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“Sing to the Lord a new song, for he has done marvelous deeds.”            Psalm 98

The most important part of our lives as Catholic Christians is the celebration of the Eucharist, especially on Sundays.  Since the founding of the Church, this has included the use of chants, psalms, and spiritual songs in praise of God.  The Second Vatican Council that addressed sacred music more thoroughly than any other, states, “The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, No. 112)  Out of love for God and in obedience to the Church, we at St. Gabriel the Archangel strive to live this wonderful vision.    


“The treasure of sacred music is to be preserved and fostered with great care.  Choirs must be diligently developed…” (Sacrosanctum Concilium)  The choir, whether in religious communities or parishes, has always provided the musical leadership for the Roman Catholic Mass.   We are fortunate at St. Gabriel to have a fine long-standing tradition of sacred choral music.

  • Our main choir, the St. Gabriel Parish Choir, sings at the 11:00 am Mass from September until the Feast of Corpus Christi.  This choir is known for its excellent and diverse repertoire, and is open to any adult or high school student interested in a challenging, yet satisfying choral singing experience.  Rehearsals are every Wednesday from 7:30-9:00 pm.
  • The voice of a child is arguably more pure and beautiful than any other.  At St. Gabriel, the Youth Choir sings twice a month at the 5:00 Saturday evening Vigil Mass and the 9:00 Sunday morning Mass, and at school Masses during the week. Through this choral experience, students can learn basic musicianship and vocal skills, not to mention many concepts of the Faith through sacred music.  This choir is open to any student (parishioner or non-parishioner, parish school student or not) from grades 4-8.  Rehearsals are every Thursday morning at 7:15 in the choir loft, before the 8:00 All School Mass.
  • The Children's Choir is a training choir for children in grades 3-(4).  This special choir will sing occasionally throughout the year at the 5:00 Saturday evening Vigil Mass and the 9:00 Sunday morning Mass, and at school Masses during the week.  Rehearsals are on Tuesday morning at 7:20 in the choir loft, before the school Mass.
  • The 9:00 Choir sings at the 9:00 a.m. Sunday Mass on the fourth Sunday of each month. Anyone is welcome to attend; there is no age requirement.  Families are welcome!  The choir rehearses before Mass at 8:15 on the day they sing. No commitment is required; just come at 8:15, sing, and praise the Lord!
  • The St. Gabriel Resurrection Choir sings for all Masses of Christian Burial at the parish.  This choir is one of our most valuable choirs because it prays for the deceased through music and helps perform the seventh corporal work of mercy—burial of the dead.  The Resurrection Choir prays and sings with those gathered in a loving offering to God on behalf of and for our parishioners.
  • The Emmaus Choir leads the music for our Sunday evening 6:00 pm Mass.  This choir sings a variety of styles, and is accompanied by diverse acoustical instruments.  This group rehearses at 4:45 before the 6:00 pm Mass every week.
  • Instrumentalists add a festive flourish to Sundays and seasonal liturgies.  Anyone interested in the possibility of sharing their talents is most welcome to contact the Director of Music.

New members for any of these choirs are always being accepted.  Please contact the Director of Music at the or 314.881.1104 for more information.


The role of cantor is very important to our Roman Catholic liturgy. Cantors are present to help lead congregational singing and chant the responsorial Psalm and other parts of the Mass as needed.  The responsibility of leading the parish in sung prayer is very great, but rehearsal time is very flexible.  We are always searching for new cantors.  Opportunities are available for parish cantors to sing at weddings and funerals for a stipend. Please contact the Director of Sacred Music at or 314.881.1104 for more information.

The Assembly of the Faithful

Speaking of the assembly of the faithful—you are important to our music!  Through prayers, responses and dialogues, and singing, you, the faithful, support our work and act as the main voice in our parish music program.  The assembly's singing is an expression of our faith, and therefore is a necessary part of the liturgical celebration.  In addition to your active participation at Mass (St. Gabriel is known for fine congregational singing, we might add), your prayers support our musical mission and enable us to continue our fine musical offerings. 

