I grew up with a natural appreciation for music. There was always music around. My parents are both from Europe, so I did not grow up listening to classic rock or 80s pop like most millennials. My parents’ main choice of music to play in the house and in the car included, but were not limited to, Luciano Pavarotti, Andrea Bocelli, Josh Groban, the power anthems of Celine Dion, and the multilingual jams of Selena Quintanilla, Austrian folk music, French karaoke tunes, and a compilation of American favorites popular all around the world.
This music shaped my understanding of music in a very diverse way.
But, the most consistent outlet I had in my life to hone my own music ability was with Liturgical Music at Mass.
As a child, I remember looking forward to Mass purely because we were going to sing familiar hymns and Mass parts I could comfortably belt out along with my congregation. I enjoyed all-school Masses in Catholic school, K-12, as I was involved in children’s choirs in elementary school and Women’s Chorus at my all girls Mercy high school. In college, I led music ministry for a time at my campus ministry. I was also enrolled in piano lessons over the span of 8 years with various teachers on and off.
These musical influences in my life are reasons why I consider myself a decent vocalist, but also, a total prima donna.
I was THAT person in the congregation/choir stands judging others for singing off key and off tempo. I would get frustrated with others who didn’t care as much as I did about singing well as a unified chorus in the Mass. One day it hit me: Shouldn’t the focus of Liturgical Music be about praising our God in the most sacred time of our week instead of critiquing others? Sure, it’s more pleasing to the ear when experienced vocalists perform breathtaking numbers in liturgies, but the only perfection we need to be focusing on in the Mass is the Perfect Blessed Sacrament, the Eucharist.
The rest of us offer to the Lord what we have in our own imperfect and broken ways.
Liturgical Music matters. Our faith has a rich tradition of sacred. It matters that the congregation participates, on and off key. The Mass is also a celebration of the Body of Christ and the many gifts we offer. The festering pride I possessed in my own talent clouded my ability to see the gifts of others in the context of the Mass. Now, I just sing along with everyone else, on and off key. And you know what? It’s even more beautiful singing with my brothers and sisters in Christ than I could’ve ever imagined.
Lent is a beautiful time to open our hearts and our mouths, so that we are ready in every way to sing Gloria at Easter!