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Catechizing the Faithful  
Anna Belle O'Shea  

Why Do We Sing?
Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship (STL) begins with an examination of why we sing. It acknowledges God as the giver of the gift of song. Song, in turn, becomes a vehicle for reaching "to the realm of higher things. Music is . . . a sign of God's love for us and of our love for him" (STL, 2). As with all gifts, it is God who initiates the gift of song, and we who are to respond.

Music is both a personal and communal experience. "Thus, it is no wonder that singing together in church expresses so well the sacramental presence of God to his people" (STL, 2). Whenever the members of the Catholic community gather for worship, their common song "strengthens [their] faith when it grows weak and draws [them] into the divinely inspired voice of the Church at prayer" (STL, 5). "Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. . . . Good music ‘make[s] the liturgical prayers of the Christian community more alive and fervent so that everyone can praise and beseech the Triune God more powerfully, more intently and more effectively'" STL, 5, Musicae Sacrae Disciplina (On Sacred Music) (MSD), 5.

Sing to the Lord reaffirms the principle that "within the gathered assembly, the role of the congregation is especially important" (STL, 11). Recognized by the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium (SC) (Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy), this principle has been a guiding force during the decades of liturgical reform. "The full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit" (STL 11, 14). Sacrosanctum Concilium proceeds to mention several ways in which the assembly is to be engaged in the liturgy: five of these—acclamations, responses, psalmody, antiphons, and songs—involve music (SC, 30). Hence, the needs and role of the assembly, in a special way regarding music, are to be held in highest regard.

Responsibility for Catechizing the Faithful
How does the assembly become rooted in its musical role? Who is charged with the mission of catechesis and formation? The ultimate responsibility for forming the assembly falls to the diocesan Bishop, who is to be "particularly concerned with the promotion of the dignity of liturgical celebrations" (STL, 16). He is charged with educating the liturgical professionals, with the "promotion of the continuing musical education and formation of clergy and musicians; and . . . [the] careful attention to the musical training of future priests and deacons" (STL, 16).

The bishop is assisted in this role by his staff in the diocesan office of worship and/or the diocesan music or liturgical commission, which provides "valuable assistance in promoting sacred music together with pastoral liturgical action in the diocese" (STL, 16–17; Musicam Sacram, 68). Organizations such as the National Association of Pastoral Musicians are invaluable in assisting the bishops with this endeavor.

After the bishop and his diocesan office, the priest is entrusted with guiding and forming the assembly, including shaping them in their musical role. The priest's example becomes a means of forming the assembly. "No other single factor affects the Liturgy as much as the attitude, style, and bearing of the priest celebrant" (STL, 18). He "sings the presidential prayers and dialogues of the Liturgy according to his capabilities, and he encourages sung participation in the Liturgy by his own example, joining in the congregational song" (STL, 19).

STL continues: "Seminaries and other programs of priestly formation should train priests to sing with confidence and to chant those parts of the Mass assigned to them" (STL, 20). (See below for a discussion concerning which parts of the Mass should be sung). Thus, priests should radiate confidence and comfort with singing and chanting their parts of the liturgy.

"After the priest, the deacon is first among the liturgical ministers, and he should provide an example by actively participating in the song of the gathered assembly . . . . Programs of diaconal preparation should include major and compulsory courses in the chant and song of the Liturgy," so that deacons can prayerfully execute in song "those parts of the Liturgy that belong to them" (STL, 22–23).

The lay faithful also have a special role in the music of the liturgy, "so that they may give thanks to God and offer the spotless Victim not only through the hands of the priest but also together with him, and so that they may learn to offer themselves" (STL, 24; General Instruction on the Roman Missal, 95).

Among the lay faithful, "Some members . . . are recognized for the special gifts they exhibit in leading the musical praise and thanksgiving of Christian assemblies. These are the liturgical musicians . . . and their ministry is especially cherished by the Church" (STL, 48).