Our Pipe Organ

The pipe organ at St. Gabriel was built in 1961 by the St. Louis Pipe Organ Company as a gift in honor of Mr. and Mrs. Richard Eschbacher and rebuilt in 1991 by the Wicks Organ Company (view the stoplist in the "Documents" tab to the left).  Robert G. Dial performed additional work in 2002.  The organ, located in two chambers in the gallery of the church, is of three manuals and around thirty ranks of pipes.  The pipe organ is an especially important element of our program because, “In the Latin Church the pipe organ is to be held in high esteem, for it is the traditional musical instrument that adds a wonderful splendor to the Church’s ceremonies and powerfully lifts up the spirit to God and to higher things.” (SC, No. 120)  It is used at every vigil, Sunday morning, Holy Day, and school Mass, as well as for occasional concerts.  Last year, Ekkehard Fehl cleaned, voiced, and repaired all the pipework in the organ, and added a 3 rank mixture to the Great Organ.  We are still in the process of finishing work put into motion in 1991, and plan to add 6 to 8 more ranks of pipes in the near future. Your financial support in this matter of key importance to our music ministry is greatly appreciated; should you be interested in making a donation, please do not hesitate to contact our Director of Music at the phone or email listed to the left of the webpage.

Where do I fit in?

Because you are worshipping in the pews week after week, you are already part of the parish music program at St. Gabriel the Archangel!  

Some music ministries, such singing as a cantor or in the St. Gabriel Choir or playing an instrument, will require a low-stress audition and some basic musicianship skills.  For other choirs, an audition may not be required, and parish membership is not strictly necessary. 

We welcome visitors in the gallery choir loft after every Mass and would be glad to hear from you via phone or email at the contact info to the left of this column.  On behalf of our parish, choirs, musicians, and staff, welcome to our music program!     


The Season of Lent

As we enter this most solemn, penitential season of Lent, the Church expects that in Her liturgies, the music be simple and unadorned, and, as much as possible, sung with accompaniment only when necessary. The absence of instrumental adornment in accompaniments, preludes, interludes, and postludes creates a profound and beautiful simplicity and ambience for the season, which matches the simplicity of the church enviroment; no flowers, and rather barren. Silence is always an essential a part of any Mass, and is especially important for the season of Lent. Our Liturgical Year is immensely rich with tradition as we flow from one season to another. One of the essential roles of musicians is to create the appropriate ambience of a liturgical season, such as Lent, through sacred music. As we move to Holy Week and the Triduum (Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and Holy Saturday), the liturgies become markedly different, each beginning in and ending in silence and simplicity, until the glory of Easter is celebrated, and the Alleluias are finally sung again!t

With every new liturgical season, we begin singing different musical settings for the Mass Ordinary, approriate to the season. Because of the simplicity of Lent, we will begin singing the simplest of the 18 Gregorian Masses given to us by the Church, Mass XVIII. We have sung this Gregorian Mass every Lent for the past several years.  The Sanctus and Acclamations will be chanted, unaccompanied by everyone, in Latin.  Or parish sings this Mass very prayerfully. The beauty of singing this repertoire is not only in its elegant simplicity, but also so rich in the tradition which we share and pass on to future generations through these timeless melodies; it is a beautiful continuity with our past, our Catholicity. The Catholic Church of every country in the world sings these melodies; the Church expects that all Her parishes, cathedrals, convents, monasteries, and cloisters sing and know and sing this repertoire.

In a very simple and unadorned way, we will continue singing the Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon, which are part of the Mass Propers; the parts of the Mass in which the text changes from day to day, or Sunday to Sunday. (the Psalm and the Gospel Verse are considered Mass Propers). These antiphons are the ancient texts the Church gives us in Her liturgy, and are very specific to the day and the liturgical season. The text of these antiphons are as important to the day as the scripture readings we hear proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word.  Singing the antiphons is yet another profound way we carry on who we are, who we have been, and who we always will be as Church, to all future generations. Like the spires of the great Cathedrals scattered throughout the world, we proclaim as one voice that Jesus Christ is Lord!

Holy Thursday and Good Friday of the Triduum

The Holy Triduum, or The Three Days, is the period of time from Evening Prayer of Holy Thursday to Evening Prayer of Easter Sunday. Although not considered “Holy Days of Obligation”,  these three days are the summit of the entire Liturgical Year. The three days unfold as one continuous day and journey through the passion, death, and resurrection of our Lord, Jesus Christ. Because Easter is the Lord’s Day, all are called to worship.

On Holy Thursday morning, the Holy Oils (the oil of catechumens, the oil of the sick, and the oil of chrism) are blessed at a very beautiful and solemn Chrism Mass at our Cathedral Basilica of St. Louis. During this Mass, all the priests of our diocese renew their commitment to the priesthood.

There is no morning Mass on Holy Thursday (other than the Chrism Mass), but only the Mass of the Lord’s Supper, which begins with solemn jubilation through the singing of the Gloria. Traditionally, bells are to be rung during the singing of the Gloria on Holy Thursday.

