HAVE written before about the pedagogical components of the all-school Mass and how to prepare for it. One of the things, it seems, that confronts those responsible for the music for these Masses is the constant cry for variety. This commentary comes almost exclusively from adults, for whom monotony is anathema. All sorts of interesting bits of advice come one’s way, such as, ‘change the music every week or they’ll get bored,’ or ‘make it more fun,’ or ‘they won’t pay attention if you do the same things.’ But listen to what Chesterton had to say about children and repetition:
“Because children have abounding vitality, because they are in spirit fierce and free, therefore they want things repeated and unchanged. They always say, “Do it again”; and the grown-up person does it again until he is nearly dead. For grown-up people are not strong enough to exult in monotony. But perhaps God is strong enough to exult in monotony. It is possible that God says every morning, “Do it again” to the sun; and every evening, “Do it again” to the moon. It may not be automatic necessity that makes all daisies alike; it may be that God makes every daisy separately, but has never got tired of making them. It may be that He has the eternal appetite of infancy; for we have sinned and grown old, and our Father is younger than we.”
― G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy
Building up a reliable core of good, solid, orthodox music is not only important as a catechetical tool, but clearly helps with the idea of participatio actuosa. Any congregation—especially one composed primarily of children—feels more comfortable with things that they know, and if they grow to love them, they will rejoice in their repetition. The same holds true for the ars celebrandi of the school Mass. When priests try to entertain, when they try to win over their audience at the expense of the liturgy, and when they see their role as your best friend instead of in persona Christi, they do no one any favors.
A gentle and flowing stream runs its same, monotonous and joyful course day by day and year by year. It’s a beautiful thing. And over these days and years it smooths and polishes the river rocks in its bed so that they become perfected, like gems. So too the Mass, if it remains true and on course, will flow over these children, honing and polishing them to become beautiful and shining Christians.
So stay the course. Develop a strong core of excellent music and build a school repertoire. Perhaps a seasonal psalm on a month-by-month basis will work for you. Or choose just a few Mass settings, assigning each to a liturgical season, and put them in rotation. Repeat Entrance or Communion hymns once every three weeks or so. And don’t be discouraged. If something you’ve chosen doesn’t go well, don’t scrap it—try it again, and again, and see what happens. Some people might complain that you’re being formulaic or lazy. But just think of daisies, and don’t get tired of making them.