Who are these liturgical musicians? They are the members of the choir, the cantor, organist and other instrumentalists, and the director of music ministries. This group is as diverse as any can be, coming from every background and walk of life, ranging in age from children to senior citizens, some being volunteers and others paid professionals. No matter their specific role within music ministry, Sing to the Lord clearly states that the assembly has a "right to expect that [the] service [of these liturgical musicians] will be provided competently" (STL, 50). Just how does this happen? How is the liturgical musician formed, educated, and catechized in this ministry? What skills are needed in this important ministerial role?

STL presents educational standards, stating that the musician needs to embrace "a love and knowledge for Scripture, Catholic teaching, Liturgy, and music." Their formation should provide them with "the musical, liturgical, and pastoral skills" necessary "to serve the Church at prayer" (STL, 50). Clergy are called on to encourage musicians to avail themselves of the opportunities that universities and other formational programs provide. The document states that "parishes and dioceses should provide the financial support needed to ensure competent liturgical musical leadership" (STL, 51), and that pastoral musicians should be compensated justly for their work with "appropriate wages and benefits that affirm the dignity of their work" (STL, 52, Co-Workers in the Vineyard of the Lord, 63).

Sing to the Lord takes the extraordinary step of recognizing that some directors of music ministries are members of other faith traditions. This does not, however, excuse them from formation in the faith. "It is significant as we go forward that directors of music are properly trained to express our faith traditions effectively and with pastoral sensitivity" (STL, 45). Hence, education needs to be provided for all liturgical musicians, and in a special way for those from other faith backgrounds, so that the integrity of the liturgy can be celebrated well.

With an understanding of the people who share in the responsibility for catechizing and forming the faithful in their liturgical and musical roles, let us examine some of those parts of the liturgy which should be sung and by whom.

What Parts of the Liturgy Should We Sing?
When determining which parts of the liturgy should be sung, and the manner in which those parts will be rendered, the principle of progressive solemnity is to be applied. "Progressive solemnity means that ‘between the solemn, fuller form of liturgical celebration, in which everything that demands singing is in fact sung, and the simplest form, in which singing is not used, there can be various degrees according to the greater or lesser place allotted to singing' " (STL, 111; MS, 7).

One factor that determines those parts that might be sung is the liturgical importance of the day, with solemnities and then feasts calling for a more festive celebration. Another determining factor is the liturgical season. Penitential seasons such as Advent and Lent call for more restraint and less use of music and/or musical instruments. Within the parameters of progressive solemnity, Sing to the Lord provides extensive details regarding those parts of the liturgy that should be sung, just as have the GIRM (2002) and Musicam Sacram (1967).

According to STL, 115, the singing of dialogues and acclamations are of primary importance in all liturgical celebrations. Next in order of importance are antiphons and psalms, then refrains and repeated responses, and finally hymns. Given the importance placed on the first category, "dialogues and acclamations," let us take a close look at these types of ritual elements.

Most assemblies in this country are familiar with the Gospel acclamation, Sanctus, memorial acclamation, and Great Amen. To a great extent, U.S. Catholic assemblies have taken a sense of ownership of these acclamations, singing them readily without the use of a participation aid.

On the other hand, the singing of dialogues is not as commonplace. Part of the reason for this might stem from the lack of attention given to dialogues in Music in Catholic Worship and Liturgical Music Today. No mention of dialogues is made in either of these U.S. documents. However, the Roman document Musicam Sacram, which the Sacred Congregation of Rites issued in 1967, cites dialogues in the "first degree" of participation by the faithful. "The following belong to the first degree: (a) In the entrance rites: the greeting of the priest together with the reply of the people; the prayer. (b) In the Liturgy of the Word: the acclamations at the Gospel. (c) In the Eucharistic Liturgy: the prayer over the offerings; the preface with its dialogue and the Sanctus; the final doxology of the Canon, the Lord's Prayer with its introduction and embolism; the Pax Domini; the prayer after the Communion; the formulas of dismissal" (Musicam Sacram, 29).

The singing of dialogues, for example, the Preface Dialogue, is also emphasized in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal. "Preference should be given especially to those [parts] to be sung by the priest or the deacon or the lector, with the people responding" (STL, 115a; GIRM, 40).

