, said in the course of a lecture in 1977 that those responsible for the liturgical reforms seriously contemplated omitting the antiphons from the 1969/70 Missale Romanum altogether. He said the only reason they retained the antiphons was so that those who wanted to continue to use the Latin chants of the Graduale could do so. The phrase he used was “to placate the Gregorianists”. Continue reading “Singing — or not singing — the antiphons of the Roman Missal”

New Executive Director of ICEL

A new General Secretary has been appointed to the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL). He is Fr Andrew Menke, a priest of the diocese of Lincoln, Nebraska, who has been executive director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship since the beginning of 2017 and who relinquished his post this summer.

The prior General Secretary or Executive Director of ICEL was Monsignor Andrew Wadsworth, ordained as a priest for Westminster diocese, who had had a varied career as an assistant priest, hospital chaplain and chaplain to Harrow, one of England’s premier “public schools”, also flirting with life as an Oratorian and influenced by the traditionalist Abbey of St Mary Magdalen at Le Barroux, not far from Avignon in Provence, France. He had started life as a musician, and trained at Trinity College and the Royal Academy of Music in London.

Fr Wadsworth was appointed to ICEL in 2009. At the time, this was seen as a bizarre appointment in that the man assigned to be responsible for English liturgical texts around the world was known to celebrate almost exclusively in the Latin Tridentine Rite. In 2013 he was given permission to found a new Oratory at a parish in Washington, DC.

Fr Andrew Menke has a different pedigree. After eleven years of priestly ministry and further studies, he was called to Rome in 2010 to serve as an official in the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. During his time in Rome he obtained a licence in liturgy from the Pontifical Institute of Liturgy. After almost five years he returned to the US in 2015 and was appointed Associate Director of the USCCB’s Secretariat of Divine Worship, succeeding Fr Michael Flynn as Director in 2017.

New Director of PIMS

Dominican Father Robert Mehlart, OP, has been named as the new Director of the Pontifical Institute of Sacred Music. He has been appointed by the Vatican’s Dicastery for Culture and Education.

Fr Mehlart has been Director of Music of the Theatine Church in Munich, specializing in the performance of choral and orchestral-accompanied choral works, particularly those written for the Bavarian Royal Court (so works of Lassus, Mozart, Joseph and Michael Haydn, etc). A former chorister of the Regensburg Cathedral Choir, his educational background includes spells at the universities of Vienna and Oxford.

An abbreviated English biography will be found at and a more extensive German one at

Remembering Bishop Maurice Taylor

Bishop Emeritus Maurice Taylor, the retired bishop of Galloway, Scotland, and the oldest Catholic bishop in Great Britain, has died at the age of 97.

He grew up in Lanarkshire and served in the Army Medical Corps at the end of the Second World War, was ordained in 1950, thus having served as a priest for well over 70 years. He was Rector of the Scots College in Valladolid, Spain, from 1965 to 1974. Later, he was ordained Bishop of Galloway in 1981, retiring in 2004, after which he authored four books, including the one mentioned below.

Bishop Taylor served on the Episcopal Board of the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL) for over a decade, and was its chairman from 1997-2002. During this time and in his role as chair of ICEL he was subjected to the appalling, even rude, behavior of the late Cardinal Jorge Medina Estevez during the time that the latter was the Pro-Prefect and then the Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship. Cardinal Medina was also responsible for the promulgation of the instruction Liturgiam Authenticam (2001). Under his leadership, the Congregation effectively dismantled and reconstituted ICEL, an act which continues to have unfortunate repercussions in the life of the English-speaking Church even today. The inside story of this whole unsavory episode is to be found in Bishop Taylor’s book It’s the Eucharist, Thank God, still in print. (

Bishop Taylor no doubt rejoiced that not only was he ordained four years before the Cardinal but he also outlived him by two years. May they both rest in peace.

Holy Communion: who should distribute and where?

Following on from Nathan’s thread about priests popping up to distribute Communion when they had not been present for the Mass up to that point, there’s another point concerning the “distributors”.

In the early days of what were then called “special ministers” or “Eucharistic ministers”, it was common to see people switching from one Communion line to another in order to receive from the priest rather than from a lay person. The people who did this presumably either thought that lay people were unworthy to be distributing the sacred species, or that in some way having a priest give you Communion added value or lustre to the act, rather like those people who think that a rosary blessed by the Pope is of greater value than one blessed by your local parish priest. In extreme cases, some apparently thought that Holy Communion was not valid unless given by an ordained minister. You see the same kind of considerations arising when a bishop is present. Some people clearly think that receiving Communion from the bishop is more “valuable” than receiving from someone else. Clericalism persists in lay people, too!

It was clear back then, and is still clear today, that some people focus more on who is doing the distributing than on the elements they are receiving.

In a typical large parish these days, if there is a deacon, he will be standing alongside the priest in the centre, distributing under the form of bread. In pre-Covid days, commisssioned lay ministers would typically be at either side, distributing Communion from the chalice. With the general return of the chalice still some time off, there are still some parishes with enough communicants to warrant having lay ministers at the sides distributing under the form of bread.

The question is: what message does it give if the priest and deacon are always in the centre and lay ministers are always “relegated” to the side?

Some will say that it’s important to distinguish the ordinary ministers from the extraordinary ones. However, in pre-Covid days it was easy to point to GIRM 284a which indicates that the ordinary minister of the chalice is a deacon, and use that as a justification for having deacons at the side, not in the centre. But perhaps there is a deeper question of principle here.

One priest friend of mine got so exasperated with seeing people switching lines on their way to Communion in order to receive at his hands that he evolved the practice of never being in the same position twice. Sometimes he would be in the centre, distributing under the form of bread, sometimes on one side or the other side, distributing from the chalice (the parish had no deacon, and GIRM 284a also says that if there is no deacon then a priest is the next option for distribution from the chalice). On occasions he would even distribute from the side under the form of bread. No one could ever tell in advance where he would be at the time of distribution and plan their line accordingly. He coupled this with catechesis about the importance of focusing on what we receive, rather than on who we receive from. The effect of him ministering from the chalice at one side was that those who thought that Holy Communion was somehow “holier” when received from a priest were compelled to receive from a lay minister, unless they opted to receive under the form of wine only, from him.

Anyone who has been to Mass in a parish where the priest is too infirm to be on his feet for long periods of time will have encountered instances where the priest celebrant receives Communion and then sits down, leaving others, whether ordained or not, to distribute Communion on his behalf. That kind of situation can change people’s attitudes to the ministry of service.

Indeed, I think there’s something to be said for looking afresh at the whole ministry aspect of distributing Holy Communion. Is the status of the person distributing where we want to put the emphasis? Or is the distribution of Holy Communion an act of humble service to the People of God? How can we reflect what we believe in our positioning of ministers at this point in the rite?