Music for First Communion and Confirmation - A Catechetical Guide for Liturgical Celebrations
“Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the ‘way of beauty.’ Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. …So a formation in the way of beauty ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith.” — Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 167)
One of the Joys experienced by the parish community in the work of evangelization is the handing on of the faith to the next generation. Since this always takes place within a social context, the integration of faith and culture must be considered. Just as each culture is endowed with its own common forms of human expression, so too do Catholics possess a unique cultural heritage through which the faith has been handed down through the ages. A core element of this heritage is the Church’s musical tradition, which Vatican II identifies as “a treasure of inestimable value.” This treasury is preeminent among other art forms because, “as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, §112)
We therefore offer here a small number of essential hymns chosen for their simplicity, suitability for young voices, timeless musical value, and substantial theological content. Mindful of the power of sacred music to raise hearts and minds to a deeper participation in the sacred mysteries, we encourage you to incorporate some of them into your catechetical programs and liturgical celebrations.
All texts and some of the scores are in the public domain. Copyright permissions have been obtained for the use of all other scores. You are free to use and reproduce all included materials as needed or you may use other arrangements already at your parish’s disposal.
Music included in this packet:
- Organ accompaniments
- Guitar chords compatible with organ arrangements
- Congregational inserts
- Music for First Communion & Confirmation: A Catechetical Guide for Liturgical Celebrations
- Accompaniments only
- Congregation Inserts only
THREE CONSIDERATIONS FOR LITURGICAL MUSIC
In preparing music for the liturgy, there are three essential qualities of liturgical music to consider: holiness, goodness of form, and universality. (Chirograph of John Paul II on Sacred Music, §4-6)
- Holiness: the music should have a clear transcendent dimension, setting in focus the sacred text of the Mass rather than itself. Inspired through prayer, it should lead others to prayer and adoration. While there is much room for variety of melody, harmony, and rhythm, music for the Mass should communicate reverence, and be free of secular associations or other distractions from worship.
- Goodness of form: the music needs to be beautiful regardless of its simplicity or complexity. It is not enough for music to be exciting or entertaining; it must have those elements which raise the heart and mind to God through their clarity, gracefulness, and harmony.
- Universality: although the music will reflect the culture in which it exists, it should nevertheless by its nature be edifying to those from other cultures as well. Liturgical music should communicate the beautiful unity of tradition between the past and present; it should help worshipers to sense and understand their connection to the faithful of all times and places. Furthermore, universality implies that music for the congregation should be singable, fostering exterior participation. Likewise, music sung exclusively by the cantor or choir should prayerfully engage the hearts and minds of the listeners, fostering interior participation.
THE RESPONSORIAL PSALM
“Because (the Responsorial Psalm) is an integral part of the Liturgy of the Word, and is in effect a reading from Scripture, it has great liturgical and pastoral significance.” (Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, §155) Furthermore, the Book of Psalms was composed as a collection of sung prayers; this ancient musical tradition was immediately assumed into the Christian liturgy.
While there is some leeway with the selection of psalms, it is highly recommended that the psalm used be the one assigned in the lectionary, as it relates more closely to the first reading than any other option. Since we are responding in song to the preceding reading, the setting should be conducive to meditation, allowing the Word of God to take root in our hearts through the action of the Holy Spirit.
While the use of paraphrased psalms has been common, this practice should be avoided as we are singing the scriptures themselves. Therefore, the text should be taken from the lectionary translation, or from the 2010 Revised Grail Translation, approved for liturgical use by the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
WHAT SETTINGS OF THE LECTIONARY OR GRAIL PSALMS ARE AVAILABLE?
- The Chabanel Responsorial Psalms is a free resource available for download. This collection contains multiple settings for each Sunday of the Three Year Cycle as well as feast days, funerals, and weddings.
- Lectionary Psalms and Gospel Acclamations (World Library Publications)
- Lectionary Psalms by Gelineau/Grail (G.I.A. Publications)
- Lectionary Psalms by Michel Guimont (G.I.A. Publications)
- The Lyric Psalter by Marty Haugen and Tony Alonso using the 2010 Revised Grail Psalter (G.I.A. Publications)
- The Michael Joncas Psalter: Volume 1, Common Psalms (World Library Publications)
- Respond and Acclaim by Owen Alstott (Oregon Catholic Press)
OFFICIAL MASS SETTING OF THE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON
The chants of the Roman Missal are the official Mass setting for the Archdiocese of Boston. We ask that your parish continue to use these in addition to the settings with which your parish is also familiar. We recommend that you begin with the simplest chants: Lord Have Mercy (Kyrie Eleison), Holy, Holy, Holy (Sanctus), and Lamb of God (Agnus Dei). The following online resources are free:
- Chants of the Roman Missal • ICEL
- Practice Videos
- Piano, guitar, and organ accompaniments
- Organ accompaniments by Jeffrey Ostrowski
“A cry from deep within our being, music is a way for God to lead us to the realm of higher things. As St. Augustine says, ‘Singing is for the one who loves.’ Music is therefore a sign of God’s love for us and of our love for him.”
— Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, USCCB (2007)
THIS RESOURCE IS A COLLABORATIVE EFFORT between the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization, the Office of Divine Worship, and Catholic musicians from the Archdiocese of Boston.
Most Reverend Arthur L. Kennedy
Auxiliary Bishop of Boston
Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization
Reverend Jonathan M. Gaspar
Director of Divine Worship
Richard J. Clark
St. Cecilia Parish, Boston; St. Mary’s Chapel, Boston College
St. Monica and St. Lucy Parishes, Methuen
Our Lady Comforter of the Afflicted Parish, Waltham
Nori Elisabeth Fahrig
Saint Jerome Parish, Weymouth
Rev. Patrick Fiorillo
St. Brendan and St. Ann's Parish Collaborative, Dorchester
Saint John’s Seminary, Brighton
Saint Raphael Parish, West Medford
St. Adelaide Parish, Peabody
St. Paul’s Choir School and Parish, Cambridge