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The group of singers – also known as the “choir” or “schola cantorum” – who perform during mass, exercise a most noble ministry in our Christian celebration. Singing was introduced, little by little, into our places of worship. Initially, the community itself would have been the protagonist, helped, above all, by the psalmist’s song. But, from the 6th century onwards, the «schola», the group of singers who prepared themselves for the increasingly complicated chant in Latin, became more powerful and acted as a bridge between the faithful and the priest. Ultimately, it embraced almost all songs that, in ancient times, were common to the people.

The choir sometimes accompanies the congregation with its song and sometimes alternates with it. At other times, members of the choir or «schola» sing alone, for example at the Offertory or at Communion, creating a festive prayerful atmosphere.
There is no doubt that the benefit brought to the celebrant community by the choir which, after much rehearsing and effort, carry out their liturgical ministry. The choir is not just for musical virtuosos or professionals, but for believers – adults, young people or children, the “pueri cantores” – who are themselves celebrating and, in addition, help the whole community to better attune to each moment of the celebration. For this reason, choirs are strongly recommended in cathedrals, parishes, seminaries and religious houses.


Half a century after the instruction Musicam Sacram, the Conference has wished to deepen the current relationship between sacred music and contemporary culture, and between the musical repertoire adopted and used by the Christian community and prevailing musical trends, from an interdisciplinary and ecumenical perspective. The importance of the aesthetic and musical formation both of clergy and religious was highlighted, and of the lay people involved in pastoral life and, more directly, in the scholae cantorum.

The first document issued by the Second Vatican Council was precisely the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium. The Council Fathers perceived the difficulties the faithful felt in participating in a liturgy whose language, words and signs they could not fully understand. In order to put into effect the fundamental guidelines outlined by the Constitution, Instructions were issued, among them, that on sacred music. From then on, although no new magisterial documents on the topic have been issued, there have been several significant pontifical interventions which have guided reflection and pastoral commitment.

The premise of the above mentioned Instruction is still highly relevant. “Liturgical worship is given a more noble form when it is celebrated in song, with the ministers of each degree fulfilling their ministry and the people participating in it. Indeed, through this form, prayer is expressed in a more attractive way, the mystery of the liturgy, with its hierarchical and community nature, is more openly shown, the unity of hearts is more profoundly achieved by the union of voices, minds are more easily raised to heavenly things by the beauty of the sacred rites, and the whole celebration more clearly prefigures that heavenly liturgy which is enacted in the holy city of Jerusalem” (n. 5).

Several times, following Council recommendations, the Document highlights the importance of the participation of the entire assembly of faithful defined as “active, conscious, full”. And it very clearly highlights that “the true solemnity of liturgical worship depends less on a more ornate form of singing and a more magnificent ceremonial than on its worthy and religious celebration” (n. 11). It is therefore firstly a matter of intense participation in the Mystery of God, in the “theophany” that occurs in each Eucharistic celebration, in which the Lord manifests himself in the midst of his people, called to participate in a true way in the salvation enacted by Christ’s death and Resurrection. Active and conscious participation consists, therefore, in knowing how to enter profoundly into this mystery, in knowing how to contemplate, adore and welcome it, in grasping its sense, thanks in particular to religious silence and to the “musicality of the language with which the Lord speaks to us” (cf. Homily at Santa Marta, 12 December 2013). It is precisely in this perspective that reflection on the renewal of sacred music and its precious contribution moves.

In this regard, a two-fold mission emerges which the Church is called to follow, especially through those who in various ways work in this area. On the one hand it calls for safeguarding and enhancing the rich and manifold patrimony inherited from the past, balancing it with the present and avoiding the risk of a nostalgic or “archaeological” outlook. On the other hand, it is necessary to ensure that sacred music and liturgical chant be fully “inculturated” in the artistic and musical language of the current time; namely, that they are able to incarnate and translate the Word of God into song, sound and harmony capable of making the hearts of our contemporaries resonate, also creating an appropriate emotional climate which disposes people to faith and stirs openness and full participation in the mystery being celebrated.

Certainly the meeting with modernity and the introduction of speech in the Liturgy has given rise to many issues: of language, form and musical genre. At times a certain mediocrity, superficiality and banality have prevailed, to the detriment of the beauty and intensity of liturgical celebrations. For this reason, the various key figures in this sphere, musicians, composers, conductors and choristers of the scholae cantorum, with liturgical coordinators, can make a precious contribution to the renewal, especially in qualitative terms, of sacred music and of liturgical chant. In order to foster this development, an appropriate musical formation must be promoted, even of those who are preparing to become priests, in a dialogue with the musical trends of our time, with the inclusion of different cultural areas and with an ecumenical approach.

Dear brothers and sisters, I thank you again for your commitment to sacred music. May the Virgin Mary, who in the Magnificat sang of the holy mercy of God, accompany you. I encourage you not to lose sight of this important objective: to help the People of God to perceive and participate, with all the senses, physical and spiritual, in God’s mystery. Sacred music and liturgical chant have the task of giving us a sense of the glory of God, of his beauty, of his holiness which wraps us in a “luminous cloud”.

I ask you, please, to pray for me. I impart to you my heartfelt Apostolic Blessing.

Frequently Asked

Each Sunday celebration already has, or should have, a group of people who serve the liturgy with their voices, helping the assembly to pray. Simply introduce yourself to the person in charge of the choir at Mass. In accordance with your skill set and availability for rehearsals, you will be advised how best way to serve the Church.

The most traditional instrument for accompanying liturgical singing is the organ. However, other instruments also perform this function in an equally dignified way, either in conjunction with other instruments or in isolation. If you are able to serve the church in this way, introduce yourself to the person in charge of the choir, or the priest.

Every liturgical assembly needs at least four liturgical ministers to serve: the president, the lector, the cantor and the acolyte.

Were the president of the celebration to do everything, someone might think that the mass were his alone, when that is not true. Because Jesus wanted and continues to want it to be for all Christians assembled. What He wants most is that each one does his/her part, so that the celebration belongs to everyone and everyone feels that they are responsible for it.

Any questions or requests for information should preferably be submitted to the parish registry office, in order to obtain the most appropriate response.