Jun 042013

From a priest:

Last Sunday at the end of Mass the musicians chose a song that just wasn’t striking a chord with me. I couldn’t muster the energy required to pretend to be gleeful and sing along. As I looked at the congregation I noticed only a handful were joining in the song. Most looked irritated and bored. I know the GIRM does not require a recessional hymn (90), but and I’m wondering if it’s time for my parish to change our thinking about the “closing” hymn. Your thoughts would be appreciated.

It seems to me that a lot depends on the hymn. Holy God We Praise Thy Name always gets people going. On the other hand, perhaps ACDC’s Highway To Hell isn’t such a good idea. It is nice to have a Marian antiphon appropriate to the season, followed by an organ piece.

What do you think?

(Father Z)

I do wonder what would be the ideal recessional hymn for most parishes?

Judging by what I have seen the ideal recessional hymn would:

  • Be rather short, perhaps only one stanza, and just long enough for the priest to leave the Sanctuary and get close enough to the Narthex.
  • The hymn should not require much breathing to sing properly so that parishioners are not out-of-breath when making the mad-dash to the parking lot.
  • Be rather vague about the Catholic faith. You don’t want anybody to be interrupted with the idea of love of God and neighbor as they cut you off in the parking lot.

“Ite, missa est”, now gentleman start your race cars.

Plus isn’t it nice of so many people to leave before the end of Mass to free up congestion? Maybe we should start giving out ribbons for first, second, and third place in the Nave to Narthex sprint.

I remember being “shocked” in one parish where we got to the end of the second stanza of the recessional hymn and everybody was still there. I was even more surprised at the end of four stanzas people were still there.

  15 Responses to “The ideal recessional hymn?”

  1. The ideal is NO recessional hymn. We can’t make a spiritual offering prior to the Consecration because we have to sing Marty Haugan, and we can’t make a proper Thanksgiving at the end of Mass because we have to sing Bernadette Farrell (God has chosen ME!)

  2. The recessional hymn is always the source of the worst <a href="http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Earworm&quot; title="earworms").

  3. Ben, this is describing my parish’s music selections unfortunately. We do however stay for the whole song at the end of Mass because of a little trick a former pastor initiated: the recession doesn’t begin until the last stanza starts

  4. ok….we’ve all been complaining about the lack of sacred music for YEARS! Our choirs are front and (almost) center, the Psalmist now processes up to the anbo, and I don’t know about you, but the sappy stuff starts off in WAY to high an octave for most men to even THINK of participating. SO….let’s pray for our (practically) new ABp of Portland, Oregon….at least for those of us on the Left Coast SUFFERING with the Oregon Catholic Press crud we have had to listen to all these years. Seems like he might be interested in changes…..read on:


    God help us!! and HURRY!! (haha)

  5. “Plus isn’t it nice of so many people to leave before the end of Mass to free up congestion?” made me burst out laughing.

    It’s funny how with my Byzantine Catholic Church, no one even thinks about leaving early! Maybe the reverence of the liturgy makes it seem more gauche? The more laid back the liturgy the more free you feel to leave early?

    • That’s because your priests all have those long biker beards and the parishioners are too scared to move until they’re told to. 🙂

    • Who’s the patron saint of the ‘leave straight after communion Catholics’? St Judas of course, her was the first to leave the Last Supper.

  6. What if the recessional was a recessional for the congregation, too? What if we processed out while the choir sang all the stanzas? What if no one was left to applaud the choir? And that WOULD leave a proper silence…

  7. You need to come here to England. Not only is the hymn selection generally better just about everywhere I’ve gone, but also the whole congregation stays for the whole recessional hymn. About half of the hymns I don’t recognize so maybe we need to encourage American parishes to buy British hymnals. Though the hymnals I’ve seen only have words, presumably everyone already knows the tune?

    We’ll be a little sad when we go back to America!

    • Sadly, its not that America lacks good Missals/Hymnals (In fact, some really excellent ones have come out in recent years), it’s that they are not being used because the Empire of Banality has a white-knuckled grip on liturgical music.

  8. Definitely should NOT be a catchy or at all memorable tune — nothing you want to be caught humming while trolling the aisles of Costco stocking up on frozen wings for Sunday football. I mean, come on. You wouldn’t want people to know you’re Catholic or suspect you actually believe Sundays are meant for, you know, worship.

    (Note: This comment was prepared with considerable amounts of sarcasm and a dash of snark. By reading this comment, you agree to find it mildly amusing and hold the author blameless in perpetuity for having written it.)

  9. (((I remember being “shocked” in one parish where we got to the end of the second stanza of the recessional hymn and everybody was still there. I was even more surprised at the end of four stanzas people were still there.)))

    So funny but so true Jeff!

    Maybe they should try “Amazing Grace”?

    Just saying! 🙂


  10. I have to tell you about our music for last weekend’s Mass!

    We were on a camp out with our Cub Scout pack, our spring Family Camp out. Fortunately, we have a state park that has a campground not very far from our town. Our Associate Pastor came out to say mass Saturday evening. While he was preparing for Mass, he asked the kids for volunteers to lead the music. He handed this group a hymnal he had brought with him. This little group of 3 or 4 grade school aged kids worked with one of our moms and picked out good hymns and led them, completely acappella. I was so proud of them!

  11. I always figured “Hit the Road Jack” would make a nice recessional 🙂

  12. I’ve played the music in parishes for most of my life, as a muso, I usually have to select the music, so I choose hymns that I know and match the readings. I don’t know how parishes work in the USA, but maybe if you volunteer to run the music you will get influence over the choice of hymns(obviously not the priest who wrote this, but others who are responding) Then you can steer it in a direction that you like! Sometimes I would like to play different hymns, but as a leader it is important I know the hymn well, so I don’t play it if I don’t think I will make a good job of it.

    If their were more musicians who volunteered I would be happy to step back and enjoy their choice of hymns! There would be more variety also..

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