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In Singing, The Affection Of One Loving | Catholic Life

In Singing, The Affection Of One Loving

While reading Pope Benedict’s “The Presence of the Lord in the Sacrament” in God is Near Us I was reminded of the importance of complete bodily worship, and ashamed to realize that I do not sing. Even when praying the liturgy of the hours I simply read the hymns. I “know” the importance of music, but somehow in the past few years I have lost my connection to it. I am not musically gifted, but singing is not about having a gift, it is about using all available methods to respond to God.

The Lord gives himself to us in bodily form. That is why we must likewise respond to him bodily. That means above all that the Eucharist must reach out beyond the limits of the church itself in the manifold forms of service to men and to the world. But it also meas that our religion, our prayer, demands bodily expression. Because the Lord, the Risen one, gives himself in the Body, we have to respond in the soul and the body. All the spiritual possibilities of our body are necessarily included in celebrating the Eucharist: singing, speaking, keeping silence, sitting, standing, kneeling…

[O]nly all three together–singing, speaking, keeping silence–constitute the response in which the full capacity of our spiritual body opens up for the Lord.

Everyone knows about the issues with “Church music” but what about the role of music, and singing in particular, in our private worship? I am hardly in danger of being more moved by “the voice than the words sung” and sinning through overuse of music, so I really have no excuse for not cultivating sung prayer.

My first step has been to start singing with daily prayer. I would love suggestions for learning more of the hymns, but it really is not difficult to substitute an unknown hymn with an appropriate alternate that I can sing. It may be a while before I get around to chanting the Psalms though!

How do you incorporate music into your worship? Please share suggestions for someone with little talent who is trying to remember what it is like to sing daily.

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9 Responses to “In Singing, The Affection Of One Loving”

  1. Missus Wookie 15. Feb, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    As a Quaker I’m very comfortable with silence 😆 However, spoken and sung ministry does occur and hearing someone sing into the settled or centered meeting being upheld as they pour out their spirit in song always moves me deeply.

    Have you tried finding hymns you do like/know and singing them? I have a “makes me happy” playlist on my iPod which contains several hymns. Favourites include “How can I keep from Singing?” “Tis a gift to be simple” both of which lift my spirit.

  2. Barb Schoeneberger 15. Feb, 2010 at 3:11 pm #

    I majored in voice in college, but God gradually took my singing voice away. I’ve been a choir director and started a children’s choir at a parish I used to belong to. God doesn’t expect perfection when we pray the Divine Office or sing at Mass, which is very good because He didn’t make everybody capable. He’s looking at our hearts.

    There are some basic melodies that work with all the Divine Office hymns. Find one that works and use it so you don’t have to change what is part of the liturgy. I miss chanting the psalms very much. There are CD’s of Gregorian chant that fit with many feasts, but a simple way to start would be if there is a Benedictine monastery anywhere near you. See if you can get the dear monks or nuns to help you. Another thing you can do is to go to MusicaSacra.com which is the Church Music Association of America web site and take a look at their audio section. Learning to read Gregorian Chant is easy, but interpreting it correctly is not so easy. Fortunately there are 8 easy psalm tones to use and this is where you can get help from the Benedictines or someone in your parish who knows what to do. I’m glad you want to learn. Although I sing only at church now and in the pews and often can’t get the notes out, the music will be in my head until I die, and I’m sure God is fine with that.
    God bless you.

  3. Christy 15. Feb, 2010 at 5:45 pm #

    The Mormon Tabernacle Choir has some AMAZING recordings of hymn standards. I use them in my classroom to help my kids learn hymns that I feel like they should know!

  4. Trena 16. Feb, 2010 at 10:54 am #

    I love to sing especially church music (but my voice is not good.) When the new music issues came out I took home a couple of the old copies so Mary Rene and I could sing at home. I feel like I praise God more when I sing then when I just pray.

  5. Kathleen 16. Feb, 2010 at 1:30 pm #

    Being a liturgical musician and composer, I feel like I ought to have something deeply insightful to add to this discussion, but I’m afraid I don’t. I sing around the house…I sing psalm settings of psalms that I love–but when I did lit. of the hours (it’s been a long time), generally I just read them silently. And really that’s okay. From a liturgical standpoint, raising voices to God in prayer is a communal act, and if you’re reading by yourself, it may not be as important. At Mass, however…that’s when I, as a choir director, cantor and former music director, want everybody singing, and I don’t care how bad you think your voice is! 😉

    • Rae 16. Feb, 2010 at 1:39 pm #

      I was hoping that you would chime in. :-)

      I do sing at Mass… when there is singing. I am not quite vain enough to think that my voice is bad enough to justify silence. :-) But parishes around here do not tend to sing during Daily Mass, and for the last two Sundays there was no music for what I can only guess was a pastoral decision to shorten Mass due to the Super Bowl and Mardi Gras.

    • Margaret 05. Oct, 2010 at 4:15 am #

      Kathleen, you stole my answer. I agree that lack of singing in private prayer is not a dealbreaker, for the reasons you mention.

      It’s worth noting that the Liturgy of the Hours was never meant for private prayer, which is one of the reasons that the sung tradition grew around it.

      As for me, I very rarely pray with music when I’m on my own. I do enough of that for work, to be frank.

  6. Michelle 05. Oct, 2010 at 7:24 am #

    I’ll try and come up with an intelligent response. A few years ago, for the first time I was completely unable to pray. Not motivated, inspired, or inclined at all. It was for a “good reason”. Things were very difficult and seemingly hopeless at the time. I’ve always liked music, but usually couldn’t tell you who sang something. I can’t remember now the exact sequence of events, but I remember hearing of Billy Gilman and I heard him sing “Angels We Have Heard on High” ( http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uFvu1ZxgjmY ). I bought/burned the song and it was my prayer. It was all I had. I did add a few other Christmas songs to the playlist eventually (and I remember it was not Christmas time). That seemed to have planted a seed, and recently I started listening to Christian music like Kutless, Third Day, Casting Crowns, Seventh Day Slumber, Jeremy Camp, Relient K. Normally I don’t like things that aren’t strictly Catholic, but some of the songs/lyrics hit too close to home. So when I find myself uninspired I purposefully sing along in my head, and I’m sure God knows I’m singing to Him those words. Sorry that’s not exactly a suggestion.

  7. practicinghuman 05. Oct, 2010 at 11:18 am #

    I never get the 8 tones right when it comes to the Psalms, but I have learned plain chant. It’s a straightforward middle ground that captures the desire to sing as well as the desire to pray.

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