September 11 , 2015 | Vol.2 | Issue 2

Chaplains' Newsletter

Over the past couple of years, I have received a number of invitations from Catholic school boards in Ontario to present workshops on music and the Mass (the role of music in liturgy and how to select music) for faith ambassadors, religious education teachers, and music teachers.

This has also served as an opportunity for me to get a sense of the realities and challenges faced by those who are tasked to organize the liturgy and select music for school masses. While most teachers find the process of choosing music a relatively easy process, some find the process challenging due to reasons such as: lack of repertoire knowledge, lack of resources, and lack of effective communication with those involved with the Mass.

Knowing that you will likely be planning for your first school Mass in the not-too-distant future, I want to offer some tips and ideas for choosing music for Mass. I hope that you will find these helpful in your ministry. Keep in mind that the main roles of music in the liturgy are no different in a school setting than in a parish setting and those are to foster "full, conscious, and active participation" (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, 14), to unite as the Body of Christ and to us give thanks and praise to God.
  1. Start with the readings! Read the readings several times over. Take the time to reflect on them and each time you read them, jot down key words or ideas that come from each reading. Discover the connections between the text and the mysteries of the day and of the season (Ordinary Time, Advent, Lent, etc.). Then think of music that comes to mind - those that reflect the text, the mysteries of the season, music that is inspired by the text - not necessarily a direct quote. If you're stuck, there are indices at the back of hymn books that are organized by theme or liturgical season. These can be very helpful in your search for songs.
  2. Choose music that has a "singable" melody and is accessible. Music need not be complicated. Music that is easier to sing encourages more participation. If you're blessed to have a skilled choir that can sing more difficult music for reflection at certain times of the Mass (eg. Preparation of the Gifts), by all means, go for it.
  3. Select music texts that are appropriate for liturgy. This might be thought of a subjective concept, but there are some general principles to bear in mind.  You really can't go wrong with choosing songs that express our salvation, that express our praise, that are fitting to the liturgical season and texts of the day, that encourage our communal participation, that speak of discipleship. Certain sacred songs to avoid are devotional songs that foster more private spirituality and personal salvation. There is nothing wrong with these songs, but in Mass, as opposed to devotional prayer (eg. adoration, rosary, etc.), there is more of an emphasis on the communal dimension of worship. I know that it is tempting to choose music based on the fact that it has a catchy melody or a strong beat or interesting harmonies, but it's important to remember that it is the music that serves the text and not the other way around.  
  4. Know your community. Find out what songs are familiar to your school or parish community and incorporate them into the Mass. This is not to say that there is not a place for new music, which brings me to my next point...
  5. Introduce new music gradually. As much as it's great to sing familiar songs, there are many new songs out there waiting to be heard and sung. Here are some ideas on how to introduce new music: if you have a choir, have them sing the hymn on their own at a Mass (as prelude or preparation of the gifts); repeat the song throughout the year, so that people become more comfortable; if you are comfortable, lead the assembly in a little rehearsal before the liturgy.
  6. Plan well in advance. It is worth the investment of time to plan music for the year, or even better, over several years, so that you can have a bird's eye view of what music you'll be covering over the year and see where there is room to introduce new songs.
  7. Variety is the spice of life...and liturgy. Don't be afraid to be open to different styles of music. In our own parish at King's, it's not unusual to hear chant, traditional hymns, and an African-American hymn all in one Mass. After all, the Church is a rather large one and the music can reflect that. If your school community is accustomed to singing very upbeat contemporary praise and worship music, then you might like to try more contemplative and meditative chant. If you sing traditional songs, perhaps you can expose your community to an African chant. The possibilities are boundless.
  8. Make the best of your local resources. This may even mean reaching beyond the border of your school. Get in touch with musicians from your local parish who may be able to help with playing at your Mass (if you don't have an accompanist at the school) and who may offer music suggestions.

Upcoming Events
Veritas Series
Death, Resurrection and Bioethical Dilemmas 
A free lecture by Dr. Moira McQueen.
September 24,  7:30 p.m. 
Joanne & Peter Kenny Theatre, Darryl J. King Student Life Centre,
266 Epworth Ave, London.
 Click here  for more details.

Christ the King Parish Welcome Back BBQ
September 27, 6 p.m. (following the 5 p.m. Mass) 
Alumni Lounge, Wemple Building, 266 Epworth Ave, London.
Click here for more details. 

Veritas Series
Divine Love in Challenging Times
A free lecture by Paula D'Arcy.
October 21, 7:30 p.m.
Joanne & Peter Kenny Theatre, Darryl J. King Student Life Centre, 266 Epworth Ave, London. 
Click here  for more details.  

King's Fall Open House
November 7, 1 - 4 p.m.
Click here to register, and for more information. 
Youth News
24th Sunday in Ordinary Time

25th Sunday in Ordinary Time

26th Sunday in Ordinary Time 

Campus Ministry Team

Administrative Assistant

Pastoral Counsellor

Campus Minister

Campus Minister / Director of KUC Chamber Choir

Campus Youth Minister

Aside from hymnals such as Catholic Book of Worship III and Celebrate in Song, there are many hymnals to explore: Gather ( ), Glory and Praise ( ), Spirit and Song ( ), One in Faith ( ).

Good sources of world music for worship are from the Iona Community and Taizé Community (both distributed by and With Many Voices (
Chant resources: Canticum Novum (, Saint Meinrad Chants (


No matter the moment or occasion, music has a powerful impact on our lives and, in particular, in our worship and prayer. Music can deepen our connections to God and to one another. Well-known Catholic composer Tony Alonso speaks very eloquently about this. It's definitely worth a listen.

Here are some songs that I believe to be very accessible and prayerful. I hope that you will find them not only useful for your liturgies, but for your own personal prayer as well.

Bless the Lord (Taizé Community)

Siyahamba/We Are Marching (Traditional South African)

Open My Eyes (Jesse Manibusan)

If you ever have any questions regarding music ministry, please do not hesitate to contact me through Campus Ministry at King's. I hope that your year will be filled with much beauty, grace, and music!

In communion,

Janet Loo
Campus Minister/Director of Chamber Choir
King's University College
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