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Celebrate in song: two critiques of the new CCCB booklet.


With the revised English translation of the Roman Missal set to be implemented throughout Canada on the First Sunday of Advent of this Year, the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB) has published a 216-page booklet entitled Celebrate in song, presumably to help people participate more easily in the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass.

This would seem to be a positive development, but on examination the booklet proves to be a disappointment on at least two counts: first, the meagre place accorded to Gregorian chant in its 216 pages; and second, the on-going problem of dubious theology in the texts of some Communion hymns.

In the second section of the booklet, entitled Mass Settings (35 pages), there are three musical settings of the Mass (A, B, and C), none of which are in Gregorian, although the last two--Band C--have some chant-like elements.

Then follows a section entitled Chants (21 pages), pieces taken from the Roman Missal itself. Approximately one half of these chants simply constitute the dialogue between the priest and the people during Mass. The other half contains one of each of the following in English: Kyrie, Gloria, Credo, Sanctus, Pater Noster, Agnus Dei.

The next division of the booklet is called Hymns (86 pages), consisting of 40 songs. Only one of these is in Gregorian chant, Hymn #6.19, an English version of the ancient Advent hymn, "Conditor alme siderum." Does this fulfill Vatican II's stated request that Gregorian be given "pride of place" in the liturgy? I think not.

And sadly, there is much more that is serious than this. In the Hymns section, 12 pieces are listed and recommended as Communion songs. Out of these, only three actually speak of receiving, or partaking of, or sharing in the Body and Blood of Christ: the sixth (Hymn #6.6), the seventh (Hymn #6.7) and the eighth (Hymn #6.8). Hymn #6.9 comes close but does not quite make it.

The very first song on the list (Hymn #6.1) is arguably one of the worst. Entitled "Bread for the World," its refrain goes like this:
   Bread for the world: a world of hunger.
   Wine for all peoples: people who thirst.
   May we who eat be bread for others.
   May we who drink pour out our love.

No mention of Christ here, or of His Body and Blood. We seem to be the ones to be turned into bread, and turned into wine. Confusion. In the second verse, Jesus is called "the wine of peace." Here, it is Jesus who has seemingly become wine, rather than wine becoming the Blood of Christ. More confusion. This is muddled Eucharistic theology at best, and heresy at worst. The true Catholic teaching is that at the Consecration of the Mass the bread and wine offered by the priest are transformed into the Body and Blood of Christ. Why the CCCB would recommend this bewildering text, and even place it first on its list of Communion hymns is a mystery to me.

The second piece (Hymn #6.2) is better, but there is still no mention of Christ's Body and Blood.

In the third song (Hymn #6.3), the theology is about as bad as that of the first, albeit not as confusing. Verses one and two state the following:

1) With bread from heaven, feed us ...

2) With wine of gladness, feed us ...

Jesus Christ is the Living Bread come down from Heaven to feed us not simply bread or wine, but His very Body and Blood.

Just when you may have thought that the worst was behind you, along comes the fourth song on the list (Hymn #6.4) Entitled
   "Let Us Be Bread, here is its refrain:
   Let us be bread, blessed by the Lord,
   broken and shared, life for the world.
   Let us be wine, love freely poured.
   Let us be one in the Lord.

Verse one goes on to state: "I am the bread of life, broken for all. Eat now and hunger no more." This would seem to refer to Christ. But then verse three adds: "See how my people have nothing to eat. Give them the bread that is you."

Once again we see this idea that we are the ones turned into bread and wine. (See refrain.) This is gross confusion. Where is the sacrificial and salvific offering of Christ's Body and Blood in all of this? Nowhere to be found. Can this be an authentic Catholic hymnal?

The fifth piece (Hymn #6.5) offers the following in verse one:
   For bread that is broken, we give thanks.
   For wine that is poured, we give praise ...

No question of transubstantiation here. It would seem that the bread and wine offered for Consecration have not become the Body and Blood of Christ, but remain simply bread and wine.

It is important to remember that one or other of these badly flawed hymns is meant to be sung while the faithful are processing forward to receive Holy Communion. Is it any wonder that belief in the Real Presence of Christ in the Eucharist has so sadly declined, when the people continue to be exposed, over and over again, to this type of watered-down doctrine?

Only with the sixth song on the list (Hymn #6.6) do we begin to see a glimmer of full-blown Catholic teaching regarding the Eucharist. It is the first time that the Body and Blood of the Lord are clearly spoken of as actually being received in Holy Communion. (Not in the refrain as such, but at least in verse one).

The seventh and eighth pieces (Hymn #6.7 and Hymn #6.8) are the best of the lot, doctrinally, because the text of their refrain, meant to be repeated several times, is clearly orthodox.

Here is the refrain from Hymn #6.8:
   Take and eat: take and eat:
   this is my body given up for you.
   Take and drink; take and drink:
   this is my blood given up for you.

The last four of the twelve, (Hymns #6.9, #6.12), while not as explicit about Catholic Eucharistic teaching, at least are not riddled with confusing or diluted messages, as can unfortunately be encountered in the first five.


It must be understood that the section of Celebrate in Song entitled Hymns, even though it constitutes a substantial chunk of the CCCB's booklet, is not part of the new translation of the Roman Missal. Therefore, it is not obligatory in any way. But the very fact that it has the approval and endorsement of the bishops of Canada, in spite of these problematic Communion songs, is worrisome to say the least.

