Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Recessional Hymns--what's appropriate?

Brian takes issue with the use of a patriotic song on a weekend such as Memorial Day, specifically at the recessional. I used "America" for the recessional this weekend at my church. I was a bit ambivalent about programming it, but I did it anyway.

This brings up the question that I was thinking about the other day: what is appropriate for a "recessional hymn"? Since the documents never address such a thing, it's hard to find any guidance out there, at least from official sources.

We have lots of ink spilled over what is appropriate for the liturgy, but technically, the mass is over. It would seem then that there is at least a possibility that music outside the realm of "liturgical music" could be appropriate.

Brian seems to insist that music that follows the theme of the day or the season should be used. Ideally, I would say yes, but that seems to be little more than our best judgment, our opinion.

It seems that since we cannot use the criteria for "liturgical music", that the new criteria would probably have to be under the influence of what is appropriate music for a "sacred space." Though there is obviously much overlap I would think, I would say that the boundaries have been widened somewhat. Again, just my personal opinion since I don't know of any official documents concerning this issue.

Any thoughts from the peanut gallery? Are there any directives out there that I don't know about? Opinions? Is "America" appropriate for a recessional hymn on the weekend of Memorial Day?


At Wednesday, May 31, 2006 9:42:00 PM, Blogger St. Cecilia Schola said...

American patriotism is just another word for American nationalism, which amounts to exaltation of the state in practice. I fail to see how this has any valid role in the liturgy of a faith that is universal.

There is truly a deep danger here in politicizing the faith, conflating it with national identity or a partisan political agenda, or even in celebrating war victory and the like. Really, it's just offensive in every way.

Recessional hymns were traditionally something like the Ave Regina. We attempted this for a while but it didn't stick. We probably moved too quickly on this front. Now we just find something that is more or less traditional--can be tricky!--and seems to fit.

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 8:07:00 AM, Blogger Todd said...

I agree with the seasonal or feast-thematic choice: the way I've done it for years. Though it wouldn't be my personal first choice, I have programmed America the Beautiful, but only ever as a closing hymn. I have to confess I didn't think of it this year: Ascension pretty much kept my focus and I didn't even think of Memorial Day when the music grid was getting done in March.

To my knowledge, the closest the documents come to treating the "closing hymn" is the post-communion hymn of thanksgiving. I had a friend who actually did those from time to time. When she did, she asked the organist to play an instrumental postlude instead of programming another hymn for the people to sing.

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 8:17:00 AM, Blogger Blueberry River said...

"American patriotism is just another word for American nationalism." I can't agree with this. Certainly there are those who would equate the two, but it's been said (I think even by Saints, the names of whom I wish I could remember off the top of my head) that love of country and love of faith do not necessarily conflict with one another. Look at Poland. And most of those who would consider themselves patriots (such as myself) would not fail to recognize the flaws in the country that we love (and would thus like to improve).

I do agree that equating Christian orthodoxy with any particular political mindset is inaccurate, and potentially even dangerous, though I'm not sure I would characterize it as offensive. But as far as the original question is concerned, I'm afraid that as a little person who is mildly interested in liturgy but not particularly knowledgeable in its past or present practice, have not a clue. Perhaps an appropriate question might ask what was done in the past. Do we know? Did they have recessional hymns back then? (And yes, I realize that my ignorance is showing. ;) )

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 12:32:00 PM, Anonymous moconnor said...

The bigger problem is that we've been trapped into this "4 hymns" model since Vat2. I've always wanted to do away with the communion and recessional hymns for different reasons. No one sings the Communion hymn since they don't (rightfully) take their music up to Communion, and I think a lot of folks believe they are singing a final hymn simply to allow the priest to exit and get into position for meeting and greeting. Often there is only 1 verse sung or, if more, but fewer people each measure as many leave in the middle of it. I would prefer to replace both with a "hymn of thanksgiving" after communion (before any announcements) and a rousing organ postlude as soon as the words "thanks be to God" are complete. It kind of adds and exclamation point IMO.


