Jeremiah 6:16

Thus saith the Lord: Stand ye on the ways, and see and ask for the old paths which is the good way, and walk ye in it: and you shall find refreshment for your souls.



Music in the Catholic Church can be divided into two categories. Liturgical music is appropriate for a Mass or any other ritual action that is under the jurisdiction of the diocesan bishop. Devotional (worship) music is music that has been produced to be used in worshiping God, but not in a liturgical setting. The third edition of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal suggests that Gregorian chant is proper to the Roman Liturgy and should be regarded as the music that is proper to a liturgical setting. It also says that other types of music, such as polyphony, are appropriate if they “correspond to the spirit of the liturgical action” and “foster the participation of all the faithful.” Going hand in hand with the types of music used for liturgy is the types of instrumentation used. In a later paragraph, the Instruction states that the preferred instrument for liturgy is the organ. Other wind, stringed or percussion instruments may be used as long as they can be rendered “truly apt for sacred use.”

In other words, liturgical music should adhere to, and be used within, the context for which it was created. Liturgical music, traditionally, has been written for the organ or for the small ensemble of instruments it is designed to mimic. Many pieces have been written to include both the organ and the ensemble. Instruments that do not require amplification are preferred within the liturgy. This is so that we may complement the sacrifice of Jesus Christ with our own sacrifices. It takes more work to create music that can properly fill the church without amplification. Any instrument that requires amplification is a failure to live up to our prayer that this sacrifice of not only the bread and wine but our labor to give glory and praise is truly the work of our human hands.

Devotional music and authentic devotion is supposed to lead us back to the mystery of the Mass and to draw us deeper into the mystery of Christ. As we said last week, authentic devotion can be done anywhere. Therefore, devotional music can exist anywhere. Whether we are caught in a traffic jam, shopping or participating in the parish charismatic praise and worship group, this music keeps Christ fresh in our minds. It also helps to lead us into a greater understanding of our participation in the gift of life. Like devotion in general, devotional music takes a free form and can be played with a variety of instruments. Amplification is not an issue with devotional music because the assembly is usually smaller, and the sense of sacrifice reserved for the Mass is replaced with the idea of giving praise and thanksgiving to God for his many gifts.

Since devotional music is intended for a smaller group, this community should have greater control over what types of music and instruments are played. The devotional setting is the proper place for instruments such as guitars and for groups that prefer to play “rock” style music. Christian “praise bands”, and the songs that they play should be reserved for the devotions of the Church. This is so that the people attending may participate as they wish. A question that should be answered before devotional music is used, and before authentic devotion may take place is; “How does this activity lead us back to the life, death and resurrection of Christ that is present in the Mass?” Next week, we will complete this series of articles by discussing the prayers of the Church when it comes to liturgy and devotion, and also the places where liturgy and devotion take place.

(Material from the Diocese of Columbus, OH)