NOT a Museum Piece: Sacred Music and the Liturgy

NOT a Museum Piece

I believe that evangelization depends on the liturgy: both for current Catholics and for future Catholics. The Catholics already in the pews are continually being formed by the celebration of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass: by both the Sacrament Itself and the way the Mass is celebrated. Future Catholics can be attracted into the Church by the beauty that they experience when attending Holy Mass (my husband is a prime example of this, actually). Because of the poison and spiritual erosion in souls today caused by our worn out, completely secularized, cynical culture, an appreciation for beauty is really the last thing that people in the world can reach out and relate to in the Catholic Church. That is why sacred beauty is essential to spreading the Faith.

I do understand that beauty is only a means to an end–the service of God. The beauty at a faithful parish church is only one of the many good fruits (“by their fruits you shall know them”) that the church is bearing—others are reverence, a sense of sacredness, and–above all–obedience to God and His Catholic Church. This holy obedience is seen in the many wonderful large families who are responding to the Church’s teaching on marriage and childbearing, and it is also seen in the priests, who preach the (often unpopular!) Truth unashamedly, and who obediently follow the directives of the Church regarding the liturgy. Being a faithful Christian is the hardest thing there is in this life, and the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass IS THE SOURCE AND SUMMIT of the Christian life. When a parish (and most of them do!) disobeys the directives of the Church with regard to the liturgy in regard to the instruments used, music styles played, and songs chosen; when it dangerously compromises with the priestly functions of Eucharistic ministers and altar servers; and when it serves up feel-good wishy-washy preaching with no doctrine and no direction Sunday after Sunday, then this parish presents a greater or lesser spiritual danger to all those who attend.  I know that I am in enough danger of falling each day without subjecting myself to disobedience and/or apathy of those who are leading a parish–any parish–and so I must always try to find the very best one.

All of these reasons are why I want to help my local parish experience and express sacredness and beauty in its liturgies. The way that sacredness and beauty will come into our Masses is by following the guidance, laws, and norms set out by the Church in papal encyclicals, council documents, and bishops’ pastoral letters, specifically as regards the music and instruments appropriate for Holy Mass. No regular service at my local parish follows the mind and heart of the Church on sacred music, and this is a grave problem. Music is so important in the Mass because it influences–even creates–the prayer environment of this Great Prayer itself. The words in the music teach the congregation how to think as Catholics: about God and how we should relate to Him, how to understand our place in His world as Catholics, and what the meaning and purpose of the liturgy are in the first place. And the melodies and rhythm of the music either 1) bring us out of time and into the eternal celebration of the Lamb’s Wedding Feast, by leading us to sing like the angels do, or 2) they keep us anchored in a genre and popular style of a certain decade on earth. The music of any Mass is, ultimately, either worthy of Almighty God, or it isn’t. Since we humans are responsible for honoring God in the way He wants to be honored, we should rejoice that He tells us through His Church exactly how to do that: with Sacred Music.

Obviously, this is so important to me that I decided to help start a choir exclusively devoted to singing Sacred Music. Our Schola is proof that anyone can sing this beautiful music with some time and effort given to it. Only one of the six of us has ever sung in a choir as an adult, and two could not read music at all when we started. All the musical background I had up to this time was six years of piano lessons before college. This is additional proof that this music is truly for everyone, for every choir and every Catholic and every Mass! It’s not about us, the people in the pews, or us in the schola/choir: it’s about the music of God’s people and His Church. We want to help the parish have the Sacred Music that Catholics have a right to, and a need for.

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