This Mass is filled with rich tradition, and is the oldest liturgical celebration of Holy Week. After the homily, twelve people are called forth for the Mandatum, or the “Washing of the Feet”. The celebrant will wash the feet of twelve people, as Christ washed the feet of His apostles on the evening of the Last Supper. This ritual, or mandatum (commandment), is a beautiful reminder of how we are to “love one another as He has loved us” (John 13:4-17).  We are not to be served, but to serve.

The Mass of the Lord’s Supper also profoundly commemorates the institution of the Eucharist and the institution of the priesthood. In His words ,“Do this in remembrance of me,” Jesus instituted the Mass and made the apostles the first priests. After Communion on Holy Thursday, the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the tabernacle in the main body of the Church. The Eucharist is carried in procession during the singing of “Pange Lingua”,  and placed in an altar of repose. We then recall Jesus’ agony in the garden, and his arrest and imprisonment. The altar is stripped and crosses are removed or covered. The church is open for silent adoration, to answer Christ’s invitation “Could you not, then, watch one hour with me (Matthew 26:40)?” The Blessed Sacrament remains in the altar of repose until Easter Vigil on Holy Saturday.

Good Friday, or “Friday of the Passion of the Lord” begins in silence. Although the faithful do receive communion (from hosts consecrated on Holy Thursday and placed in the altar of repose), there is no Mass. There is no Eucharistic Prayer and no host consecrated. This liturgy stands alone, unlike any other. The celebrant, in a red vestment as a sign of Jesus’s shed blood, processes in silence up the main aisle of the church, falls to the ground and lies prostrate in a gesture of complete humility and submission.

The Good Friday liturgy continues with the Liturgy of the Word and the Passion according to St. John is read. After the homily, we pray intercessory prayers for the Church and the entire world; Christian, non-Christians, and non-believers. Then, the cross is venerated with a kiss by all of the faithful and the Blessed Sacrament is removed from the Altar of Repose for the faithful to receive Holy Communion. The liturgy begins and ends in silence. The Triduum continues to the next day, Easter Vigil.

Holy Thursday ends in silence, Good Friday begins and ends in silence, and Easter Vigil begins in silence. As we leave each liturgy of the Triduum, a sacred silence deep within our souls is most appropriate. Jesus is in the tomb.


Easter Vigil and Easter Sunday of the Triduum

The Easter Vigil begins in silence and darkness. A fire is dramatically lit outside (if weather allows), as the Easter candle is prepared during the service of light.  All present process into the sanctuary in darkness except for the light of the Paschal candle and individual candles lit from that light. At the end of the procession, the Paschal candle is placed in its stand in the sanctuary and the great “Exsultet” is sung.  The Liturgy of the Word begins with the Old Testament readings that tell the story of our salvation. There are seven readings and psalms, but there is an option to use just four of the seven readings. After the final reading, the Gloria is triumphtly sung as bells begin to ring. After the singing of the Gloria, the Epistle is read, and then the solemn three-fold Alleluia sounds once again after 40 days of absence.

The Vigil continues with the Baptism of the Catechumens and the Reception of all the candidates into the Church and Confirmation. Everyone present is then invited to renew their baptismal vows and are then sprinkled with Holy Water (Asperges Rite). The creed is omitted because of the Asperges Rite, and after the Universal Prayer, Mass continues with the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The Easter Vigil is the ‘mother of all vigils’ and the crowning glory of our Liturgical Year.

On Easter Sunday, we sing the Easter Sequence, ‘Victimae Paschali Laudes’, after the Second Reading and before the Gospel. A Sequence is a piece of liturgical poetry that is read or sung as part of the Liturgy of the Word at Mass on particular Feast Days. A Sequence expands on and explains the meaning of the celebration. There were many sequences in the Middle Ages. Today there are only four that are still sung: Easter (Victimae Paschali Laudes), Pentecost (Veni, Sancte Spiritus), Corpus Christi (Lauda Sion), and All Souls Mass or Mass for the Dead (Dies Irae).   The Stabat Mater was also a liturgical sequence for “Our Lady of Sorrows” on September 15th.

As Catholics, we have the great joy and privilege of celebrating the full joy of Easter Sunday for eight days, the Octave of Easter, which ends on the Second Sunday of Easter, now Divine Mercy Sunday.  Liturgically, every day of the Octave is celebrated as a Solemnity, the highest of liturgical celebrations in our Liturgical Year, only the readings change from day to day, the Gloria is sung, and the Creed is recited.  Of course, after the Octave of Easter, we still have 42 more days to celebrate, since the Easter Season concludes after 50 days on the great Solemnity of Pentecost!  Keep amazing is our Catholic faith!


