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Guidelines for Choosing Music in Mass and Adoration

Fr. Tokha Thomas Hoang, CSsR


                There is a trend amongst Millennials and Gen Z’s to choose Praise and Worship songs, and other contemporary music for mass and for adoration. While this genre of music helps many of us to lift our hearts to God, it is important to note that not all P&W songs are fitting for liturgical use. The good news, however, is that P&W is not entirely off the table; only, we must be careful in selecting them. In these guidelines, I will first go over why choosing the right hymns is important and will go over the principles and resources that we can use to help choose the most correct hymn for mass and adoration.

Theological reasons to choose the right songs

In the early years of the Church (256-336), the heresy of Arianism was about to take over Christendom. This heresy gained popularity through a particular song which said, “There was a time when He was not.”  Through this one phrase, people started to believe that Christ was created, or at least was begotten within time. If that were to be believed, a problem would arise: Christ would not be fully God, and therefore we would be worshipping an idol. What we believe eventually leads in a profound way to how we live

                From what was shown above, we can conclude that what we sing has a profound influence on what we believe. Thus, if we were to choose a song with heretical theology, we would be in danger of believing the heresy itself. As the saying goes: “Lex orandi, lex credendi, lex vivindi.”  The Law of prayer is the law of faith and is the law of life.

                To be absolutely sure that a song is theologically sound, our safest bet, and in fact the only permissible method of choosing songs within the liturgy, is to choose songs that have an imprimatur or nihil obstat by a bishop or his delegate. As for where to find these types of songs, I will provide the resources in the last section.

Being Aware of the Liturgical Action: What is Going On?

                In order to pick the right songs for mass and for adoration, we must first understand what is happening.  The music should always highlight the liturgical theme and action that is going on at the time of the song. Moreover, we must always be aware of what liturgical season the Church is in.

The Purpose of Mass and Adoration

The mass is the celebration of the New Passover, in which we are offering the “Lamb of God who takes a way the sin of the world” to the Father. The Mass is, above all, a sacrifice of thanksgiving (the meaning of the word “Eucharist”). While the Mass does have a communal aspect, it is never primarily about us. It is about offering a pleasing sacrifice to the Father, which is the life, death, and resurrection of His only begotten Son

Adoration, on the other hand, is when we expose the Eucharist for public veneration. Adoration is an act of worship directed to the Son. Its purpose can be found each time the priest says the benediction: “Lord Jesus Christ, you have given us the Eucharist as a memorial of Your suffering and death. May our worship of this Sacrament of your body and blood, bring us the salvation you have won for us, and the peace of the Kingdom where you live with the Father and the Holy Spirit, God, forever and ever.”

A broad principle for choosing hymns for adoration, then, is that it must be Christ-centered—not directed to the Father or the Holy Spirit. By no means can it be focused on us.

Being aware of the Liturgical Season

In the Church there are 5 liturgical seasons: Advent, Christmas, Lent, Easter, and Ordinary Time. When choosing hymns for mass, and to some extent adoration, it is important to be mindful of what Liturgical season we are in. For instance, any hymn that includes the word, “Alleluia” is an automatic no-go within the Lenten season. But moreover, it is important to be mindful of the theme of the liturgical seasons. For instance, if we are in Advent, then songs of longing for the coming of Christ are fitting. If in Christmas, songs of praise for the birth of Christ. If in Lent, then songs of repentance; and if in Easter, songs glorifying the Resurrection.

 Choosing songs for parts of the Mass

When it comes to picking hymns for the parts of the mass, we generally have to choose hymns for 4 parts: 1. The Entrance Hymn 2. The Preparation of the Gifts 3. Communion 4. Recession. It should be noted, however, that we do not need to sing all four hymns. We could, for instance, choose only to sing the Recession hymn. If we are to sing 2 hymns, the Entrance and Recession would suffice; if 3 hymns, then the Entrance, Communion and Recession. It is also permissible to have no songs being sung at mass.

The Entrance Hymn

The following are some of the criteria for choosing the entrance hymn, beginning with the most desirable to the least.

