September is the time in many parishes when choirs begin to return from summer hiatus, and parish music directors start asking for new members for adult and children’s choirs. That makes this an appropriate time to think about the role of music in liturgy and prayer.

Choirs add both solemnity and joy to the celebration of Mass. Not that having a single leader of song and/or musician makes Mass any less meaningful, but there is definitely something to be said for the uplift that comes from having multiple voices raised together in song. 

I have also participated at many Masses where I’ve looked around and it seemed no one in the community was singing. This is a common phenomenon in many Catholic parishes, regardless of the quality of the music. Yet, one of the greatest saints in the history of the Church, St. Augustine, once said: “The person who sings prays twice.” If that’s the case, shouldn’t we want to sing? 

If the Mass is the place where, for a brief time, heaven and earth are united in giving praise and glory to God, why don’t we rush to “join [our voices] with [the hosts of Angels] in one chorus” as the priest urges in the prayer before the “Holy, Holy, Holy”? This is our time to cut loose – to shake the rafters.

It’s possible many people might respond: “I don’t sing because I don’t have a good voice.”  Truly, God doesn’t care. God wants to hear your voice raised in joyful celebration. God doesn’t hear you singing off key, or the person next to you singing flat. 

So how can you prepare your family to participate more fully in the music of the liturgy?  Here are a few suggestions:

T Get into the habit of using music to praise God.  While you are in the car or listening to a music app, tune in to some contemporary Christian stations or playlists instead of the incessant drone of talk-radio or the often not-kid-friendly lyrics of modern pop music. It’s always good to hear music being used to express love for and faith in God. And, in the privacy of your car, no one cares what you sound like as you sing along.

T Borrow a hymnal from Church (ask permission) and go over the music and lyrics at home after Mass.  Most hymns are now available in some form online.  Even though the songs are from a Mass you have already attended, you will likely hear a hymn or a Psalm setting again at some point during the year. Then you’ll be able to say “Hey, I know this one!” (Don’t forget to return the hymnal.)

T Help and encourage your children to sing along on some of your favorites. While you are driving around running errands or taking kids to extracurricular activities, use the time to belt out the classics and the favorites that you hear each week. Your kids will only benefit from the faith lessons they learn from hymns like “Amazing Grace,” “On Eagles Wings,” or “Be Not Afraid.” And just wait for Christmas …

T Encourage your children to sign up for your parish’s children’s choir.  In most parishes, there aren’t any try-outs and having lots of other children around can help reduce any anxiety or doubt. Children love to sing! Let them. Sure, it may be one more activity on your already packed family schedule, but it will be well worth it if your child has a more meaningful experience of participating at Mass.

I leave you with some lyrics from a favorite of mine, “Free” by Ginny Owens:

“You’re free to dance –
Forget about your two left feet.
And you’re free to sing – even joyful noise is music to Me.
You’re free to love,
‘Cause I’ve given you My love,
And it’s made you free.”

God loves the sound of our voices raised in prayer and song.  Let him hear yours and your family’s.  Make a joyful noise unto the Lord!

Russoniello serves as director of religious education in St. Robert Bellarmine Co-Cathedral Parish, Freehold.

Faith at Home is a monthly column coordinated by the Diocese of Trenton’s Departments of Catechesis, Evangelization and Family Life, and Youth and Young Adult Ministry.  For additional Faith at Home resources, visit dioceseoftrenton.org/faith-at-home.