Fr. Peter Daly
December 10, 2002
Down at the bottom of the hill I could hear the voices of the kids running around in the parking lot as they were getting out of choir practice. Every week some 45 children come to rehearse for the once a month appearance of our children’s choir, the “Kids of the Kingdom” at Sunday mass.
It all looks easy when they do it, but the kids, and their adult leaders, give an extraordinary amount of time to preparing for the liturgy.
They make a huge difference in our prayer. Just the sight of them in their white shirts and maroon collars put smiles on our faces. The kids, with they maracas, violins, flutes, tambourines and drums take their playing seriously. They study the music sheets, even though some of them can’t even read words yet.
The ministry of music is a marvel, and one that is often under appreciated.
For many people it really makes the worship experience. What would Christmas be without music? Whole legions of people come every year at Christmas, not for the preaching but for the music. It is the carols that draw they back to Church and in their minds, to their childhood.
Christmas is a good time to thank the musicians.
Our parish, like most mid-sized parishes, has various musical groups that play at our five Sunday masses.
It is a huge effort for these choir directors and volunteer singers.
While most people can hardly get they selves to mass on time, the musicians and cantors and choristers spend hours each week reviewing the readings, choosing the music, rehearsing songs, setting up their equipment and making copies of worship handouts. Then people (and often priests) show up and just take it all for granted.
In one month our adult choirs have rehearsed and performed a “Christmas Cantata” (a concert of lessons and carols), several evening prayers, a reconciliation service and more than thirty masses.
Week after week, musicians in parishes across the country and around the world, in every religion, do what prayer should do, lift our spirits. Often it is the music that really captures the meaning of the scriptures. Often it is the singing, not the homily that people remember. We come out of church singing songs, not reciting passages.
Musicians are usually unpaid and always underpaid. But that does not mean they are not appreciated.
Our congregation loves to sing when the choir helps them. Every now and then when the hymn is a familiar one I am surprised by how good the whole congregation sounds. Sometimes they sing so loud you would think that we were Lutherans, not Catholics. Nobody sings better than the Lutherans.
Every religion has its form of music. Every tradition has some form of chanting of prayer. It is often music that defines and identifies worship.
More and more often, our congregation is applauding the music. While Catholic liturgy is not a performance or a show, I certainly can understand the applause. It is just a desire to say thanks.
While the little kids in our choir may look like angels, all musicians are doing something “angelic” in giving a little listen into the language of heaven, music.