Of course, that was during a time when liturgical music was composed to lift the human heart, mind, and soul to God, and the Latin words actually fit the music.
I do not know how it is in your parish, but I have a feeling that in most parishes around the country, the "high Mass" (the one that's sung from beginning to end), produces painful sighs from Thomas Aquinas. I have this image in my mind of the good saint frantically trying to pull the plug on the microphone in front of the person at the lectern who's leading the congregation in the song. I have a further image of Thomas Aquinas looking around to see where the organ is plugged in, looking at the music and shaking his head, peering at the people who are singing---without any heart in it. Then, Thomas lifts his eyes toward Heaven, muttering "They took my statement literally, but I didn't mean it that way. Forgive them, Father, they know not what they do."
Once a month we attend the Saturday evening vigil at our parish. It's sung. From beginning to end. It's dreadful. The choir director picks the most hideous "songs" ever written, and his chosen interpretation of the music is more like a funeral dirge than anything joyous. Naturally, he has to sing every verse of every song, and the poor people in the choir and in the pews sing along with obvious disinterest, off-key and not very loudly.
Don't misunderstand me. I love music. Good music. I love to sing. I studied music and singing for eight years. I remember how it used to be in the church choirs when the music floated to Heaven, the words lifted the mind, heart, and soul, and the refrains filled the church with the very sounds of Heaven. I haven't done much singing since Vatican II, and I wonder if those who have composed these "new" songs, with "new" music, aren't going to have to explain their travesty to God when they are taken home. Nonetheless, God in His Infinite Wisdom does bless the effort. I envision the angels of Heaven taking all of these "awful" hymns, refining, and perfecting them before they reach the throne of God, so that the melody does blend with the Symphony of Heaven in a most pleasing way.
If "singing is praying twice" does that somehow mean that when there's no singing at Mass that we're not doing our best, giving our all?
I've pondered on that this past week and at Mass this morning where there was absolutely no singing, our Lord impressed upon my heart this thought. Many are those who are called to meditate and contemplate upon Our Lord and the mysteries of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in a quiet, interior way. Their hearts are lifted to God, their souls fly on eagles' wings to the throne of the Trinity, and their prayers rise as incense, taken by angels to give homage and praise to Almighty God.
This is also music, but it is a music that the human ear doesn't hear, for it has its being in the mystical, supernatural realm. Thus, for those who find themselves drawn to this quiet praise at Mass, their symphony is beautiful and pleasing to God. Those who, given a musical talent by God, use that talent to "sing" at Mass do likewise, praising God, giving to him all praise and honor.
Thus, in every way, the symphony of the human race, of the Church militant goes on unabated, world-wide, round the clock, and the angels complete the symphony, lifting it up before God, and the Infinite Merits of Our Lord perfect that symphony, for He is the Savior.
There is no doubt in anyone's mind that when we finally hear the Celestial Symphony in Heaven, we will hear pure ecstasy. We cannot comprehend that right now. We are left with our finite minds, and our finite voices, our poor judgment as to what constitutes proper liturgical music, and we must suffer the English translation from the Latin of many words that are not properly translated, and do not fit the poorly written music.
We live and move in a world of sound. It's all around us. We do not know what it is to be silent and still within, because it is never silent and still without. From choirs in church that drone on endlessly, to the ever-increasing volume of radio, television, movies, and the noise of every-day life in the world, we are drawn into a veritable whirlpool of sound that tends to suck us down and drown us in chaos, rather than lifting us up into the celestial air where our soul is nourished.
What to do? First, I think each one of us has to discern whether we are drawn to praise God in the silent, quiet way where the Mass is not sung, or whether we've been given that talent from God that calls us forth to praise Him in song.
For those who are called to quiet meditation and contemplation, God wants us to give Him our all in this regard. When we are meditating and contemplating, we have to give our entire being to God, and not let the distractions crowd in. We have to be rested, prepared for Holy Mass in order to fulfill our part of the Symphony of Suffering, which is that symphony of our earthly journey home.
If, on the other hand, we are called to sing, then we must do it with our heart, not with our vocal chords alone. We have to be conscious that the very gift we've been given belongs first and always to God. If we do not use it for Him, first and foremost, then we are cheating Him, and cheating ourselves. If we are called to a position of being a choir director in a parish, then it behooves us to strive to bring before the Throne of God those hymns that are truly inspiring, rather than "hip" or what have you. I am quite sure that hymns of this modern age that are well-sung and well-played, are as pleasing to God as those glorious hymns of another age, when St. Thomas Aquinas made his now famous statement. If the musician or singer performs for the honor and glory of God alone, then the performance is holy. If, however, the musician or singer performs for themselves, or for the sake of the assembled, then it is not holy, and that includes but is not limited to any music, be it from another era, or this modern one.
That's an integral part of the symphony of suffering: Doing it for God. To do anything else is to let pride seep in, and once pride enters, the symphony does not reach God. It settles into our minds, and takes up its abode, and gloats and seethes and is restless, waiting for another "stellar" performance. The same can be said of those who are called to contemplation and meditation. These are gifts. They are from God, and they are for God. To be prideful of these things is to lose them. Oh, we may still meditate, but we may be unconsciously priding ourselves on how well we meditate - and then we are immediately losing the gift, losing the grace, and making the symphony discordant.
