Roman Catholic Service Music Since Vatican II

Roman Catholic liturgy, like that of many of the more liturgical churches, features texts that are sung in each liturgy or service. These are called ordinary texts. Often these texts are sung. Settings of these texts, and other frequently used texts, are called service music or liturgical music. This music is part of the liturgy itself, not something that interrupts or is added to the liturgy. Since the Second Vatican Council in the early 1960s, Catholic churches have had more freedom in choosing service music. This has resulted in vast numbers of new compositions, many of which are valuable for churches in many worship traditions.

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Music in Twentieth-Century Worship

The trend toward a return to primal traditions in theology and worship practice was intensified in the mid-twentieth century, partly due to the influence of the “New Reformation.” Along with a return to biblical authority, we have seen a revival of Reformation worship forms and practice, including even neo-baroque organ design. The total result is a blend that includes three traditions: the apostolic heritage, historic medieval contributions, and Reformation distinctives.

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Roman Catholic Worship from the Council of Trent to Vatican II

The Council of Trent (1545–1563) initiated a period of liturgical standardization in the Roman Catholic church. Catholic worship remained largely uniform throughout the world until the appearance of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council (1963).

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Sunday Worship in Roman Catholic Churches

The change in the worship experience of twentieth-century Roman Catholics may be appreciated by briefly looking at history. In the sixteenth century, Reformers had posed challenges to the lack of intelligibility of medieval Catholic worship experience to the laity. The Council of Trent (1545-1563) responded to the challenge by revising liturgical books, but the Latin language was retained and the textual uniformity remained.

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