Why are we singing the Entrance and Communion Antiphon?

The Church gives us two different types of prayers in our Eucharistic liturgy, the Mass; the Mass Ordinary and the Mass Propers. The Mass Ordinary includes the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy), the Gloria, the Credo (Creed), the Sanctus and Benedictus (which is now one prayer combined, the Holy, Holy, Holy), and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God). These texts do not change from Mass to Mass; they always remain the same. For this reason, they are familiar to every Catholic.

The Mass Propers are liturgical texts that vary from day to day according to the Liturgical Year: the Introit (Entrance Antiphon), the Gradual (what we now know as the Responsorial Psalm), the verse for the Gospel Acclamation, and the Communio (Communion Antiphon). The Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon are the texts that the Church hopes will guide our prayer on that particular day in the Liturgical Year.

Although parishes, including ours, sing other hymns and songs during the Entrance and during Communion processions, the liturgical texts of the Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon are the most proper or appropriate texts to be sung during these two processions. And although we have recently only selectively used antiphons at Sunday Masses, this tradition was never intended to be lost or to be ended after the Second Vatican Council. In fact, the tradition is very much alive at St.Gabriel weekday Masses.

Since the First Sunday of Advent, we have begun restoring the tradition of singing the Entrance and Communion Antiphons at each Sunday Mass. The texts are in the worship aid, and everyone will be invited to sing the Antiphons on a very simple, familiar psalm tone each week. (responding to the first line sung alone by the cantor). We will sing the Entrance Antiphon just before the Entrance Hymn, and the Communion Antiphon before the Communion Procession. We will still continue to sing the musical repertoire of the parish after we have sung these beautiful texts the Church has given us for each Sunday of the Liturgical Year.

Why do we sometimes sing in Latin?

For a variety of reasons, the use of Latin in the liturgy often gets people worked up: some think it is the only way to have Mass, and others believe it is a step back to the Stone Age. The truth, as always, lies in the middle.  Latin is the official language of the Catholic Church and all official documents, letters, and prayers are recorded in this language before being translated for use around the world. Until the Second Vatican Council, the entire Mass was celebrated in Latin. After Vatican II, permission was given throughout the world to celebrate Mass in the local language (called the vernacular), but the Church always intended that people would still know how to pray parts of the Mass in Latin. Pope Benedict XVI makes this clear. “The intention of the Second Vatican Council was certainly to sing in the vernacular language of the people, but never to entirely replace the Latin Mass. The Church continues to revisit the intentions of the council, and understand the worldwide, communal and truly Catholic (and catholic) need for parishes to have a common repertoire of music.  And the language of that music would be Latin.”  Latin is our tradition, our Catholic heritage. It is our link to the universal Church. By singing Mass XVIII, we join our voices with those of Catholics around the world. 

Singing the Psalms                    

Our Roman Catholic Church is filled with rich tradition of now more than 2000 years, and even the tradition of our Jewish roots before that.  The psalter, or the 150 psalms of David, are the prayers Jesus prayed. These psalms make up our most authentic and most ancient hymnal.  Our Mass is filled with psalm singing. This is who we are as Catholics! We may not have one Catholic hymnal, but we all share the psalter.

In addition to the responsorial psalm sung between the first two readings, psalm verses are assigned to the Introit (Entrance Antiphon) and the (Communio) Communion Antiphon for each day of the Liturgical Year.   These texts are referred to as the ‘Mass Propers,’ or the text that is proper for a particular day, Feast, or Solemnity.

During the Liturgical Year, there are psalms that are appropriate for each season. For example, during Advent, Psalms 25 and 85 are sung in the Liturgy of the Word as the Responsorial Psalm, and are also paired with antiphons on different Sundays throughout Advent.

On the First Sunday of Lent, Psalm 91 is paired with both the Entrance Antiphon and Communion Antiphon, and in Year C, Psalm 91 is the responsorial psalm between the first two readings.  It is most appropriate to sing Psalm 91 during Communion on that Sunday.