Why are the dialogues so important? What makes these exchanges between priest, deacon, or lector and assembly so vital to our worship experience? There are two reasons for this focus. The first is the dialogic nature of the liturgy as an exchange between God (who has inaugurated the dialogue) and the Church (which responds to God's invitation through the power of the Holy Spirit). The second is the need to unify in this one liturgical act the two forms of sharing in Christ's priesthood—the ministerial (ordained) priesthood and the royal (baptismal) priesthood of all believers. The dialogues between priest and people, then, are to "foster and bring about communion between priest and people" (GIRM, 34) (Seven Sessions: The NPM Study Guide to "Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship," McMahon, J. Michael, Colloton, Paul, OP, Truitt, Gordon E., NPM Publications, 2009).

Given the importance of the dialogues, clergy should be instructed in the practice of singing their parts. "Music ministers can support priests by giving them time and training" (Newsletter of the Committee on Divine Worship of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, August 2009, p. 29). When priests' portions are rendered with confidence, assemblies will learn to respond with equal assurance. "The importance of the priest singing various parts of the Liturgy must also be explained to the faithful" (ibid., paged 30). This can be done by the priest/ pastor as shepherd of his flock, or the music minister, or even more effectively through a combination of both priest and musician. Bulletin articles and/or brief rehearsals before Mass are but a few of the effective means to achieving this end.

Lectors, if so disposed, should also be instructed to sing another of the dialogues, the concluding acclamation of the scripture readings: "The Word of the Lord." However, STL gives room for this to be led by "someone other than the reader" (STL, 154). If not sung by the reader, the cantor is a probable alternate.

STL emphasizes that even "at daily Mass, the above priorities should be followed . . . . Even when musical accompaniment is not possible, every attempt should be made to sing the acclamations and dialogues" (STL, 116). In other words, all of the faithful—priests, deacons, lectors, cantors, and assembly—should be so comfortable with singing the dialogues and acclamations, that they can sing them whenever the community gathers.

How Might the Sung Elements
of the Liturgy Be Rendered?

Latin has played a significant role in the history of Roman Catholic liturgy. To that end, Sing to the Lord takes its cue from earlier documents such as Sacrosanctum Concilium (#54) and Musicam Sacram (#47), reaffirming the place of Latin in liturgical music. After acknowledging the normative use of the vernacular in "most liturgical celebrations in the dioceses of the United States" (STL, 61), Sing to the Lord states that "care should be taken to foster the role of Latin in the Liturgy, particularly in liturgical song" (STL, 61). The Latin language can be especially useful as a unifying factor when members of "different language groups" are present at liturgical celebrations, such as at "international and multicultural gatherings" (STL, 61).

Referring to the parts of the Ordinary of the Mass, Sing to the Lord recommends that the assembly "should be able to sing together in Latin those parts . . . of the Mass proper to them, at least according to the simpler melodies" (STL, 61). The simpler melodies to which STL refers are described in the section concerning Gregorian Chant. "Each worshipping community in the United States, including all age groups and all ethnic groups, should, at a minimum, learn Kyrie KVI, Sanctus XVIII, and Agnus Dei XVIII . . . . More difficult chants, such as Gloria VIII and settings of the Credo and Pater Noster, might be learned after the easier chants have been mastered" (STL, 75). Many parishes in the United States already sing the easier Latin chants listed above, especially during seasons such as Advent and Lent, which "call for a certain musical restraint" (STL, 114). These Latin chants can be sung effectively with organ accompaniment, or a cappella, thus suiting the penitential seasons.

All of this being said, Sing to the Lord gives room for those communities for which "the Latin language poses an obstacle . . . for example, in pronunciation, understanding of the text, or confident rendition of a piece." In these instances, "it would be more prudent to employ a vernacular language in the liturgy" (STL, 64). Pastors are given the authority to make determinations of language, instructing them to "employ that form of participation which best matches the capabilities of each congregation" (STL, 66; MS, 47).