The Introit or Entrance Antiphon

The most proper Entrance Hymn is that which matches the Introit, or the Entrance Antiphon of the mass. Prior to Vatican II, this Antiphon was mandatory to read for the priest. While it is rarely done nowadays, it is still the most proper choice in song. The place to find the Introit or Entrance Antiphon is in the Roman Missal, where the priest reads his parts of the mass. This requires you to know which Liturgical day is. You can easily find this resource online at ibreviary.org > readings > Entrance Antiphon and Collect.

The Example for Wednesday of the Fifth Week of Lent is as follows:

Cf. Ps 18 (17): 48-49
My deliverer from angry nations, you set me above my assailants;
you saved me from the violent man, O Lord.

The Liturgical Season

Hymns that have to do with the Liturgical seasons, such as “O Come, O Come Emmanuel” during Advent, or “The Glory of these Forty Days” during Lent, are very fitting to be sung at this time.

A Song about Gathering to the Altar

Hymns that direct the congregation to come to the Altar, directing their attention to the procession happening, are fitting especially during Ordinary Time.

The Gospel Reading    

Hymns about the Gospel reading are best saved for the Preparation of the Gifts.  However, if the Preparation of the Gifts are not to be sung, the Entrance Hymn is a good opportunity sing a hymn related to the mass’s Gospel.

Preparation of the Gifts

The Preparation of the gifts are when the Priest sets up the altar and prepares the bread and wine, the work of our hands, to make them into a worthy sacrifice to the Lord. Because there is often a procession to the altar with these gifts, there is often a communal aspect to them. Thus, the following choices can be made: hymns about the Gospel, hymns of communion, hymns expressing praise and joy, hymns of the season, or even instrumental music.

Once again, there is an official hymn of the mass that can be sung at this moment called the offertory antiphon.  One can find the resource online at https://www.ccwatershed.org/2014/12/22/complete-graduale-romanum-english-1984/, or by using the book, “Proper of the Mass” by Fr. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B by Ignatius Press, San Francisco.

Holy Communion

Communion Antiphon

Once again, the most proper hymn to be sung during communion is that which matches with the Communion Antiphon, found which can be found in the previous resource or ibreviary.org > Reading > Antiphon and Prayer after Communion. This is because it is taken from the words of the liturgy itself.

Eucharist Centered

Hymns centered on the Body and Blood of Christ are fitting, as well as our communion in the Body of Christ.


Thanksgiving for the Sacrifice of Christ is also a fitting theme for Communion.

Note: It is not fitting to base the Communion Hymn on the Gospel reading, unless it has to do with the Eucharist.

Recession Hymn

This section is the most flexible in terms of what is proper to sing. This includes themes of:

  • Sending forth
  • Mary and the Saints
  • Praise
  • Gospel
  • The Liturgical Season

Resources to use

I will now provide you with the resources that you can use to easily pick the songs that are most proper to the Mass.

Contemporary Music

Your go-to site if you want to sing contemporary, Praise and Worship style music, is Worship Now website.


The Liturgical Planner is free to use and will give you song suggestions based on the liturgical season and Gospel readings. WorshipNow is a Catholic Publication, and so every single song that you find is approved by the Church for Liturgical Use. If you use nothing else, please use this site to choose your songs. You can then listen to the songs on YouTube and find the chords online, although do keep in mind that to project lyrics onto a projector, you are bound by copyright laws and require a license. To have permission to project the lyrics, churches tend to use this site:


Propers of the Mass

For those who want the most correct form of liturgical music, Gregorian Chant is the most proper song of them all, because they use the words of the mass itself. To find these sources, you can either use this link:


Or, as I mentioned earlier, buy the book “Proper of the Mass” by Fr. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B., published by Ignatius Press.

Other Resources

For more in depth study on this topic, see the Vatican II document, Musicam Sacram: https://www.vatican.va/archive/hist_councils/ii_vatican_council/documents/vat-ii_instr_19670305_musicam-sacram_en.html

And another online source online: https://www.stmichaelparishpenampang.com/wp-content/uploads/2022/06/SYPG-COMMITTEE-PRINCIPLES-GRAY-ammended.pdf

And lastly, please read the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which is the official Church teaching on the mass: https://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/the-mass/general-instruction-of-the-roman-missal

Other Notable Publishers

GIA, OCP, Ignatius Press