EOPLE SAY ALL KINDS OF THINGS to priests, especially after Mass. We get brought up to date on hospital stays & illnesses, graduations & upcoming travels. We hear confessions & complaints, compliments & concerns. We meet newcomers & visitors, and folks tell us about the broken kneeler in the eighth pew (Blessed Mother side). We hear if the homily was on target, and we hear if the homily was horrible. Several weeks ago, though, a woman said something I had never been told before. She said to me, “Father, not everyone can sing, you know.”
What she meant didn’t register with me at first. I probably gave her a quizzical look, which prompted her to explain further. When I celebrate Mass, she said, we sing so much stuff that the other priests don’t usually sing. Now I understood that she wanted me to stop singing the Collect, Preface, Prayer over the Offerings, Our Father, and Post-Communion, which I chant on every Sunday & solemnity.
I was tempted to say many things. For instance, running through my mind went these thoughts:
1. Yes, actually, everyone who can speak can sing.
2. The liturgy, by its very nature, is meant to be sung.
3. Our personal preferences (both mine & yours) must be subordinate to the preferences of Holy Mother Church.
4. Chanting the orations really doesn’t add any time to the Mass.
5. Singing “On Eagle’s Wings” is much more difficult than responding to the Preface dialogue, and yet I’ve never had anyone complain about the mammoth range & odd intervals of the OCP favorite.
By the time I had interpreted her remark, the lady was already passed me and headed towards the door. I only had about 10 seconds to respond. What would you have said?