Sacred music is a modern term often used in reference to music that is linked in some way to sacred liturgy. Indeed, "sacred music is to be considered the more holy the more closely connected it is with the liturgical action, whether making prayer more pleasing, promoting unity of minds, or conferring greater solemnity upon the sacred rites.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112).
While it is a useful term for us in describing the "worship" aspect of our parish music ministry, it is a somewhat imprecise term in that it implies a distinction between "sacred" (that which is in proximity to the Holy) and "profane" (that which is "outside of the temple," ordinary or for "everyday"), and yet "the Church approves of all forms of true art having the needed qualities, and admits them into divine worship." (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 112).
Pastoral guidance for interpreting these seemingly contradictory norms of Vatican II has been given to us most recently in the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops' document, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. It is this pastoral document that is the primary guide for our parish music ministry and our parish program of liturgical music.
Anyone interested in more in-depth discussions of Sing to the Lord might find the following essays interesting:
1. Sing to the Lord: Gifts and Challenges by Anthony Ruff, OSB
2. Sing to the Lord and the Treasury of Sacred Music by Kevin Vogt