Monday, 24 November 2014

There is no such thing as a Sung Low Mass

I cannot count the numbers of Masses which I have attended and chanted as Cantor or Schola Master according to the more ancient use. I chant every Sunday and have personally organised over 30 Solemn or Sung Masses since Summorum Pontificum including a Mass in the Presence of a Greater Prelate. I say this not to boast but to indicate my level of experience. 

Never, ever have I heard of a Sung Low Mass, it simply does not exist. 

Here from the  Una Voce Toronto blog, the Toronto Traditional Mass Society.


Brian said...


Is there such an offering as a Solemn Low Mass? If so, how is different from a normal Low Mass? US President Kennedy's funeral Mass was termed a Solemn Low Mass. Kennedy always preferred a Low Mass over a High Mass. That is why his widow requested a Low Mass.

Vox Cantoris said...


I've not found a video of the whole Mass. From the newsreels it appears to be what would be generally be described as "Pontifical Read Mass" as it was celebrated by a Cardinal but not the Ordinary which would have been normally from the Throne, though that might be waived for a Requiem. Judgeing from what music I could pick up, it was not a Sung or Solemn Requiem. So, some might have called it a Solemn Low Mass, it certainly would have had great "solemnity" but not Solemn, liturgically speaking.

Anonymous said...

"Kennedy always preferred a Low Mass over a High Mass. That is why his widow requested a Low Mass."
Ai, that's the trouble! It seems Americans mostly preferred a "low Mass" back then, even on Sundays. The author of the book "Why Catholics Can't Sing" blames it on the Irish-Americans, who found a Sunday low Mass convenient because it was quick, the hymns were in English and familiar, and anyone could pray the Rosary silently during Mass.
So when the TLM came back to my parish following Summorum Pontificum and we started chanting the Ordinary and the Propers, many old parishioners thought it was "not how they remembered it" and severely criticized the strange language, the "weird" music, and the length of the Mass itself. When we [the priest and organizers] told them we were just following rubrics, they taunted us, asking if those rubrics could even help make people become saints. They challenged us, "Do you think your kind of Latin Mass helped St. Juan Diego to become a saint? Do you think he even understood Latin?"
The irony is, these were the same people who petitioned the bishop for a Latin Mass. They asked for a Latin Mass and now they're scandalized that it is in - surprise - Latin?
But no, what they expected was a silent Mass with English hymns at the Entrance and Offertory and the praying of the Rosary throughout. Because that was how they remembered it from way back. I see that even the "Catholic" Kennedys must have preferred it that way. Sad.
Please pray for our TLM congregation.

Vox Cantoris said...

Dear Anon,

Oh my! That experience must be universal, or at least to North America, English speaking North America!!!

When I chant the Mass every Sunday and as I did when I was the Schola Master for the short lived FSSP Apostolate in Toronto, here is how we sing the Missa Cantata.

Organ Prelude
Processional hymn in English
Asperges me/Vidi aquam
Kyrie, Gloria sung by all (I, III, IV, VIII, IX, XI, XII, XVI, XVII !!!)
Graduale, Alleluia/Tract, Sequence
Sung Epistle/Gospel
Credo sung by all (the community can sing I, II, III and IV!!!)
Offertory Chant with verse
Organ or Latin offertoriale
Communion chant with psalm verses
soft organ or chant in Advent/Lent of Rorate caeli, Creator alme, Attende Domine, etc.
Marian Antiphon after the Last Gospel
Recessional hymn in English

That is how it is done when it can be! Look at that, more singing for the congregation than in most Ordinary Forms! yet, the Cantor/Schola still has its part to play.

The experience you described is exactly the reception I had initially. "That's not how I remembered it" is universal!!!

And that is why we lost it!

Had every parish used the model which I listed above, there would have been some minor tinkering, maybe the readings in the vernacular but not a complete throwing out of the baby.

The "Irish" low Mass mentality was everywhere in Canada outside of Quebec of course, but that is a different story. Historically, one could understand it --- they had to have Mass in secret and that is what they brought to North America.

