Friday, February 7, 2014

Praise the Lord in Song and Dance!!!

Dear friends,

Those who may not have any interest at all in liturgical music will have to put up with this message today.  The first reading caught my attention with a specific message to me as priest-celebrant at Masses.  Because I consider myself as a fixer-upper, as have my superiors, I have had a number of assignments both in the Jesuit order and in the Archdiocese of Washington.  As a result, I have had to enjoy and endure liturgical music of every sort in the years of my priesthood.  Music programs can be  an "Agony and Ecstacy" for Pastors!!!  This feeling, no doubt, impacts you, those who sit in pews and are subjected to what some have called "manditory music."

Hear the words that caught my attention: “He set singers before the altar and by their voices he made sweet melodies, he added beauty to the feasts and solemnized the seasons of each year so that when the Holy Name was praised, before daybreak the sanctuary would resound.”  Sirach

Music programs, good music programs, are costly not only in funding salaries for well-educated musicians (organists) and music directors but also in the amount of time that volunteers practice just for a "regular" series of weekend Masses.  In the parish where I help, there is a traditional church/parish choir as well as an African Choir and a Filippine Choir.  Translated:  hours and hours of practice.  And why?  because these Pastors and their music aides know well that a silent (music free) Mass brings about far less genuine praise of God than does a Mass with music regardless of its genre.

In parishes where there is a very good liturgical music program most parishioners of proud of this aspect of their parish life.

There is always time for quiet prayer and reflection at Mass: in the times before Mass begins (that is if chatty parishioners can keep their spoken voices outside the church proper) as well as after Mass.  I am amazed in my parish at the numbers of men and women kneel before the altar as well as the tabernacle after Masses ... morning and weekend.

Let me conclude this plea for good music in all our liturgical celebration with several suggestions offered by a professor in the Journalism department at a mid-western Jesuit University.

Knowing how much a “resounding sanctuary” adds to prayer and worship, I offer a few suggestions to those stuck in churches" where the music programs are painful:

•Speak out. Ask your pastors and parish councils to place a priority on using music that the people can and will sing. Suggest that every Mass include at least one hymn that people know, even such old standbys as “Immaculate Mary” or “Holy God We Praise Thy Name.”

•Ask your cantors to practices hymns with the congregation before Mass. Whenever I’ve seen this done, participation improves.

•If you are blessed with a good voice, organize a chorus that will sing at Mass. It’s amazing how much participation improves when there’s a musical ensemble leading the way rather than just one person.

No, our music director did not beg me to write these thoughts.  Just the Sacred Scriptures!!!!

Oremus et cantamus pro invicem!!!

Fr. Milt