My Dear Friends,
On this Pentecost Sunday, I want to write to you about something that is vital to our celebration of the Mass: singing! You may be asking yourself why I am writing about this particular topic on Pentecost when I could have written a catechesis on the Holy Spirit, the birth of the Church, the proclamation of the kerygma, or any number of things, but the Holy Spirit moved me last week to write about singing during Mass. Why? Because, put simply: as a community we don’t sing!
We do so many things well here at Little Flower. We educate children brilliantly in the faith as we have just concluded our Religious Education year and are about to conclude the school year at St. Theresa. We have excelled in hospitality since the pandemic started welcoming new members to our church. We are a generous community giving of our time, talent, and treasure. Our music ministers do a magnificent job of giving us liturgical music that raises our souls to the divine. But there is just one thing missing. We need to join them as they sing. So many times, it feels like we perceive them as mere entertainers that we like to listen to instead of liturgical ministers who dedicate so much of their time to rehearse to lead us all in song.
The Catechism of the Catholic Church lists three principal criteria for music to fulfill its liturgical purpose in Mass: “beauty expressive of prayer, the unanimous participation of the assembly at the designated moments, and the solemn character of the celebration (1157).” I want to focus on the second criterion which is the unanimous participation of the assembly. Yes, I know that all of us weren’t gifted with angelic voices, but we’re still called to sing. I remember as a child my father, who definitely was not blessed with a great singing voice (sorry, Dad), singing at full throat during Mass as an example for the rest of his family. We followed suit.
There is a great article online at aleteia.org by a Catholic composer JP Mauro about singing at Mass that says: “We are called as Catholics to bear witness to Christ, to participate in the Mass, and to be in communion with one another. Singing in one voice with our community fosters unity and brings us closer to God.”
He also addresses the question of what if I can’t sing? “Whether you have a voice that’s meant for televised singing competitions or not, your voice was placed in this world by the Creator. As strange as it is to say, in this instance, your opinions on your vocal prowess are irrelevant. Singing at Mass is not a matter of pride, but a chance to lay ourselves bare to Christ. Once this is understood, it actually takes a lot of the pressure off. Now we can be like the holy fools who deliberately flouted society’s conventions to serve a
And what happens if you don’t like singing? Well, he addresses that too: “Some people just plain don’t like to sing. There’s nothing wrong with this, but the Catechism still instructs us to sing in “full participation.” Rather than bemoan one’s fate, it is wise to acknowledge that this is your cross to bear. This is a chance for you to take an uncomfortable moment and, as your granny may have instructed you, “Kiss it up to God.”
Our music ministers want you to join them. Yes, I am aware that some of the songs, especially at the 10:30am Mass, may be a bit out of reach for us, but let’s start with something simple: the Mass parts. Our music ministry in all the Masses has been singing the same Mass part melodies (Gloria, Alleluia, Holy, etc.) for almost three years. We should know them by now. Sing these parts of the Mass since they are an integral part of our liturgical prayer. As a celebrant, it’s sometimes deflating when you tell your people to lift up their hearts and to join the choir of angels and just get blank stares looking back at you as the choir is singing.
So don’t be afraid. Don’t be embarrassed. On this Pentecost Sunday, the Holy Spirit, who is always calling us to change, is calling us to lift up our voices unanimously to sing the praises of our magnificent God who on this day gifted us the Spirit. Remember the great quote from St. Augustine: “He who sings, prays twice!”
God bless you all,