Music sets scenes. Mass lifts the soul. They say that singing is like praying twice. So singing at mass in any capacity should bring us closer to God, right? Well, not quite.
Attending mass is the most important thing anyone Catholic can do, and at Loras College we have the opportunity to celebrate the Liturgy six times a week. When it’s being celebrated, those in attendance are not only in communion with the saints and angels, but also Jesus Christ himself. This is basic teaching and unfortunately gets treated like a basic and colloquial event.
The mass is anything but basic, and basic chord structures and feel good lyrics that are written to modernize the teachings of the church reduce the mass to a series of actions done out of obligation. Reforming the music of a sacred liturgy is the same as “well, we have to go so might as well make it fun for us.” On a surface level, it seems like that’s what would draw more people to the church. But, ask any young person today about their desires, and I promise you that they’d sooner or later admit that they want something vastly different than what modern society has to offer.
This is why mass is so much bigger than a series of events and words in a designated building. Remember that the first institution of the Eucharist was Jesus’ last supper. Imagine the fear that was going through his head in that moment. Imagine the wonder and awe of the apostles. Imagine any scene from Mel Gibson’s “The Passion of Christ” with “Canticle of the Sun” being sung over it. It would’ve been thrown to the wolves before it ever left the editing room. It simply doesn’t work with the magnitude of what is happening.
If a hymn doesn’t move your heart closer to God, it’s not worth being sung at mass. As soon as congregations realize that, the Church will grow monumentally. We don’t need to reform what the Church has sung for years at the convenience of the congregation because that isn’t what’s going to bring us to the gates of Heaven. We need to return to the music and methods of the church that bring us into intentional communion.