Contemporary Music
Sing to the Lord strikes a balance between the traditional, with its emphasis on the Latin language and Gregorian chant, and the contemporary, with its nod to music and composers of the current era. "In every age, the Church has called upon creative artists to give new voice to praise and prayer" (STL, 81).

Citing Gaudium et Spes, STL states, "New art forms adapted to our times and in keeping with the characteristics of different nations and regions should be acknowledged by the Church. They also may be brought into the sanctuary whenever they raise the mind up to God with suitable forms of expression and in conformity with liturgical requirements" (footnote to STL, 71; Gaudium et Spes, 62). Thus, "the Church joyfully urges composers and text writers to draw upon their special genius so that she can continue to augment the treasure house of sacred musical art" (STL, 82).

Multiculturalism in the Liturgy
The United States today is a veritable patchwork quilt of ethnicities. The U.S. Bishops honor this diversity in Sing to the Lord and other documents (for example, Welcoming the Stranger: Unity in Diversity). "The valuable musical gifts of the diverse cultural and ethnic communities should enrich the whole church . . . by contributing to the repertory of liturgical song and to the growing richness of Christian faith" (STL, 59). Thus, the assembly becomes entrenched in "the unity that is shared in Christ" (STL, 59) as "diverse languages and ethnicities [are woven] . . . into a tapestry of sung praise" (STL, 60). Although challenging, this cultural reciprocity is worth the effort, as it brings about an understanding of other peoples, while accepting and, indeed, embracing their traditions and gifts.

Thus, the parish repertoire that honors a mix of the traditional, "contemporary, and the multi-cultural will assist the assembly in understanding the history and diversity, the breadth and depth of their Roman Catholic faith tradition."

After reading Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, consider the National Association of Pastoral Seven Session Study Guide for group discussion or individual study. NPM has also made available the CDs of the Hovda lectures that focused on Sing to the Lord during their 2009 national convention. World Library Publications' booklet "The Role of Music in Worship: Sing to the Lord in Pastoral Practice" gives an excellent overview of the document, describes in detail its historical context, and explores its impact on future generations.

Sent Forth in Mission
While much has happened in the decades since the Second Vatican Council, much work still lies ahead. "The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation" (STL, 26).

Sing to the Lord emphasizes the transformative power of music in the liturgy, and its ability to send the assembly forth for mission. "Particularly inspired by sung participation, the body of the Word Incarnate goes forth to spread the Gospel with full force and compassion" (STL, 9).

As we go forth in mission, let us "sing as wayfarers do — sing but continue your journey. Do not grow tired, but sing with joy" (STL, 259; Saint Augustine, Sermo, 256).

1. How are the music ministers in your parish formed in the faith? How does this formation ensure that their ministry "will be provided competently?"

2. Choose one aspect of Sing to the Lord that is new to your parish community, for example, singing the Ordinary of the Mass in Latin, or singing the dialogues. What steps might your parish take in order to implement this?

3. When your community gathers for daily Mass, are the dialogues and acclamations sung? If not, what steps might be taken to put this into place?

4. What is your community doing to encourage your priests in their role as musical leaders of your liturgical assembly? How does the attitude and style of your priest(s) shape and form your community in its musical role in liturgy?

Anna Belle O'Shea,
the Director of Music and Liturgies for the Office for Divine Worship for the Archdiocese of Chicago, is the co-author of The Liturgical Flutist: A Method Book and More, published by GIA Publications.

This is the third in a series of articles reflecting on the Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship. Those using the study guide may find it helpful to read the document, which can be found online at the web site of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, www.USCCB.org.

Part I: How Firm a Foundation: The Theology of Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship
Part II: Considering the Lenses of Sing to the Lord:The Relationship between the Three Judgments and the Two Dimensions, One Context
Part III: Catechizing the Faithful
Part IV: Cultural, Multicultural, and Intercultural Perspectives
Part V: Sing to the Lord and Psalmody in the Life of the Church
Part VI: Helpful Guidelines for Challenging Issues

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