At Thursday, June 01, 2006 12:55:00 PM, Blogger Cantor said...

Actually, MCW does mention recessional songs, paragraph 73. Basically it says to plan something “appropriate”.

I don’t mind a patriotic religious song as a recessional, but ISTM that the recessional is an ideal time for a seasonal hymn or such. For example, in May, our parish likes to sing Marian songs, so this is where I’ve put “Immaculate Mary”, though the Mass has nothing to do with it. Or, recessional is a good place to put new music, since then you can repeat with “liturgical impunity”, so to speak.

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 3:21:00 PM, Blogger Brian Michael Page said...

Is "America" appropriate for a recessional hymn on the weekend of Memorial Day?
On Memorial Day itself, yes.

Cantor's comment ends:
Or, recessional is a good place to put new music, since then you can repeat with “liturgical impunity”, so to speak.
It all depends. If your closing hymn/recessional hymn (I refuse to use the terms "sending forth hymn") is mere walking music, one verse, don't bother with a new piece there because the people will be bolting from the pew once Father gets past him. They'll be learning nothing (not totally fact, but an opinion from 25 years experience).

I'm in full agreement with "St. Cecilia Schola", the first commentor, in this case.


At Thursday, June 01, 2006 3:22:00 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...


I like your idea; however, the recessional hymn has this advantage -- it keeps folks from exiting immediately. In my last parish, and this one, when we've ended Mass with silence, folks start to move immediately, and then seem surprised that here comes the servers and the priest!

I haven't noticed whether an instrumental works, however; what has your (or other's) experience been?

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 3:27:00 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...

Oh, and per the original question:

I think a patriotic hymn is appropriate, if it truly is a hymn. I can think of two I find suitable: "America the Beautiful" and "This is my Song." "My Country 'Tis of Thee" seems more a National Anthem wannabe; "God bless America," while a pleasant song, is like liturgical cotton-candy -- not much there, really. The "Battle Hymn of the Republic" is very political, and it is appalling: human armies are marching off to slaughter because they are executing God's own judgment. That's for God alone to say, not us!

At Thursday, June 01, 2006 10:36:00 PM, Blogger Jeffrey Tucker said...

By the way, the Schola shouldn't be held responsible for the outlandish opinion offered up there at the top. It was mine alone. I just had blogger logged in under the wrong name. User error. So all tomatoes should be directed my way.

By the way, I would like to see national flags gone from the Church too. I recall reading somewhere that they were not in Catholic Churches until WW2, when the Italians felt the need to demonstrate their loyalty to D.C.

At Friday, June 02, 2006 8:47:00 AM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...


I agree 100%: the flags should be either toward the back of the nave (ours hang from the balcony) or in the vestibule, or outside of course, is fine too (in some ways, better -- I think everyone inside the church knows Catholics are patriotic?).

But I'd love to hear from others about what happened, in their parishes, when the flags were moved. I suspect it sparks a fair amount of sturm-und-drang.

At Friday, June 02, 2006 12:45:00 PM, Blogger CastCantor said...

I played two verses of "Eternal Father Strong to Save" AFTER four verses of the recessional hymn for Ascension. Fire away! :)

At Friday, June 02, 2006 4:56:00 PM, Blogger Father Martin Fox said...

I forgot about Eternal Father, Strong to Save. I think that's a very nice hymn; good for Memorial Day. My only question is whether folks would scratch their heads -- around here, I think they would, but, say, in Norfolk, Va, I bet not.

At Monday, June 05, 2006 5:05:00 PM, Blogger ScholarChanter said...

Good discussion. "Patriotic" hymns would not be appropriate for Sunday mass - it should focus on Acsention (for those of use who celebrate it on the 6th Sunday of Easter), etc. If one were to have a special mass aside from the Sunday mass as a memorial/prayer for all the past and present people in the armed forces, then it would be appropriate. We really should have more of these special masses - after all, celebrating the mass is one of the source of summit of our Christina life!

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