I’m a firm believer that singing, particularly communal singing, is an essential part of the human experience. The feeling of singing with others, whether its just a few, or hundreds, is truly something that defies description. I believe communal singing is one of God’s greatest gifts to us. Unfortunately, society has not provided us many opportunities to sing in community--which only intensifies the significance and beauty of communal singing at Mass.
The Church feels strongly as well, as we find in Sacrosanctum Concilium, a document of the Second Vatican Council. “Religious singing by the people,” the Council insists, “is to be intelligently fostered so that…the voices of the faithful may ring out…” Pope St. John Paul II, in his signature reverence toward the aesthetic, waxes a bit more poetic. In his in his 2003 Chirograph on Sacred Music, the contemporary saint writes that singing “constitutes a bond of unity and a joyful expression of the community at prayer, fosters the proclamation of the one faith and imparts to large liturgical assemblies an incomparable and recollected solemnity.” Perhaps the USCCB document Sing to the Lord defines the importance of sacred music most succinctly. In it, the authors claim that “common, sung expression of faith within liturgical celebrations strengthens our faith when it grows weak and draws us into the divinely inspired voice of the Church at prayer.” And “Particularly inspired by sung participation, the body of the Word Incarnate goes forth to spread the Gospel with full force and compassion.”
While the Church couldn’t be any clearer on the role of singing the Liturgy, the reality is that many Catholics in the pews are guilty of half-hearted singing, often to music that has not worn well. We are lucky at St. Mark’s to not only have an amazing tradition of singing, but priests that actively foster its inclusion in the Liturgy. However, I truly wouldn’t be doing my job if I wasn’t
encouraging more people to participate more fully in this essential act of the Liturgy and the human experience as a whole.
A common rebuttal to this plea is: “Oh, you wouldn’t want to hear me sing.” Or, “I have no talent.” I would urge those who feel this way to reevaluate their position. Fundamentally, communal singing is not something we do for others to hear and enjoy, but rather something we do for ourselves, for the good of the community, and for God! Talent is not required--just an earnest desire to participate in something larger than yourself. I am far from an impressive athlete, but that doesn’t mean I don’t find enjoyment in a brisk bike ride down a hill on a hot
summer day. Simply put, if you are a non-singer or a half-hearted one, you don’t know what you are missing. It is my hope and prayer that the power of communal singing will lead us
to a more active, joyful, and reverent celebration of the Mass.
Each month, Music Director Nathan Cicero will use this column
to examine an aspect of music ministry at St. Mark’s.
Email him at email@example.com