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The Forth in Praise Organists' Blog

The personal views of a Catholic parish organist

July 11, 2014

He who sings prays twice? Really?

evelyn @ 3:42 pm

‘I can’t believe it’s as long ago as 2011 that the new liturgy came in.’

So mused a friend who had been looking at last week’s Index by Title page. In his parish, he continued, they sing one refrain Gloria, one Sanctus – always the same ones – and the usual hymns. ‘It’s as if the new liturgy never happened’, he concluded.

And so it is. The practical problems which hit parish liturgical music with Vatican II are still with us. The 2011 change of words has done nothing. Indeed, it has added an obstacle or two.

Personally, I think the Second Vatican Council’s vision of EVERYONE singing the Mass has set parishes a truly impossible task. Many parishes have done their best by learning ONE example of each part of the Mass for singing EVERY Sunday. A widespread interpretation of the Vatican II instruction seems to be that singing – any form or quality of singing – is better than speaking. ‘He who sings, prays twice’ is often quoted.

But is the prayer really better when one is totally and utterly bored by singing it to the same tune week after week after week?

To introduce a variety of Mass settings is the obvious solution, but this has been made very difficult with issues such as expense, copyright, approval committees, teaching, learning, finding resources, information or support … I won’t go on.

On the subject of the ‘prays twice’ quotation, American Father Z makes an interesting point on his blog:

  • St. Augustine of Hippo … is often quoted as having said “He who sings, prays twice.”  The Latin cited for this is “Qui bene cantat bis orat or “He who sings well prays twice”.

A-ha! The word ‘bene’ makes all the difference. I think it must refer to the soaring, uplifting feeling one gets when the singing of sacred music is just right. When the congregation responds gloriously to a wonderful tune. When the organist uses the stops to respond in turn to the people. Reeds on final verse. That’s ‘bene’. That’s praying twice. But it nearly always happens with hymns, rather than Mass settings.

So unless a major upheaval takes place with regard to the music, and not just the words of the Mass, I think I’d rather sometimes just pray once.


  1. Bene!

    Comment by Elvira — July 13, 2014 @ 10:37 pm

  2. I take it you agree, Elvira? Thanks!

    Comment by evelyn — July 17, 2014 @ 9:49 pm

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