From the Pastor: Sing for Lent
Now that we are in Lent, our choir director, Anders, asked me to encourage the congregation to sing along with the choir. Why is this encouragement coming during this penitential season? Does he think it will be a penance for you to sing? Perhaps he thinks it will be a penance for the rest of us to listen to you? Or is it simply that during Lent no musical instruments are allowed to be played at Mass unless necessary to assist the choir, and he believes that enough voices, all blending together throughout the church, will overcome the lack of organ music, will help raise your level of actual participation, and will assist even the non-singers to lift their hearts to the Lord? (Hint: It’s the last one.)
Holy Mother Church encourages congregations to sing or chant at Mass. Everyone “knows” that the Vatican II document, Sacrosanctum Concilium, paragraph 14 states that “full, active and conscious participation” means that you have to sing (and dance, jump, yell, wave, talk and be irreverent) or else you are not a faithful Catholic. Of course, everyone at Epiphany knows that this is nonsense, and that the word translated “active” is not the Latin “activa” by which we usually mean “active in an outward, physical manner” but rather is “actuosa”, which has the contemplative properties of the mind and soul as its focus. Understanding that the modern liturgists are preying on the linguistic ignorance of the average Catholic, you, the well formed and well informed Catholic, naturally and rightly rebel against such evil-doers and their nefarious plot to destroy the Faith (O, how I wish I could insert some old Batman and Robin music and sound effects in here with a Bam! and a Pow! visually taking up the page for a split second!) and refuse all efforts to make you move a muscle. No liturgical dance for you, all right. No wandering around the building bear hugging a sign of peace. No prancing up into the sanctuary to show off your surgical implants and oratory skills as you read, nay, proclaim(!) the scriptures. No waving your arms in quasi sign language gestures as you sing, “Rain down, rain down, rain down your luv on your peeeeplllllle”. Not gonna happen.
But long before the slimy modernist liturgists gained power, Pope Pius XI (Divini Cultus) in 1928 and Pope Pius XII (Mediator Dei) in 1947 had encouraged “active” participation from the congregation, including, but not limited to, chanting and singing along with the choir. They, too, used the word “actuosa” and it is clear from those two indicated documents that they had in mind not physical exercises but rather an interior movement of the mind and soul which may be either manifested by or assisted by a physical movement. These two popes are hardly modernists, yet they saw that, for some people, joining the choirs (and the choirs of angels) singing the hymns and responses of the Mass could help them “actually” pray the Mass better. As Pope Pius XII explained, “all the faithful should be aware that to participate in the eucharistic sacrifice is their chief duty and supreme dignity, and that not in an inert and negligent fashion, giving way to distractions and day-dreaming, but with such earnestness and concentration that they may be united as closely as possible with the High Priest.” (MD 80) Chanting can, but does not necessarily, keep you focused. It is not absolutely necessary for everyone to chant, therefore, for the Pope acknowledged, “So varied and diverse are men's talents and characters that it is impossible for all to be moved and attracted to the same extent by community prayers, hymns and liturgical services. Moreover, the needs and inclinations of all are not the same, nor are they always constant in the same individual. Who, then, would say, on account of such a prejudice, that all these Christians cannot participate in the Mass nor share its fruits? On the contrary, they can adopt some other method which proves easier for certain people; for instance, they can lovingly meditate on the mysteries of Jesus Christ or perform other exercises of piety or recite prayers which, though they differ from the sacred rites, are still essentially in harmony with them.” (MD 109)
Even so, both popes stated, “so that the faithful take a more active part in divine worship, let Gregorian chant be restored to popular use in the parts proper to the people. Indeed it is very necessary that the faithful attend the sacred ceremonies not as if they were outsiders or mute onlookers, but let them fully appreciate the beauty of the liturgy and take part in the sacred ceremonies, alternating their voices with the priest and the choir, according to the prescribed norms. If, please God, this is done, it will not happen that the congregation hardly ever or only in a low murmur answer the prayers in Latin or in the vernacular." (DC 9, MD 192)
So, even if only for Lent, could you try singing and see how it “actuosa-ly” works? More from Anders elsewhere in this bulletin.
With prayers for your holiness,
Fr. Edwin Palka