2000 years of experience with the human condition has given the Church a great deal of understanding as to what lifts people up, or in reverse, causes discouragement. Since it is the goal of the Church to lift ALL of us up to be more conscious of the reality of God and the historical reality of God’s presence among us in the person of Jesus of Nazareth, the Church makes wonderful efforts to create an ambiance- an atmosphere- a learning situation, that hs the possibility of taking our minds off dental bills, economic conflict and difficult neighbors. In an ideal situation, the Church celebrates the Eucharist in a beautiful, vaulted Church building, with light streaming through stain glassed windows, and soft organ music playing in the background. Such an atmosphere will not make us pray, but it makes prayer much easier- more thoughtful and gentle.
Since ambience is so important, I want to salute the 25,000 church CHOIRS that we have in this country. For the most part, the hundreds of thousands of Catholics who are generously giving of their time to improve Sunday worship for their fellow parishioners do it solely for the love of God, and a desire to give a true gift to their fellow parishioners. We all owe them a great debt of gratitude! If you appreciate what you hear on Sunday morning, try to be conscious of the fact that they gave up two hours on Wednesday night for rehearsal, and by the way- they do that EVERY Wednesday night.
This is not a strong area in the life of the Catholic church in the United States. Up until 1965, choirs were tragically ignored for the most part, and parishes budgeted virtually nothing for music. The janitor had to be paid, but the organist and the choir director were usually volunteers. We are making measurable progress, but much more needs to be done. What financial value can you put on seeing a congregation pour out church doors after mass with their spirits lifted, their hopes strengthened, their spirit of community enhanced, and joyfully preparing to return to their homes looking forward to Sunday lunch. It’s a great gift!
Let’s hear it for the choirs across the country! In a special way, let’s hear it for pastors, parish councils and other parish leaders who see the value in beautiful music, and see that music is one of the keys to joy and faith.