The Mass


The Mass serves as the center of all Catholic life.  Not only is it the center of our day with daily Mass or the center of our week with Sunday Mass, it is the very center of our worship practices.  All services whether they be a wedding or funeral follow the same sequences of events as the regular Mass.  Even special occasions like Confirmation, the Easter Vigil or Good Friday, ALL have the same parts, an Introductory Rite, the Liturgy of the Word, Liturgy of the Eucharist or Communion Distribution, and a Concluding Rite.  It is essential for the Cantor to know these parts of the Mass, what comprises each part, and what the role of the Cantor is in each one.

Introductory Rites

In order, the Introductory Rite consists of the Entrance Procession, the Entrance Chant, Sign of the Cross, Opening Greeting, the Act of Penitence (Penitential Rite), the Kyrie, Rite of Blessing and Sprinkling Holy Water, Gloria, and Opening Prayer (Collect).  The purpose of the Introductory Rite “is to enure that the faithful who come together as one establish communion and dispose themselves to listen properly to God’s word and to celebrate the Eucharist.” (GIRM #46)  The Introductory Rites occur quite quickly and have several options from which the Priest can choose.  Therefore, it is important for the cantor to make sure they know which options are for the day’s Mass. and to stay near the cantor stand until the conclusion of the Collect as those options can change the Priest decides.  When not singing, the cantor may step back a few steps and take part as a member of the congregation.  They should not, however, step too far away.

Entrance Procession & Entrance Chant

Often times the Entrance Procession and Entrance Chant are combined.  This is the case at St. Joseph Church.  The purpose of the chant is to open the celebration.  The cantor’s role is to give just enough guidance so that the congregation can sing with strength.  Be careful not to over power the congregation. When you announce the hymn, you should do so in a polite, respectful and professional way.  Use a confident voice and smile as you say: 

  • “We invite and encourage you sing with us today during Mass. The parts of the Mass is in the [RED Hymnal/BLUE Missal/or Mass Card found in the pew] starting at number [say number].
  • Please join us in singing our Entrance hymn found in the [RED Hymnal/BLUE Missal] number [say number as words], “[say title]”, number [say number as digits] in the [RED Hymnal/BLUE Missal].
  • Example:
    • Please join us in singing our Entrance hymn found in the RED Hymnal number four-hundred-thirty-two, “Praise to the Lord”, number 4-3-2.

Sign of the Cross and Opening Greeting

During this time you would stand a few steps back from the cantor stand and take part as a member of the congregation.  If, however, the priest or deacon sings  this section, it would be your responsibility to elicit and lead the response for the congregation.

Sprinkling Rite

This Rite is usually performed on Easter and during the Easter season.  It immediately follows the Blessing of the Water and takes the place of the Penitential Rite.  If this Rite is performed the Cantor needs to be ready to sing the sprinkling antiphon or song.  After the Sprinkling Rite is the Gloria.

Penitential Rite

The Penitential Rite is the part of the Mass when everyone remembers their sins and asks for God’s forgiveness.  It can take one of three forms, A, B, or C.

Form A

Includes the Confiteor followed by the Absolution.  If this form is taken the Kyrie will follow immediately.  At St. Joseph we only sing the Kyrie on special occasion and during lent.  Therefore, when the Priest concludes the Absolution all will respond Amen, at which time the Kyrie begins. If it is to be sung, then the cantor will intone the it.

Form B

This is a shortened version of the Rite with a call and response from the Priest and congregation.  The Priest says, “Have mercy on us, O Lord.” and the people sing “For we have sinned against you.” The Priest then says, “Show us, O Lord, your mercy.” and the people sing “And grant us your salvation.”  Then the Priest gives the absolution concluding with the Amen at which time the Kyrie begins.  If it is to be sung, then the cantor will intone it.

Form C

This combines the Penitential Rite and the Kyrie.  This is the form that uses and invocation followed by “Lord, have mercy”.  This is generally ready by the Priest, however, the cantor may be asked to sing this form.  At the conclusion of this form is the absolution followed by the Amen.  If this form is use the Gloria will begin IMMEDIATELY after the Amen.  The cantor should step up to the cantor stand during the Amen so that they are in place to sing the Gloria.


This is the “very ancient and venerable hymn in which the Church, gathered together in the Holy Spirit, glorifies and entreats God the Father and the Lamb.” (GIRM # 53).  Usually, the Priest or Cantor will intone the Gloria to prompt the assembly to begin singing.  Some settings of the Gloria allow for the cantor to sing the verses as a solo or alternate between cantor and choir.

