Two years ago Pope Benedict spoke to a gathering of church musicians from all over Italy. He reflected on the way the that sacred music can help people to rediscover God in their lives; how music can bring out the power of God’s word and the riches of the Christian message.
He spoke about St. Augustine and many others who were attracted to God through the beauty of liturgical music and sacred song. He gave the example of Paul Claudel, the French poet and dramatist who at the age of 18 had a profound experience of God during Christmas Eve Vespers in Notre Dame in Paris. It happened during the singing of the Magnificat. He wrote: “At that moment, in a twinkling, my heart was touched and I believed. I believed… with such a strong conviction … that, after that moment, no reasoning, no circumstance of my troubled life, was able to shake or touch my faith.”
Waoh! I’m not sure if any music of ours could ever have blown someone away like that! But then of course – we must realise that it is not our music or our singing that can convert others to God. It is God himself, working through the beauty and the words of our music and singing who can call people to him and give them the grace to respond to his love. Our role as music ministers, as music missionaries, is simply to bring the very best of our gifts to the task of praising God, and then to leave the rest to God and the power of the Spirit to move others and build up their faith.
That is why Pope Benedict said we must try to ‘show how the church may be the place where beauty feels at home’! The music we choose, the quality of our singing and our playing must be ‘prayer- ful’ and befitting of worship. The Second Vatican Council urged that it must be for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful. It aims to lift people up, to redeem them from the shallowness of everyday so that God can touch them by his presence.
When music of beauty is chosen which is inspired by our faith, and is offered to God from the very best of our efforts, God can work through it to touch the souls of others, nourish their faith, and bring them closer to him. And that is when our sacred music and liturgy becomes truly for the glory of God and the sanctification of the faithful!
I encourage all of you, then, who have participated in this years Charles Wood Summer School and Festival, to thank God for the gift of music in your life, for the ways in which God has worked through music to shape your love of Jesus, your understanding of his word, how through music he has spoken to you in times of great joy and touched your heart when you needed encouragement. Be aware of the role you have in bringing others to God through music, your missionary calling as a musician. And resolve again because of that to put your very best efforts into the choice of music and into the quality and dignity of your offering so that only the very best is offered to God.