By Robin Gomes
Pope Francis on Saturday expressed esteem for and encouraged those who serve the liturgy through sacred music and singing, saying they help the faithful feel attracted to beauty, elevating them towards God and uniting hearts in praise and tenderness.
“I recommend that you help the whole people of God sing with conscious and active participation in the liturgy,” he told some 3000 members of the Italian Association of Saint Cecilia (AISC), whom he met in the Vatican.
The association, named after the patron saint of musicians, is holding its national convention of choristers in Rome, September 28-29.
Helping people participate in the liturgy
Pope Francis recalled popes who patronized the Italian Association of Saint Cecilia in its 140-year history, helping it integrate sacred music and singing into the liturgy and cultivate the sense of the Church in the faithful.
Pope Francis noted that with its programme of love and fidelity to the Church, the association members take care of the artistic and liturgical preparation, and promote the presence of the ‘schola cantorum’ (choir singing), in every parish community. “I recommend that you help the whole people of God to sing with conscious and active participation in the liturgy. This is important: closeness to the people of God.”
The Pope noted that the programme of the association includes activities such as composing new melodies, promoting singing in seminaries and houses of religious formation, supporting parish choirs, organists, schools of sacred music and young people. “Beautiful and good music,” he said, “is a privileged tool for approaching the transcendent, and often helps even those who are distracted to understand a message.
The Pope acknowledged that the commitment of the members entails sacrifices, such as devoting time to rehearsals, getting people together or performing on holidays when one would prefer to spend time with friends. “But your dedication to the liturgy and its music, “ the Pope said, “represents a way of evangelization at all levels, from children to adults.” “In fact, the Liturgy is the first 'teacher' of catechism.”
Music brings people together
Sacred music, the Pope said, also helps hold Christian history together. Gregorian chant, polyphony, popular and contemporary music resonate in the liturgy, bringing the past and present generation together in praising God.
Sacred music, and music in general, the Pope said, builds bridges and brings people closer, even the most distant. Ignoring the barriers of nationality, ethnicity or skin colour, it involves everyone in a “superior language”, bringing people and groups together from very different backgrounds.
“Sacred music reduces distances even with those brothers and sisters who sometimes don’t feel close,” the Pope said. For this reason, he pointed out, in each parish, the singing group is a place where one "breathes availability and mutual help".
The Holy Father expressed esteem for the service of the Italian Association of Saint Cecilia to communities. “You help them to feel the attraction of beauty, which detoxifies from mediocrity, elevates them upwards, towards God, and unites hearts in praise and tenderness.”