St. Augustine famously wrote that he who sings his prayer prays twice. If raising our voices in worship unites us as one Church, then liturgical music is a bond that binds us as Catholics.
As Christ Cathedral’s new Director of Music John Romeri notes in the feature story in this issue of OC Catholic, music indeed is the universal language that powerfully expresses all the emotions and feelings we each find difficult to fully express in words. I’m no maestro, but like many people, the music I’ve enjoyed in different phases of my life instantly recalls vividly the people, events and milestones I held dear during those years.
From as early as I remember, there was music in our home. While none of our family members were musicians, my father loved playing big band records and my Mom enjoyed torch singers like Robert Goulet and Perry Como. I grew up listening to Glen Miller, Artie Shaw and Louie Prima for hours on end on the hi-fi in our living room. I remember my mother more than once getting upset that Dad’s reel-to-reel recordings were too loud for the neighbors when he set his tape machine on the lawn while he trimmed the bushes. Like Dad did, I always turn on Pandora and play Bonnie Raitt as loud as I can while I clean the kitchen and cook weekend meals.
It follows that when we went to Mass every Sunday at Holy Family when I was little, the music was always my favorite part. I loved finding the hymns listed on the signs in church and learning the songs together with the rest of the congregation.
Later, when I was a student at Marywood – then an all-girls Catholic high school operated by the Sisters of Providence – we often asked priests to celebrate Mass in the school’s beautiful little chapel. The Eucharistic celebration always commemorated our Holy Days, special weekend Masses and school observances.
To my delight, in my junior year I was asked to chair our Liturgy Committee, the group that planned music and presentations at our school and interschool Masses. That was by far my favorite job of all the volunteer positions I filled during high school because it involved such creativity and thought about the Gospel messages.
Back in the mid ‘70s we incorporated folk and rock music into the Mass whenever we could. Guitar Masses were popular and it wasn’t unusual for us to have large groups of singers and guitarists performing.
Tastes may have changed since then, but music remains a crucial way that we say our prayers. Through John Romeri’s direction and the assistance of gifted singers from throughout the Diocese we can look forward to praying together with the Christ Cathedral choirs in the months to come. I’m positive that through their musical ministry we will come to nurture a deep appreciation for the many ways that a diversity of liturgical music allows us to express our devotion.