The Armchair Liturgist: Marian Hymns Next Month

Thanks to an early Easter, the Sundays of May all hit major feast days, at least in those places that transfer the observance of the Ascension to the following Sunday. A parishioner asked me about Marian hymns for next month. I confessed I had planned none, though I confided in my friend it was likely a choir or cantor might do special music on any of those feasts.

Take the purple chair, my friends, and make a liturgist’s ruling. Marian hymns and songs, yes or no? If so, where and when?

Our parish celebrates a May Crowning on the first at a school Mass. Any parishes celebrating other Marian events, or perhaps just a votive Mass or two? If so, that would seem to be the proper place for Marian hymns. The Blessed Mother must surely be worth an extra liturgy or two. If not, why would musicians be expected to program for it?

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Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to The Armchair Liturgist: Marian Hymns Next Month

  1. Gavin says:

    Not this year. In my mind, feasts of the nature of Ascension, Pentecost, etc. take much higher priority than some local custom. It’s made me persona non grata at my parish often, and it’s definitely NOT pastoral of me, but I stick to my principles on this one. Of course that hasn’t stopped my parish from advertising our Ascension Sunday Mass as “May Crowning Mass” – which I do cut off and correct anyone who says that.

    If we were talking Easter or ordinary time in May, I’d use the Regina Coeli or “Be Joyful Mary” at the closing hymn. Or for ordinary time something a bit less often used like “Daily Daily Sing to Mary”, or even “O Sanctissima”.

    For me, nothing trumps the liturgy. I’m of the “anything goes for closing hymn since it’s not part of Mass” mindset, so I don’t have a problem with Marian hymns there so long as they don’t conflict with the tenor of the day. And if I don’t have something better to use.

    And let’s face it – most Marian music we have is just the worst of pre-V2 hymnody.

  2. Liam says:

    I think even those of us blessed to celebrate Ascension Thursday on its proper day this week get to celebrate all the feasts in May, don’t we?

    Anyway, since Mother’s Day is traditionally a big day of expectation for Marian hymnody in many US Catholic parishes: no Marian hymns as such on Pentecost, even for closing. Nor on Ascension. Pentecost and Ascension are two of the Big Five of the Church’s year, the five highest ranked feasts (Triduum, Nativity, Epiphany, Ascension & Pentecost), and each should be celebrated with the greatest of solemnity in a parish’s liturgical arsenal.

    The Magnificat, as a scriptural and liturgical canticle of praise of the highest order, is not something (so long as it’s a fairly faithful rendition of the actual translated text) I would classify as “Marian hymnody” as such, so always keep that in mind as a solution.

    For Trinity Sunday, a Marian closing would be OK if there was going to be a May crowning to follow.

    For Corpus Christi, well, you get a three-fer: add expectations of national hymnody for Memorial Day….

    There are, it should be noted, a shockingly high number of Catholics who appear to know the chant form of the Salve Regina. I am always amazed to hear so many people sing it when it’s chanted. And the Salve is the proper Marian antiphon after Eastertide (as the Regina Coeli – perhaps the easiest bit of chant for any person to learn – is for Eastertide). Those Marian antiphons (along with Alma Redemptoris Mater – so lovely – and Ave Regina Coelorum) would rank ahead of hymnody, behind the Magnificat, in my book. They are liturgical music that Catholics should be given the opportunity to regain familiarity with.

  3. Gavin says:

    Liam, I could get behind the Magnificat on Trinity Sunday. And by all means, if one don’t have anything else they’d rather use, I won’t begrudge anyone a Marian closing hymn even on Pentecost.

    And yet isn’t it a great opportunity to go against the laymen’s expectations and not do a Marian hymn in May due to feasts? It gives you the teaching opportunity to say “No, this was a major feast and that takes precedence.” Same with national hymns on Memorial Day weekend.

    I should have added above that I would use a Marian hymn if Ascension were on Thursday and we had Easter 7 next Sunday. But alas, the bishops have packed our Sunday calendars. They’re all too happy to think of bad Catholics, but they won’t think of us poor musicians who have 4 straight Sundays of large feasts (5 if you count First Communion yesterday at my church).

  4. Rob F. says:


    Seems to me that all the Sundays in May are always Solemnities, early Easter or not. I don’t see why I’d do anything different this year than any other year.

    Keep the hymn themes close to those of the antiphons they replace: Introitus, Offertorium, and Communio. Since the closing hymn replaces no antiphon, I’d say it’s up for grabs this year or any other. After all, if it’s not an expression of popular piety, then why have it all?

    Make every closing hymn Marian every Sunday of May.

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