“Every form of catechesis would do well to attend to the ‘way of beauty.’ Proclaiming Christ means showing that to believe in and to follow him is not only something right and true, but also something beautiful, capable of filling life with new splendor and profound joy, even in the midst of difficulties. Every expression of true beauty can thus be acknowledged as a path leading to an encounter with the Lord Jesus. …So a formation in the way of beauty ought to be part of our effort to pass on the faith.” — Pope Francis (Evangelii Gaudium, 167)
HE ARCHDIOCESE OF BOSTON has recently put forth a modest, yet important musical resource for the sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation: Music for First Communion and Confirmation – A Catechetical Guide for Liturgical Celebrations. Initiated by the Most Reverend Arthur L. Kennedy, Auxiliary Bishop of Boston, and the Episcopal Vicar for the New Evangelization, this resource was a collaborative effort with the RCAB Office of Divine Worship and a number of musicians from the Archdiocese of Boston.
This resource includes free downloads of a few essential hymns and chants. It is a starting point; the list is nowhere as comprehensive as A Reference for Catholic School Masses provided by The American Federation of Pueri Cantores and the National Catholic Education Association.
For some parishes, this resource will seem quite rudimentary. However, it is designed as a starting point towards catechesis and developing a more common repertoire that embraces our “unique cultural heritage.”
One of the Joys experienced by the parish community in the work of evangelization is the handing on of the faith to the next generation. Since this always takes place within a social context, the integration of faith and culture must be considered. Just as each culture is endowed with its own common forms of human expression, so too do Catholics possess a unique cultural heritage through which the faith has been handed down through the ages. A core element of this heritage is the Church’s musical tradition, which Vatican II identifies as “a treasure of inestimable value.” This treasury is preeminent among other art forms because, “as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy.” (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, §112)
For certain, some parishes will find embracing this resource a challenge, perhaps for reasons musical and cultural. However, the language in this document is of gentle encouragement to “incorporate” some of this music within an already existing program:
We therefore offer here a small number of essential hymns chosen for their simplicity, suitability for young voices, timeless musical value, and substantial theological content. Mindful of the power of sacred music to raise hearts and minds to a deeper participation in the sacred mysteries, we encourage you to incorporate some of them into your catechetical programs and liturgical celebrations.
UT THE MOST IMPORTANT element of this document is not the list of hymns, but the vital coupling of faith formation and sacred music. (It is notable that the RCAB lists this resource on their Faith Formation page in addition to the Office of Divine Worship page.) Music and the Roman Rite have been inseparable for well over a millennium, as they developed together. Fifty years after Vatican II, this marriage of faith and sacred music, (and hence, liturgy) remains unwavering.
It offers liturgical guidance with an economy of words, beautifully recalling the Chirograph of John Paul II on Sacred Music, (§4-6), which is in itself a summary of Pope Saint Pius X’s Tra le Sollecitudini (“Instruction on Sacred Music”) which states liturgical music must be sacred, beautiful, and universal.
Additionally, it provides catechesis along with several suggested resources for the Responsorial Psalm. These span a range of styles—but all with liturgically approved texts. Finally, it provides various resources for the Roman Missal Chants, listed as the “Official Mass Setting of the Archdiocese of Boston.” There are links to various scores, accompaniments, and practice videos.
This is all but a very humble start. Please pray that this mustard seed will help deepen our faith and enrich our prayer.
“There is, then, an indissoluble link between the liturgy and the transmission of faith. We can say, in fact, that the celebration of the liturgy is the most important act of evangelization.” — (Goeffredo Bosilli, pg. 209, The Spiritual Meaning of the Liturgy)