OCONOMOWOC — With a new edition of the Roman Missal set to be implemented in parishes a little more than six months from now, discussions of music selection have been widespread.

Music directors and parish leaders throughout the Milwaukee Archdiocese gathered Saturday, May 14, at St. Jerome Parish in Oconomowoc to discuss the impending changes, and what they mean for daily and Sunday Mass.

On Holy Thursday 2000, Pope John Paul II promulgated the Third Typical Edition of the Roman Missal in Latin. In the United States, all parishes are to transition to the updated version by the First Sunday of Advent on Nov. 27.

The Vatican, which issued new guidelines in 2001, adopted a principle known as formal equivalency. The updated Missal contains everything from the previous version and has incorporated texts for new saints’ days, in addition to other new information – including eucharistic prayers, various needs and occasions and texts from the RCIA – that were not included in older Missals.

Patrick Gorman, choir music director for the Madison Diocese, led the discussion. He said the impending changes are a good opportunity for parishes to evaluate music selection at Masses and the specific needs of congregants.

“Music is vital,” Gorman said. “The role of music in liturgy is community, and community is all about unity.”

Gorman suggested music directors and leaders review a five-star judgment system that was based on Robert Batastini’s Parish Leadership Day Lecture in 2007.

Songs with five stars directly praise God and include “Gloria” and “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.” Songs with four stars oftentimes have indirect references to praising God and include “Joy to the World” and “At the Lamb’s Highest Feast.”

Three-starred songs – including “One Bread, One Body” and “Blest are They” – are based on Scripture. Songs with two stars reflect worshippers asking God for help. Examples include “Prayer of St. Francis” and “Lord of all Hopefulness.” One star reflects experiences from the worshiper’s perspective, e.g., “Gather Us In” and “I Come with Joy.”

Gorman said the star system is not a reflection of musical style, but rather one of text. He encouraged participants to review the star system, but demonstrate flexibility in decision making.

“To pull something out for nostalgic sake alone might not be the best,” Gorman said. “It might not fit the sensibilities of the specific congregation.”

The forum also included a discussion of how traditional Latin language should be incorporated into music selection and chants of the Mass.

“The question you have to ask yourself is what the value of it is, and how it comes into play,” Gorman said. “Should every parish and diocese be singing in Latin? I’m not sure. But I don’t want to ignore what the church is saying. You want to be faithful to the church, yet serve the people in your parishes.”

The changes in the Roman Missal do not impact a number of Orders of the Mass, including people’s responses for Kyrie (Lord, have mercy), Gospel acclamation, Great Amen and Lamb of God.

There are slight changes in the revised translation for the greeting, preface dialogue and Holy, Holy, Holy. Significant changes have been made to the Glory to God, Creed and memorial acclamation.

The newest version of the missal does not directly affect Responsorial Psalms and hymns and songs.