All my life I have enjoyed congregational singing, maybe a little too much. Why do I say that? Because I tend to sing gustily, hopefully not obnoxiously, and in the two parishes that I have been privileged to be part of since becoming Catholic, people have taken notice and told me that I should sing in the choir.
In New York, while part of the Church of the Good Shepherd, I used the delay tactic, and it worked as I was new and just getting my feet wet. I figured maybe later on I would consider it. Then, because of a job change we moved to south Jersey and found ourselves as part of the St. Peter parish. Once again I couldn’t help myself singing from the heart. I began to hear the same comments, “You should sing in the choir.”
One couple was lovingly persistent with the invitation, even our priest added his plea. Once the summer passed we had been at St. Peter’s one year. I really couldn’t use the “new guy” alibi. So last night I made my first appearance at choir practice. I was received warmly and thus began my second tour of duty as a choir member.
Much time has passed since I was a tenor singing next to Howard Goins at Westview Wesleyan Church in the mid 1970s. Now I’m singing tenor next to Adam Pasquale, and I’m even singing in Latin.
That makes me think of St. Augustine. He once said, “He who sings, prays twice!” Bishop Conley of the Diocese of Lincoln commented on this back in 2015: “The holy Bishop of Hippo meant that singing adds to our praise and worship of God—that our voices are gifts, with which we can make music to the Lord. Sung prayer expresses the joy of the heart, the happiness resulting from one who has encountered Jesus Christ and experienced his love. Sung prayer reminds us of the choirs of heaven, with whom we are called to praise God eternally in heaven.”
Not every song sung at every Mass, in my humble opinion, achieves this. There are some songs I would rather never sing or hear again. Thankfully I don’t hear many of those in my parish. One thing I would love to see is that we don’t view the recessional hymn as our cue to make a quick exit from church. If indeed our singing is praying twice, then let’s sing and sing heartily or at least with conviction that Jesus is indeed Lord and King.
If we believe that we will more likely live it. And God knows our world really needs us to do that now!
St. Augustine pray for us as we sing!