REMEMBER well the preparations for the baptism of my first child. My wife and I met with the pastor of our parish (and my boss at the time), a mild-mannered fellow who was quick to smile. We went through the questions on the form fairly quickly and arrived at the ones where we name the Godparents. At that moment, the good Father became unexpectedly stern, and said to us, “You must remember that the first role of parents is to teach their own children the faith. This is not something that can be outsourced to the Godparents. It is not their job to ‘pick up the slack’ if you fail in this area. This is your job, and their role is to assist and support you, but not to do it for you.”
We were not planning on having our Godparents teach our children the faith, of course, but Fr. Andrew’s gravity suggested that perhaps some parents have thought this way over the years.
We know that our role as parents is to build the domestic church, by praying together, teaching our kids in the faith, and taking them to regular Mass and confession.
We thought that one way to strengthen our domestic church would be to start up a family schola, so that we could pray together through singing. After all, St. Augustine tells us that “singing is a lover’s thing,” or “singing is for one who loves” (depending on your preferred translation), and what is the domestic church if not a school of love?
The other thing we hope to do with our family schola is to encourage other families to sing together. In my present work as both a “regular sub” with a children’s choir and a schola teacher at a Catholic school, I’m constantly surprised at how unwilling children are to sing, or how uncomfortable they seem using their voices in song. My own children love to sing—they sing around the house all the time, and make up songs together—and my feeling is that musical expression is a birthright. Children who don’t sing—who lack either the encouragement or the environment to do so—are missing something essential to the very joy of living.
And so I’d like to offer below videos of the Mueller Family Schola, singing polyphony and chant. My wife and I are both trained musicians, so the children have the advantage of musical parents, but contra some of the positive comments we’ve received, our musical success is not a product of talent. It’s a product of working together, of patience, of daily labor, and most of all, of love. Each of our children has different strengths when it comes to learning music, and different challenges. We try our best to nurture each soul during the rehearsal process, so that the result is not just growth in musical skill, but also growth in faith.
We’re singing for a Lenten Mass in a few days, and I was passing out some new music. My seven-year-old son picked up one of the sheets, which said “Gospel Acclamation” at the top, featuring an antiphon with the text, “Glory and praise to you, Lord Jesus Christ.” He gave me a big smile and said, “Normally the Gospel Acclamation should have an ‘alleluia,’ but we can’t sing ‘alleluia’ here because it’s in Lent!”
Ah, the perfect reflection of the domestic church in the domestic schola.