Sunday, July 6, 2008

Sacred Music

I love music, especially sacred music. This post made me appreciate it again. As I type, I'm listening to "Assumpta est Maria" by the Choir of Clare College. It is so beautiful I can hardly describe it. I'm not very intellectual about music; I like music that "moves my soul" as Jennifer puts it. Depending on the location, that can be anything from pop to classic rock, but most often, my soul is moved by sacred music. Music that transcends space and time and lifts the soul to God. Music that gives me chills. In a good way.

Personally, I love singing. My voice is not notable in any way, nice, I think, but not remarkable. I'd never make it past the first auditions on American Idol! When I sat in the pew at St. Bridget's Church in Virginia as a non-catholic-with-no-intention-of-ever-being-Catholic, I had a longing to cantor! Weird. Now that I've been Catholic for 11 years, I've been cantoring at my parish for the past 4 years and singing in the choir for 2. I had to wait until my babies grew up enough to do without me a little bit.

What I long for these days is a Mass that uses sacred music. Really sacred. I'm sorry, but it grates on my nerves to sing some of these post-Vatican 2 songs, not hymns. Especially the ones by notable protestants! Sure, most of them are pleasant enough, but we have a church that is 2000 years old and the music we use is predominantly from the last couple of decades. Our parish has a children's Mass where the 3rd and 4th graders sing (and lector); a Mass where the 5th and up kids sing; 7:30 a.m. Mass with no music; 9 a.m. Mass with a contemporary band; 10:30 with the choir; noon with a cantor; 5:30 Lifeteen with the Lifeteen band (contemporary, again). The Mass with the choir has the best music, but it could be better. Now I'm hearing whispers of a new Mass setting, one that was written for guitar accompaniment. I'm sorry, but it almost moves me to tears, and not in a good way.

I know there are people out there who love the more modern stuff, or love hearing the children's choir and I can understand that. I'm certainly not criticizing anyone else's taste or preferences. But I became Catholic because I want the fullness of the faith. I want the Catholic church in all it's richness and glory. Cathedrals with spires that reach out for the heavens. Priests who put on beautiful, rich vestments that are ornate because they are putting on Christ. Music that stands the test of time and lifts the soul to God. Not only that, but illustrates the universality of the Church. Latin. Give me latin!

I'm not asking for a Traditional Latin Mass, or Tridentine, because that is still too foreign for me, though I have "assisted" at several. I don't have a problem with readings in the vernacular, but Latin should still be part of the Mass, even the Novus Ordo. So, all I ask, is that one Mass out of the 7 our parish celebrates weekly in English be celebrated with all the smells and bells and the most beautiful sacred music, hymns and chants. Is that too much to ask? Maybe it sounds like I'm being selfish, but I really want it for Jesus, not for me. I think He deserves better than what he's getting.


  1. I couldn't agree with you more! As a former Presbyterian, I always loved really beautiful hymns. And I was hoping, when I became Catholic, that I would come back to sacred music like that, but even more so (because of that 2,000 year history!) The folk Mass at church makes me laugh, the Lifeteen Mass is okay. I love 10:30 with the choir (but Ben and Autumn just can't deal with life at that hour).

    For all my crazy alternative rockin' out, Sara, I have a very traditional church music soul. I want hymns and chants, not guitars and lounge singers.

    Since we are stuck going to either 5:30 Vigil or Noon Sunday Masses, we mostly just hear the Cantors. And, btw, I love your voice! It's very innocent and angelic sounding (and I am not just blowing smoke.....)

  2. I would concur about your beautiful voice Sara! You have a God given talent and thankfully, you share it with us all.

    It would be nice to have a Mass with more traditional music -- because I know several people in the parish that would love it.

    I know we have talked about this before. I was raised in the 70's with post-VII enthusiastic parents and church. My happy memories of Mass actually include the tamborine playing nun (Sr. Eileen can keep some rythm with the St. Louis Jesuits) and "Kumbaya". I believe that song (especially in Mass) is a prayer and so anything that the community can participate in joyfully raises prayer to God. I love when we sing Latin parts in Mass and am happy when Ryan looks at me and says this is his favorite part. I also love when we sing (and do the dreaded hand motions) at Lifeteen. I will always tear up when we sing "Here I am Lord" because it speaks to me. I have been to a "gospel" Mass near the projects in N.O., a Mass in Spanish, Mass in Portuguese, a "polka" Mass in MN., Mass in college in the 80's that incorporated dance, Mass outside on retreat (OK it was the 80's I don't think they do that one much anymore). In each one the community was actively participating. Don't ya just love the Catholic Church? Cause really it is all about the Eucharist and Christ's real presence. The rest is just lagniappe.


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