AST WEEK, I wrote about the Three Common Misconception about Chant and most people seem to agree with my observations. In that post, I mentioned “a deeper problem that has to do with ‘prayer’” since people complain about not being able to participate externally. I thought it would be appropriate to write a reflection on “Prayer and Liturgy”, especially at the beginning of this sacred season of Lent. This is a topic that comes up frequently in my conversations with my spiritual director.
My spiritual director, whose name I will keep private, is a very holy priest in his late 70s. He is the “Latin Mass Guru” in our diocese and he celebrates both Forms of the Mass regularly. He started his seminary formation before the Council and was ordained in 1964. He is one of the few of his generation who never gave up wearing the cassock in public. He is a very wise and inspiring priest. I love discussing liturgical questions with him because he knows exactly what happened before, during and after Vatican II.
There are many articles that deal with problems of the liturgy nowadays; I have written some of them myself. People write about the orientation of the celebration, the language we use in our Worship, the Old Mass and the New, etc. However, I believe the root of all the problems we see nowadays is the understanding of prayer. People do not know how to pray! Here are a few quotes from my wise spiritual director on prayer and the liturgy:
“The changes that the Council Fathers made to the liturgy were meant to help people to pray better. However, the outcome is not what they wanted.”
“It is our fault. It was us, my brother priests and I, who stopped those little old ladies from praying the rosary at Mass. They actually know how to pray.”
“In order for the people to appreciate the Church’s music, they must first learn how to pray.”
I can’t agree with him more. We must learn to enter into deep interior prayers. Prayers are our conversations with God. There are many forms of prayer. Physically doing, or saying, or singing something are ways of praying. Many people come to Mass to enjoy homilies, to sing songs and to focus on “what they can do”. These are all good ways to participate, but they are exterior and superficial. We need to listen to God so that we can have deep conversations with Him. We need to learn to meditate in silence, and eventually in melismatic chant. Maybe one thing we can do during this Lent is to stop criticizing the homilies, music and the tiny mistakes that happen at Mass, and focus more on the Body and Blood of Christ on the altar.
Finally, I would like to end with a remark that I often hear from my spiritual director when he thanks me for singing his Masses:
“The music was beautiful. It was beautiful because I can hear that you were praying.”
Are you praying the Mass? When you sing, are you praying?