Making time for prayer before Mass

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dmu3tem
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by dmu3tem »

A useful distinction can be drawn between:
[1] The needs of musicians. Grim experience teaches me that there are usually only two times they can be rehearsed (a) after Mass the previous sunday and (b) before Mass on the day. Having rehearsals at other times obviously produces better results, but musicians often seem reluctant to come to them (unlike in earlier periods when greater 'discipline' was imposed). This means that it is difficult to find a time for musicians to engage in private prayer. One answer used to be to do it during and immediately after Communion. This means sacrificing some of the music they might play at this time. You can of course 'cover' this with some sort of instrumental voluntary, although the musicians responsible for this (maybe just you yourself) will not get any prayer time at all. Everyone of course can pray at the time for intercessions.

[2] Needs of the congregation.
(a)Many appreciate a quiet period before Mass; so this implies that any rehearsal of musicians before a service ideally should take place in another location. Even so, there will be a certain amount of noise as they come to take their places and set up - although some of this (music stands, tuning etc) can be done long before the service. If musicians are to be rehearsed in the church, then I would prefer to do this well before the service (at least 30 mins before leaving a space of 5-10 mins before the start. This would be in addition to other more basic rehearsal done at another time before (e.g. at the end of the previous Sunday's service). If you rely on a rehearsal just before the actual service this tends to put everything into 'panic mode' - is there enough time to teach all the musicians everything, are all the parts prepared etc? Another difficulty I encounter with a musicians rehearsal before Mass is persuading them to all to come on time - just one or two late comers can put the whole operation in jeopardy, even if you have 30+mins in hand.
(b) Rehearsing a congregation: There is only one time to do this - immediately before the service starts. If you try and rehearse earlier, as suggested above, most people are not there! This means that private prayer has to occur before this. If you have the rehearsal and then a pause - meaning you start the service late - in the long run all that happens is that congregations arrive late. You can mitigate the problem of course by only having a rehearsal occasionally - note that many people in congregations (and clergy) do not like rehearsals of congregations, although some of the same are quite prepared to do the same with non-musical elements!
(c) Yes, it is true that many people as they enter a church before a service like to chat. This is clearly a necessary social function (and a Christian virtue - one should say 'hello' to one's friends and the church service is an occasion for meeting others); however it can be distracting for those who want to be silent. The compromise, as suggested above, is to have some quiet background music, creating a transition between the 'great outdoors' and the service itself.
(d) Yes, you can often get away with not rehearsing the Responsorial Psalm chorus before the Mass; but often the 'better' ones tend to be more sophisticated and therefore do need introducing. In any case even with simple responses doing without a practice is quite a high risk strategy if you have no choir to act as 'cheer leaders' and you are not allowed to station your cantor upfront by the altar.
T.E.Muir

HallamPhil
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by HallamPhil »

Surely there is plenty of time for private prayer during the rest of the week. Liturgy is about communal prayer and the musician's role in enabling the community's song is critical in this. I, for one, always introduce new material immediately before Mass and have done so since I were a lad! I was convinced in the value of this by my early experiences in France.

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Nick Baty
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by Nick Baty »

Even we have no new material to consider, the PP insists I still run through the psalm or communion song, simply to create stillness.

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Gwyn
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by Gwyn »

Nick said
Even we have no new material to consider, the PP insists I still run through the psalm or communion song, simply to create stillness.

Does this mean that you sing/play through these items in order that the assembly learn them passively? Or is it and active teach/learn period? Both are excellent means of creating a prayerful atmosphere. We use the former quite a bit, less so the latter.

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musicus
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by musicus »

"Passive learning". Yes, that's a good term. I do that a lot before Mass: it's far less intrusive than an "active" teaching spot. But I'd never thought of it as encouraging stillness. Perhaps it does.
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Nick Baty
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by Nick Baty »

Ours is definitely an active session. If there's music playing then the chat volume simply rises. If I go out and say "Good morning and welcome" then they (eventually) shut up!!!!

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Gwyn
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by Gwyn »

Ours is definitely an active session. If there's music playing then the chat volume simply rises. If I go out and say "Good morning and welcome" then they (eventually) shut up!!!!

I know what you mean Nick.

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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by JW »

Although I've considerable sympathy for the view that there is no need to rehearse the psalm response before Mass, don't forget that many of these are harder than Grade V aural test singbacks. For example, have a look at the Psallite response for this coming Sunday, starts in F major but modulates through F minor then back to the major. Added to that, the words differ from the missal, so the congregation would have to cope with that as well.

We used to leave the congregation to their own devices, perhaps with a request from the priest to pray in silence a couple of minutes beforehand - I'm a very recent convert to rehearsing with the congregation, mainly because both myself and our main cantor don't want folk to think that we're putting on a show. It does mean that there is some quiet before Mass and is more effective than other methods we've tried.
JW

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Nick Baty
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by Nick Baty »

JW wrote:....many of these are harder than Grade V aural test singbacks...
OT, I know, but mightn't it be better to choose settings which are rather easier. After all, they'll only be sung a couple of times a year.

JW
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by JW »

Nick Baty wrote:
JW wrote:....many of these are harder than Grade V aural test singbacks...
OT, I know, but mightn't it be better to choose settings which are rather easier. After all, they'll only be sung a couple of times a year.


Ah, but many of these are beautiful, including psalm songs by a certain Nick Baty! Sure his refrains stay in key and are easy but they are quite long, for example "Shepherd me, Lord" is 8 bars - longer than the aforementioned aural test. It's a lot to remember especially if you can't read music.

Back to topic (lest Bear admonishes!), I was sitting next to a priest one Sunday at lunch (in a completely different part of the country to my parish) and he said that he had told his parish off that morning for making a noise before Mass. He clearly felt quite guilty about it. Clearly the noise issue had got so far that something had to be done; perhaps he would have benefitted from some of the strategies mentioned in this topic.

I think this is a big problem in the English church at present. And its not just us Catholics; other denominations have similar problems. In a Baptist church I have seen a request for silence projected on their screen before a Sunday service - it was being ignored to a greater or lesser degree.
JW

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Nick Baty
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Re: Making time for prayer before Mass

Post by Nick Baty »

JW wrote:....but they are quite long....It's a lot to remember especially if you can't read music.
I find longer refrains can be easier to memorise than shorter ones. But I'm OT and I smell a bear!

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