OPE FRANCIS recently addressed the Scholae Cantorum of the Italian Santa Cecilia Association. I urge you to read it in its entirety. There are many gems, and it is not long!
Francis notes the historic continuity from Pope Saint Pius X through the present day. Francis makes direct reference to Pius X’s 1903 Motu Proprio on sacred music, Tra le Sollecitudini which was the true catalyst for Vatican II reforms in music. Pius X is specifically named in Section VI on Sacred Music in the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy. (see §112)
As such, he is mindful of Pius X’s call for sacred music in the liturgy to possess three characteristics: beautiful, holiness, and universality. Francis’ address is filled with gems, but this stands out as a guiding light.:
Not just any music, but holy music, because rituals are holy; endowed with the nobility of art, because God must be given the best; universal, so that everyone can understand and celebrate. Above all, clearly distinct and different from that used for other purposes.
Perhaps most important of all is this reminder from Pope Francis:
“[Y]our dedication to the liturgy and its music represents a way of evangelization at all levels, from children to adults. In fact, the liturgy is the first ‘teacher’ of catechism. Do not forget this: the liturgy is the first ‘teacher’ of catechism.”
IKE BENEDICT XVI and John Paul II, Pope Francis reaffirms upholding both our treasury of sacred music alongside new compositions, using Gregorian Chant as the “first model.” But while contemplating the wide tent that is sacred music in the Universal Church, I would ask we consider these important questions (perhaps among others) in light of the liturgy being the “first teacher of catechism.”
1 • Is the theology in our music truly Roman Catholic?
2 • Are we singing scripture or personal thoughts and impressions? (There will be a follow-up article to this question!)
3 • Are we singing the Mass or singing songs at Mass?
4 • Regardless of style, is the music and its presentation reverent and prayerful?
5 • Are we preparing adequately and giving God our best as Pope Francis asks?
INALLY Pope Francis acknowledges the preparation, sacrifice, and hard work of church musicians. It is often a thankless and relentless job! I know I am nothing without my hardworking volunteers (and professionals who don’t get paid nearly enough!) Let us all be thankful for each other, be mindful that we are working towards the same goals: to praise God and uplift our communities in spirit and prayer.