Vatican II & Sacred Music

Deacon Scott Maentz Vatican II, Year of Faith

Sacrosanctum Concilium proves its connection to true Catholic theology in how it addresses the issue of sacred music as falling into the category of “both/and”. Here are some words that struck me from the chapter of the document on sacred music.

The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.

Other kinds of sacred music, especially polyphony, are by no means excluded from liturgical celebrations…


The pipe organ is to be held in high esteem in the Latin Church, for it is the traditional musical instrument, the sound of which can add a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lift up men’s minds to God and higher things.

But other instruments also may be admitted for use in divine worship….This may be done, however, only on condition that the instruments are suitable, or can be made suitable, for sacred use: that they accord with the dignity of the temple, and that they truly contribute to the edification of the faithful.

One of the thing that saddens me is the fact that many Catholics have completely abandoned the practice of Gregorian chant. This type of music is proper to the Roman liturgy and need not be used to the exclusion of other beautiful types of music, but it is clear to me that there was never an intent among the council fathers to abandon it altogether, as so many parishes have done.

The organ is another traditional instrument that has recently fallen on hard times in many of our parishes. One reason is often due to a parish’s lack of finances, but I think many times it is more than simple finances that keep organs out of newer churches. My own parish does not yet have an organ, but I know the original plans for the church called for one when we reached the second phase of building. Both financial considerations and lack of space made putting an organ in the current church nearly impossible. Many of our smaller, rural parishes may never have the resources for one, but that should not allow us to forget the fact that certain instruments are more suited for the type of music used in Catholic worship.

What are your thoughts on music in the Church today? How can we continue to improve our prayer and worship through song? What is happening in your parish?