I like a quiet Read Mass...on an early Saturday morning, but not on Sunday!

Thanks and God bless you and your community.

If you wish to write me privately you may do so at

Vox Cantoris said...

I will say this further, if you are not prepared to follow the rubrics of the Mass, and there is no excuse today given the wealth of information on websites, then don't do it!

YOU have a responsibility and if you are not able to humble yourself to conform your mind and heart to what is given to us then you do not have a right to do anything more than sit in a pew.

Those of us who work day in and day out and have for a generation are not going to allow it to be taken away from us again, nor are we going to sit by and see it debased and confused by laziness or liturgical no nothings.

If one cannot provide a full Solemn Mass, the Church provides guidelines on what do.

You have no right to make it up as you go!

Brian said...

In my parish when I was an altar server there was High Mass every Sunday, usually, at noon. I certainly don't remember Low Mass being preferred over High Mass. I do remember my Pastor once advising the faithful that it would be best if crying children only came to the earlier Low Mass. I guess it was because the noise was disruptive during a Sung Mass. High or Low, both are wonderful.

Three cheers for Summorum Pontificum.

Winefred said...

Daily Mass when I was a child (1960's in the U.S.) was always a Requiem, with the Introit, Kyrie, Sanctus, and Agnus Dei sung -- possibly other parts, but I don't remember clearly. The Mass was otherwise said and not sung, although done 'sotto voce' rather than silently, which was a great boon -- I have found the total silence adopted by so many of current practitioners of the Extraordinary Form to be quite peculiar. I did not usually have a missal at Mass before school (children dropped off before school opened all trickled in to the church on their own, with one nun in the back keeping an eye on all of them -- couldn't do that today!), but never had any difficulty knowing where I was in ritual. Always had a personal missal on Sundays, an indispensable part of being a Catholic in those days, and one that would be restorative to the Church today for its educative and aesthetic value. The phrase "sung Low Mass" would probably best describe what we had in those days, and it took no longer than half an hour, including the wonderful "after" prayers. (We did have an Irish pastor.). I wasn't at this Mass every day, but memories of it are very fond, and it imprinted those melodies on my mind forever.

Anonymous said...

From a reader…


Father, the subject Article IV says: “Celebrations of Mass as mentioned in art. 2 above may – observing all the norms of law – also be attended by faithful, who of their own free will, ask to be admitted.” What does the “observing all the norms of law” refer to?

That’s just standard boilerplate, legal language (servatis de iure servandis), to cover all the bases.

There are certain canons in the universal Code which regulate who can or cannot access certain chapels (e.g. can. 1226 establishes the concept of a private chapel which may limit attendance to a specific group, and can. 1223 on oratories, such as those in religious houses or seminaries, which also may have limited access). In addition, there may be cases wherein a priest is restricted to offering Mass only privately. There also may be situations in which a layperson has been penalized and thus restricted from entering a certain church, chapel, or oratory.

Dymphna said...

But isn't the missa cantata a low Mass?

Vox Cantoris said...

Hello Dymphna,

We need to remove the term Low and High Mass from the lexicon, they come from a different era.

The norm for Mass in the Ordinary Form is that it is sung with much solemnity and incense, ad orientem and Chant, in other words, it looks like the traditional Solemn Mass.

In the Extraordinary Form, every Mass is to be a Solemn Mass. The Missa Cantata (Sung Mass) and the Missa Lecta (Read Mass) are by exception. In fact, the Missa Lecta was once known as the Missa Privata, the Private Mass or personal Mass of the priest so it could be said every day by every priest. This is why there were side altars and in churches, usually two and in seminaries and monasteries or say major Basilicas sch as old Notre Dame in Montreal, dozens. Every priest would say a Private Mass every day, usually at the same time. Mass had to be said before noon and with a fast from midnight, most priests would want to say Mass at 7AM!

The Missa Cantata therefore is not a "Low Mass". That is the simple Read Mass with one server and was most common before the Council in our parishes. The Missa Cantata is closer to the norm because one cannot have a Solemn Mass due to a lack of resources.

So no, a Missa Cantata is not a Low Mass.