That's what Almighty God has pressed upon my heart after this morning's Mass and the prayers offered then and afterward. We must do all things for Him, without concern for how others look upon us, or speak of us. We must lose "self" in order for the symphony we give to God to be joined with the Heavenly Chorus of unending praise. We have to somehow "rise above" the human condition, and seek, by an act of our will, to enter into the mystical Symphony that the angels and saints sing without end.
It's hard. To a trained ear, the discordant notes from the choir or the organist are at best, disconcerting. To hear one's pew companion warbling off-key is also discordant. However, St. Thomas made a statement and the Holy Spirit inspired it: Singing is praying twice. Therefore, we must be mindful of this in every aspect of our life, and take these inspired words to heart. We sing, even when our mouths are shut and we are in deep meditation or contemplation. We sing because our souls are joined with the Eternal Will and Perfect Harmony that is God. We also sing in the human meaning of that word, and when it is done for God, then it is equally as beautiful, even if to the human ear the words are silly, the music is droll, and the choir and congregation are as off-key as one can possibly get.
Over this next week, pray about what God has called you to. Are you one of those who are to contemplate and mediate? Then do so. There's a no-singing Mass as nearly every parish, and you might just have to readjust your schedule to go to it. Then, there's always the one that's sung from beginning to end, and if that's where you belong, then you need to be there, no matter whether you agree with the choice of hymns for any given Mass. It's in the Will that the Symphony takes its melody, not from notes on a page, or words that accompany the music.
Certainly, we have our preferences as to music. I know I do. I strive mightily to put those aside when we do go to the sung Mass. Nevertheless, if I enter into the singing with my heart and soul and mind and will, that's what God hears and sees and He blesses it.
If I am at a no-singing low Mass, and I am meditating and contemplating, then I am also giving melody to the symphony of my human sojourn, and God hears and sees, and blessed this unheard melody, too.
We cannot possibly attain Heaven's shore if we are at Mass and our souls are grumbling about music, or grumbling about those in the pew who are not singing. We need to concentrate on God, on the Holy Mass, and let God take care of the problems. He's the problem solver, we are not.
Just remember that everything you do is supposed to be a song - and it is God that adds the melody. May our week be filled with the joy of joining in this perfect Symphony, so that our sojourn on earth may be filled with the song of Heaven, until we hear it for ourselves in His presence.
Consecration of Pope Urban IV, French Pope known as the "Corpus Christi Pope" who was elected on August 29 in a surprise election at the conclave of Viterbo to which he had come in order to pay homage to the future Pope only to be confirmed as the 182nd successor of Peter.
Death of Saint Rosalia, virgin and religious from Palermo who forsook the temptations of the Norman court and spent sixteen solid years in steady prayer. She is considered the patron saint of Sicily.
Death of Blessed Alan de Roche, Dominican priest who founded the first Confraternity of the Rosary and established the custom of meditating on the life of Jesus within the Mysteries of the Rosary during each decade.
Saint Laurence Justinian, Archbishop and prophet who died on January 8, 1455 in Venice, was canonized by Pope Clement X on this day.
Pope Leo XIII issues his 57th encyclical Adiutricem on the Holy Rosary.
Pope Leo XIII 68th encyclical Diuturni temporis is also on the Holy Rosary.
Election of Pope Lucius III as 171st successor of Peter. By means of a hurriedly put-together constitution Lucius exhorted all those in authority to suppress heresy by force of arms, having himself been forced to take refuge in Verona because of the riots which had broken out in his own territories.
Cardinal Francis Della Chiesa of Genoa is chosen as the 258th successor of Peter, taking the name Pope Benedict XV and succeeding the popular Pope Saint Pius X. Benedict ruled for eight years. He beatified Joan of Arc and increased the number of countries diplomatically accredited to the Vatican from 14 to 27 including England which had been without representation since Henry VIII had revolted.
Legend has it that on this date the angels carried the modest home of the Holy Family Joseph, Mary and Jesus to a special place in Loreto, Italy on the coast of the Adriatic where today it is a major shrine.
Death of Blessed Serafina Sforza, battered wife who took refuge in a Poor Clares monastery and prayed ceaselessly for forgiveness of her wayward husband and his mistress who taunted Serafina. Nevertheless Serafina did not despair but trusted in God for redemption and reconciliation with her husband. Her prayers were answered and he converted.
King Philip of France, also known as "Philip the Fair", dispatches agents to arrest Pope Boniface VIII because the Holy Father had prepared a papal bull Super Petri solio which would excommunicate Philip. He had planned to publish it on September 8, 1303 but was seized the day before and his captors intended to take him to France to stand trial, but faithful citizens rescued the Pope and placed him under the protection of the Orsini family, but the ordeal was too much and the Pope died on October 12, 1303 - many say broken in body and spirit.