HAVE PRECIOUS FEW ORIGINAL IDEAS. Today is no exception, drawing in part from a friend’s note and from Andrew Motyka’s post It’s What We Do.
As we wind down from Christmas Eve and Day (only to wind back up again for the glorious Christmas Season) church musicians might ask themselves, why in the world do we do this? What effect do we have on anyone, especially those who only go to mass two or three times per year?
I assure you, plenty. On this Feast of Saint John, Apostle and Evangelist, it is good to reflect upon our calling as ministers of sacred music. As Andrew Motyka states, what we do is “an act of mercy, and as such, my duty as a Christian.”
Beyond making music that is pleasing to the ears, music ministers are called to serve our communities by fostering prayer. In service of the liturgy, sacred music is not simply for ephemeral pleasure (although one hopes it is pleasing!), but more importantly for transformative healing and growth that is enduring. This holds true individually and for the community. This is our hope. This is our call.
I often remind my choirs that they will affect people spiritually in ways that they will never know. While we are fulfilling our duty and our calling, we can assume very little about those around us, even those we think we know pretty well (or those we have judged.) Take time to listen to those around you, and you will be astounded to learn the crosses they may be carrying.
UST AS I HAD BEGUN WRITING this, I received in rather surreal fashion a note from my recording engineer, Evan, that stopped me in my tracks. The subject of his email read: “Why we do what we do.” (Was he reading my mind?) Regarding a collaboration with The Copley Singers and the St. Cecilia Choir in the wake of the tragic Boston Marathon bombing, Evan wrote:
“…my best friend Michael is a seminarian in the Archdiocese of Hartford, and was just ordained a deacon this month. He was assigned to a parish in Litchfield county over the summer, and became close friends with a priest there, who was suffering from leukemia. Michael told me last night that he played for this priest his copy of the Darkness to Light recording we made this spring. The priest would listen to this heavenly music over and over, crying while listening to it. He was brought great comfort through the ministry of this music. He passed away earlier this fall…
“… beyond the funds that were raised for the Boston bombing victims…It brings me great joy to know that a project I took part in has affected the life of another person, especially that of a dying man…”
This is one story we learned about many months after the fact. How about the countless stories we never hear? Sometimes we learn of one story only to remind us this is why we do what we do.
O WHEN WE ENTER THE DOORS of our churches, one never knows what pain, suffering, grief or burdens those among us carry. This is the beauty and the gift of community. When we are unable to pray—when we are distracted, or burdened, or overcome with grief—the community carries us along; the community buoys our spirit and sustains us; the community prays on our behalf. Our voices raised in prayer each week can provide comfort and solace to our brothers and sisters in need. Our very presence at liturgy, along with our spoken and sung prayer, have untold effects on others and can act as a lifeline in ways which we will never know.
“A cry from deep within our being, music is a way for God to lead us to the realm of higher things.” — St. Augustine, Epistoia 166, De origine animae hominis