Four-Hymn Sandwich Blues

I think that perhaps the traditional Latin Mass isn’t the spur that will rid Catholic church music of the four-hymn sandwich. While I sympathize with Jeffrey Tucker somewhat, it didn’t take too much surfing today to find the ugly beast rear its head in the 1962 Missal.

Maybe the real solution would be to phase out the Low Mass, and permit only the Tridentine High Mass to be celebrated. I can tell you there is no inspiration to be found in the pedestrian celebration of liturgy in any form. No music? No artistry? I’m sure it can be prayer for people who prefer crumbs and scraps of the liturgical tradition in an unintelligible language. But it’s not going to be the source of any grand merging of the masses with some rosy-colored notion of Cahtolic tradition.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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8 Responses to Four-Hymn Sandwich Blues

  1. Liam says:

    Well put, and while I sympathize with the more important goal of Jeffrey’s post, it is mightily tendentious and misdescribes and misdiagnoses. Most importantly, the repetitive war imagery may describe how it feels but how good is it as a perspective (it may be valid but it’s rather self-limiting, and trauma-excepted we have choices about how far to let our feelings define our perspectives).

    And, lest we forget, there is quite a substantial portion of the TLM set that has embraced the Low Mass as its much-preferred experience.

    Surely, there is a not insubstantial group of people like Jeffrey who actually want to realize the reforms of the Liturgical Movement. But they face pews sprinkled with a not-insubstantial number of people who resent the idea that the way their grandparents mostly worshipped is not somehow truly normative. And that’s not even dealing with the hissers (those that hiss at anyone who tries to join in the server’s parts, as it were).

  2. Gavin says:

    There’s a separate battle to be waged over the Low Mass indeed. I know many “trads” who despise the Low Mass. I myself would rather work in any OF parish than a Low Mass (unless we’re talking French Organ Masses or something like that!) But I suspect that MANY (not all) of these Low Masses are out of NECESSITY and not desire. Parishes don’t have a chant schola, a deacon, enough money, whatever, and so the Low Mass wins out. So in the meantime, I think the Low Mass is a necessary “evil” to endure, for those who want the EF but can’t afford the Missa Cantata or High Mass. I don’t know WHY one would prefer to kneel and listen to a warbly soprano sing “Jesus My Lord My God My All” for 35 minutes to a well-done OF, but I’m not going to begrudge someone that option.

  3. jeffrey says:

    That’s so funny that you found that. I completely agree that the EF is not the magic bullet, not at all. It’s just the people who are getting serious about Catholic music are finding a more welcoming venue in the EF — and this worries me very much. I know I should be happy for the EF and I truly am. But do we really want a situation in which everyone who has a historically based plainsong interest has to bail out of the Catholic mainstream – and the whole of postconciliar life along with it? This troubles me a great deal.

    Congratulations on the great graphic by the way.

    Also, Todd, thanks for encouraging me on the litany today. I must say that it just really, really surprised me how effective it was. I was really nervous about it, but it came off almost like it was inevitable. It made the day very special.

  4. jeffrey says:

    I’m realizing too that my post comes across as kind of despairing, which I didn’t intend. This really is a time for celebration over the increased options with Summorum, but I’ve always worried that the dynamic would emerge that somehow the EF is for serious people and the OF is for everyone else. this just doesn’t need to happen. It is so unnecessary.

  5. Liam says:


    Your comments here help to clarify how to read your post over there. Thanks.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    Lest folk forget, the Low Mass was the experience of almost everyone pre-V2. In ordinary parishes the only time a High Mass was celebrated was once on a Sunday. Otherwise the old LM warhorse was it. Generations survived on it, knowing no better. The once-a-week HM was not able to produce a musical repretoire that could be sustained well. If practice makes perfect, then lack of regular experience made for a rather inadequate experience. The one saving grace of the HM was usually the Benediction service that followed in which the pew potatoes were actually able to sing something … and in English, no less! What was it: Holy God, We Praise Thy Name, of course.

  7. Gavin,

    I was thinking the same thing viz. French Organ Masses. The Low Mass can be a wonderful time to improvise, and it can be made into a beautiful experience.

    Alas, that’s not what’s happening at 99.9% of Low Masses. I had to play Low Masses this summer, and I insisted on doing no more than two hymns. In fact, after a few weeks, I cut it down to one. I stuck them during the procession, or after the Last Gospel, so that they were not a part of Mass.

    Earlier in the year, someone tried to talk me into doing something which I declined to do, and this seemed to open the floodgates. After she didn’t get her way, she stood there asking me one critical question after the next. You might have guessed by now that one of those questions pertained to hymns. “Hymns are not a part of the Mass,” I said.

    “But they do them over at St. Rocky Balboa’s Parish.”

    “Hymns are not a part of Mass, unless you’re talking about the Gloria or the Sanctus.”

    End of conversation. I do hymns at High Mass on Christmas and Easter only, in order to avoid riots breaking out.

  8. Gavin says:

    The ultimate problem is that you can’t legislate quality. It’s just impossible. Someone, somewhere will not be able to live up to it for reasons beyond their direct control. And most people won’t live up to it because they just don’t want better.

    Seems to me if we want fewer Low Masses (although the Missa Cantata IS a Low Mass!) we should make a point to ATTEND them so that priests wind up saying “ah, we’re drawing a large crowd, time to get High!” (Mass, that is)

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