The ‘seasonal’ psalms are as follows:

Advent                        Psalm 25, 85    

Christmas                   Psalm 98

Lent                            Psalm 51, 91, 130

Holy Week                  Psalm 122

Easter                         Psalm 66, 118

Pentecost                   Psalm 104

Ordinary Time            Psalm 19, 27, 34, 63, 95, 100, 103

End of the Liturgical Year     Psalm 23, 122, 145


Because of their prominence in our Liturgical Year, we sing these psalms or music based on these psalms quite often. While there are many beautiful songs that we sing while receiving communion, singing the psalms during communion is a more authentic expression of our Catholic tradition.  Psalm 34, “Taste and see the goodness of the Lord,” is ‘the Communion Song.’  It is one of the most ancient texts sung during Communion.  It often appears during Ordinary Time in the Liturgical Year, paired with many different Communion Antiphons. It certainly is a text we should know ‘by heart.’  In her wisdom, the Church has given us the 150 psalms as a foundation for a rich life of prayer.

Singing the Mass

An important liturgical principal taught to seminarians studying for priesthood, is that we as Catholics are to be singing the Mass and not ‘singing at Mass.’  The liturgy is the Church’s most treasured prize; when we sing the text She gives us, we are singing the Mass. Choices in sacred music should be specific to the Mass celebrated; the Mass propers, (the Entrance Antiphon, the Gospel Verse, and the Communion Antiphon), the scripture readings, the liturgical season, the weekday, Memorial, Feast Day, or Solemnity, are all starting points for the choice of any musical selection.

The texts of the Mass Propers are as important to the day as are the scripture readings we hear proclaimed in the Liturgy of the Word.  Every Entrance and Communion Antiphon is paired with a specific psalm; therefore, during Communion, psalm singing is the most authentic practice. Psalm 34, ‘Taste and see the goodness of the Lord.’ is the most ancient Communion Psalm (song), and the ‘default’psalm for many Communion Antiphons throughout Ordinary Time. At St. Gabriel, we often sing Communion Songs during the procession with a short refrain and verses sung by the cantor (choir) or everyone.  We also sing short, metrical psalm refrains in alternation with the cantor (choir) singing the verses. Again, in a simple, but profound way, we are ‘singing the Mass.’  Good liturgical music serves the liturgy, and never dominates.  These principles are essential to every liturgy, and especially should be applied to our most cherished work of the liturgy with our precious children and young adults.

Our Entrance and Comunion Antiphons during this season are set to a musical paraphrase of a psalm tone the Church has given during the season of Lent. So, in a wonderful way, we are truly singing the Mass!

Lex orandi, lex credend  (What or how we pray, is what we believe)

This phrase means how or what we pray is what we believe; the words we sing in our hymns and songs teach about our faith.

Thoughts from an article by Bishop James Conley of Lincoln Nebraska

“Worship is an expression of our love and fidelity to God, and a mystical union with his Word, who, as St. John the Evangelist says, “is God, and is with God.”Worship matters. And because worship is a communion with the Word of God, the words we use in sacred worship matter too. Liturgical worship does much more than simply deliver information about God. It forms our hearts and our minds and our imaginations, to give us a keen sense of the supernatural in our midst. Liturgical worship, in a very real way, transcends time and space; it takes us from this world, and puts us in contact with the divine.

There is an ancient maxim in the Church’s life—lex orandi, lex credendi—the norms of our prayers are the norms of our beliefs. Sacred liturgy teaches the faith, because its words take root in our hearts.  Because we believe as we pray, our prayers must be absolutely faithful to the deposit of faith which we have been given. We are formed for holiness by the words of the liturgy when they faithfully transmit the revelation of the living Word of God, Jesus Christ.

Together, we have occasion to give thanks that God has given us a foretaste of eternity, which frees us, and transforms us, and sanctifies us, so that we can love the Lord, now and forever, with all our hearts, souls, and minds, in the gift of sacred worship.”  Because we are Catholic, sacred liturgical worship should be at the center of our lives.


The Mass Propers

The Church gives us two different types of prayers in our Eucharistic liturgy, the Mass; the Mass Ordinary and the Mass Propers. 

The Mass Ordinary includes the Kyrie Eleison (Lord, have mercy), the Gloria, the Credo (Creed), the Sanctus and Benedictus (which is now one prayer combined, the Holy, Holy, Holy), and the Agnus Dei (Lamb of God).  These texts do not change from Mass to Mass; they always remain the same.  For this reason, they are familiar to every Catholic.

The Mass Propers are liturgical texts that vary from day to day according to the Liturgical Year: the Introit (Entrance Antiphon), the Gradual (what we now know as the Responsorial Psalm), the verse for the Gospel Acclamation, and the Communio (Communion Antiphon). The Entrance Antiphon and the Communion Antiphon are the texts that the Church hopes will guide our prayer on that particular day in the Liturgical Year.








Mary Beth Wittry


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