Dear Good People of Saint Mary,
Once in a while our music director, David Mathers, invites people to practice various pieces of music before Mass begins. Thanks for being so responsive, I realize that for some this is a moment for individual prayer, which is important, of course. But we come to Mass to gather as one voice—not as individuals, but as one voice. And sometimes that requires a little practice. The perfect preparation.
We change out the music for the Mass and try new things during the year for various good reasons. The best of these is that the variety of our repertoire of faith will also help us to see the many facets of the prayers we pray. Sometimes a hymn will touch us in a certain way, or call to mind and solidify the message we heard in the Word of God. It helps us mark the changing of the seasons and feasts of the church in a certain way: we can develop a sense of joy, victory, wonder, penitence, patience—whatever might be the attitude of the day— in the many forms and expressions of centuries of song. We are united simply by the key or meter in which a piece of music is written; sometimes the austerity of not using a musical instrument can speak to us of the simplicity which lies at the heart of a liturgy.
Our choirs have grown and become so rich and full in sound. We owe thanks to our music ministers who help shape the quality and dignity of our prayer. The choir is there to lead all of us—but not to replace us—when they are here. Lately I’ve heard the congregation singing maybe a lot more softly because the choirs are there. Don’t do it! Make that choir sing even louder! No matter how “cute” the children’s choir may be, don’t let them replace you in your participation in the Mass. It is the Mass, not a concert! If anything, the choir can add to our singing the harmonies and descants that will enhance the sound of our assembly.They have their time for the regular anthem. Yes, as I think of it, this is exactly what I want to say: you are the choir. It’s like you are the cake, and the choir is the icing on it.
Did you know some parts of the Mass are intended for you, the assembly, alone? We haven’t been too strict about this, but we are going to try more and more to follow the book. On both the Memorial Acclamation (“When we eat this Bread…, or We proclaim your death, O Lord, and profess your Resurrection…, etc.) and the Great Amen at the end of the Eucharistic Prayer (A-a-a-men, A-a-men. A-a-a-amen) the Roman Missal says, after the priest is finished with his prayer, “The people acclaim…” That’s you! I think sometimes I sing because it doesn’t seem like people are responding. Maybe all this time I’ve been stealing your lines. I’m trying to stop singing your parts.
If you think about it, how amazing it is that you, the assembly, have the response to the words of the Last Supper at the Consecration; you have the “Amen (So be it, I believe!)” to the beautiful prayer, “Through him, and with him, and in him, O God, almighty Father, in the unity of the Holy Spirit, all glory and honor is yours, for ever and ever.” Amen, indeed!
God bless you,