Does this on-going, and mostly quiet, subtle resistance to authentic Catholic Eucharistic doctrine, on the part of certain highly-placed people in the Church in this country trace its roots back to the Canadian Bishops' infamous "Winnipeg Statement" of 1968? Perhaps.

In any case we must continue to pray and work for the triumph of the True Faith in our land. A land bathed in the blood, sweat and tears of martyrs and saints, from Brebeuf to Brother Andre. Hopefully, the new and improved translation of the Roman Missal will be a great help in this holy endeavour.

(For a further analysis of the problem of poor Communion hymns, see a substantial article by Dr. Lucy Caroll, "Singing for the Supper or the Sacrifice?" which appeared in Adoremus Bulletin, Vol. VIII, No. 8, November 2002.)


Attending one of the workshops in Toronto at Annunciation parish on the music for the new Missal I was amused to find that one of the presenters, a "professional liturgist" in front of over 400 people would say; "they (ICEL) have even set the Nicene Creed to music; why anyone would want to sing the Creed is beyond me."

Indeed. When questioned as to the Propers, she responded, "What are they?"

This from one of Canadas professional liturgists does not speak well for the rest of Celebrate in Song.

The three settings composed by Canadian composers are no closer to the ideal of what the Church expects and calls Sacred Music than that which is mostly now tolerated. This is particularly the case with Setting A and B. The Gloria in setting A with its syncopated "to people of good will" makes one want to pick up a beer stein as if at Oktoberfest. The settings in particular of A, Band C employ a "refrain" of "Glory to God in the highest ..." This is a direct contradiction of Liturgiam authenticam. There is no refrain in the Gloria. The people behind this methodology purport that this is "antiphonal" singing. This is a falsity. Antiphonal singing is choir/congregation or two sides of the church responding back and forth from one verse to another. In my opinion, the reason that they have employed this refrain methodology is because the Glorias are functionally un-singable by a congregation. The leaps, range, pitch and syncopation are beyond the ability of most people in the pew to sing. In my view, these Glorias are juvenile, trite, poorly composed and not worthy of the Mass.

The "Chant" setting is another problem and specifically, the Gloria. This is not the Roman Missal Gloria. Vox clara and ICEL intended that there be at least one, universal Mass setting in every Missal and hymn book in the English speaking world. For this they chose the oldest known Gloria from what we now call Mass XV or Missa Dominator Deus. This Gloria was first written down by Guido d'Akrezzo, the father of the "solfa" method (do, re, mi) in the 900s. Its antiquity is even greater. It works splendidly well in English. Upon first perusing Celebrate in song, I was shocked to find a rather boring and banal "chant-like" version in its place. Upon writing to Msgr. Patrick Powers, General Secretary of the CCCB I was referred to Father Bill Burke of the National Liturgy Office. Father Burke wrote to me that the National Liturgical Commission felt that the Roman Missal Gloria was "too hard" but that it would appear in "future editions." When? When the people have learned a different one? Too hard? Not for the parish wherein I am cantor on Saturdays. That is what we have implemented, that is what they are learning.

As for the hymns, they could have added the great Holy, Holy, Holy (Nicaea) so blatantly left out of the inclusive language and dumbed down CBW (Catholic Book of Worship [the blue hymn book] III). Of course, the greater concern here is the continual ignoring of the Propers as referred to above--the Antiphons and Psalm verses for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion. The GIRM clearly states that "Mass begins with the Entrance chant from the Graduale Rornanum or the Graduale Simplex." Well, where is it? Not in Canada, eh? This means that Mass is to open with the melis Gregorian Introit that one mostly associates with the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite. This same rubric applies at Offertory and Communion and we continue to ignore the 1974 Graduale Romanum reorganised for the Novus Ordo Missae and calendar. Why? What is it that we are afraid off Hymns are a poor substitute and the GIRM does permit "another liturgical chant" but it is not referring to On Eagles' Wings.

Celebrate in song is not a step forward to the proper celebration of the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite in Canada. What is needed is a new Canadian Hymn book to include Mass Settings which are consistent with the documents on Sacred Music, settings of Respo Psalms utilizing the New Grail and proper Gregorian tones, simple settings in English for the Entrance, Offertory and Communion Antiphons and their psalms, and a selection of hymns, old and new, which meet the test of orthodoxy. The Internet has given us the ability to find out what the Church really teaches and desires in Her liturgy. A few minutes to investigate The Chant Cafe, The Simple English Propers, Corpus Christi Watershed and The Church Music Association of America ( will provide ample evidence as to what is wrong with our current prax and where we need to go.

Mr. Raymond Levesque has a great interest in Lithurgy. He is a cantor at the Latim Mass in Sudbury and has taught a course entitled Short Gregorian Chant Manual: Some basic principles. Fie lives in North Bay, Ontario.

David Anthony Domet is a Toronto-based cantor with over 25 years of experience in Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony. He was Cantor and Schola Master for the former Toronto Apostolate of the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter and currently chants every weekend for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the Roman Rite. Mr. Domet has recently founded Una Voce Toronto Choir. He is publisher and bears sole responsibility for the editorial commentary on the blog, Vox cantoris and his accessible edition of Orlando Gibbons' 18th. century verse anthem This is the Record of John is available at Cantica nova Publications at He is available for consultations with parishes on the implementation of the new Missal and on the music expected by the Church.
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Title Annotation:Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops
Author:Levesque, Raymond; Domet, David
Publication:Catholic Insight
Article Type:Critical essay
Geographic Code:1CANA
Date:Dec 1, 2011
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