The Collect

This is the opening prayer.  If the Priest chants the Collect, then the cantor will elicit the response from the congregation.  The response is Amen.  The tone for the Amen will depend on the chant used by the Priest.  Most often the prayer will end with a single tone chant ending with a falling minor 3rd, the typical “for ever and ev-er.” cadence. If chosen, the response is the single tone Amen and is sung by the cantor with the congregation.  To help the congregation know the proper tone response, hold the first syllable, “A-” a little longer than normal.  If the Priest chooses the more complex:

Complex Amen JPG

You will use the two-tone Amen as indicated.

Liturgy of the Word

You should sit during the readings and listen to them to help prepare you to sing the Responsorial Psalm.

Responsorial Psalm

Following the Old Testament Reading, pause for a moment, then walk with purpose up to the cantor stand or ambo.  When you are ready to sing, raise your head.  You should sing the antiphon with the congregation three times.  First after you intone the antiphon, then after the first and second verse.  By this time the congregation is familiar with the tune and knows to sing.  When finished, take a moment and return to your seat.


On certain days such as Easter, Pentecost, and Corpus Christi, there is a sequence.  It is found in the Lectionary.  On such days it is good to remind the Priest that the sequence is occurring.  As this is an aberration, it is wise to approach the cantor stand or ambo immediately after the Epistle Reading.  When you are there raise your head and begin singing the sequence.  The Gospel Acclamation immediately follows the sequence.

Gospel Acclamation

After the second reading move toward the cantor stand but do not approach it.  When the Priest stands approach the stand with your music and begin singing the acclamation.  At the conclusion of the acclamation, step back from the cantor stand and listen to the Gospel.

Profession of Faith and Prayers of the Faithful

After the Homily is the Profession of Faith or Creed and the Prayers of the Faithful or Petitions.  Unless the Prayers of the Faithful are sung, the cantor will pray along with the congregation.

Liturgy of the Eucharist

The Liturgy begins with the Offertory Chant followed by the Holy Holy and Eucharistic Prayer.  Because it is necessary for this section to flow smoothly, you should bring all your music with you to the cantor stand for the Liturgy of the Eucharist.  This would include the Offertory hymn, Holy Holy, Mysteries of Faith, Amen, Our Father, Lamb of God, and Communion Hymn.

Offertory Chant

When everyone is seated, approach the cantor stand and announce the hymn using the following formula:

  • Please join us in singing our Offertory hymn found in the [RED Hymnal/BLUE Missal] number [say number as words], “[say title]”, number [say number as digits].

At the conclusion of the hymn, stay at the cantor stand, but take three steps back.

Eucharistic Prayer and Acclamations

The Eucharistic Prayer begins with the Preface.  There is an introductory sequence of “The Lord be with you.”  It is not necessary to lead the congregation here.  At the end of the preface, however, you will lead the congregation.  The Preface always ends with “without end we acclaim”.  Prior to that there is text talking about angels.  When you hear the talk of angels be ready for the Holy Holy.  It will start immediately after the “without end we acclaim”. The cantor will sing to animate the singing of the congregation. Step back three steps from the cantor stand when finished with the Holy Holy.  When the Priest sings or says “The mysteries of faith” the response are sung.  The cantor animates the congregations response.  Step back again when finished singing.  At the conclusion of the consecration “for ever and ever” it is necessary to sing the Amen.  If chanted, follow the rules outlined above for the opening prayer.  If it is a sung Mass part, then the cantor animates the congregation’s response.  When finished with the Amen, stay at the cantor stand for The Lord’s Prayer, but take a few steps back.  At the end of the Sign of Peace, which follows the Lord’s Prayer is the Lamb of God litany.  The Lamb of God is one of the few places where the cantor will intone the Litany and the people will respond.  After the Lamb of God stay at the cantor stand, but take a few steps back.

Communion Chant

Following the Lamb of God the Priest will take communion.  Stay at the cantor stand.  When the Priest puts down the Chalice after receiving the Blood of Christ announce the Communion Hymn:

  • Please join us in singing our Communion hymn found in the [RED Hymnal/BLUE Missal] number [say number as words], “[say title]”, number [say number as digits].

At the conclusion of the communion hymn, you may be seated unless the cantor is to sing a meditation solo.

Concluding Rites

After the Prayer After Communion Prayer there are the announcements.  When the commentator has finished the announcements, move towards the cantor stand.  During the Blessing you may need to sing the Amen.  Use the formula from the opening prayer to decide which Amen to lead the congregation.  Otherwise, after the Sign of the Cross and Amen announce the Recessional hymn:

  • Please join us in singing our Closing hymn found in the [RED Hymnal/BLUE Missal] number [say number as words], “[say title]”, number [say number as digits].

At the conclusion of Mass, take a moment for silent prayer and congratulate yourself on a job well done.

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