Spiritual Feeding of Choir members?
  • I would like to know of any directors out there, who have made efforts, or involved their pastor to periodically make efforts, to provide some sort of spiritual guidance let's call it, to their parish singers on their involvement in liturgy, and the spiritual depth involved in using our voices, singing the latin treasury of music for the Glory of God, but also at the same time, if you have an all-volunteer choir program as I do, providing spiritual meditation on the ministerial aspect of being involved in the choir(s), welcoming to newcomers, balancing our continued growth toward excellence with our charity and patience toward one another, etc.

    I am wanting to either help present this to my pastor in a less open-ended way, to ask him to give some sort of presentation/talk occasionally to our choir members, or at least once or twice a year (maybe during the penitential seasons) to help them grow in the depth of their love for ministry through music and the spiritual nourishment it can/should give them, as well as addressing the practical side of how it connects us as people within our parish, and gentle reminders toward the ministerial aspect of being in the parish music program.
    Or, I am wanting to do this myself, by including meditative "nuggets" in rehearsals, either insight on composers/music, but also more broadly meditation on ministry through music in the parish setting.
    I hope I am being clear enough. We sing very traditional music here. Almost all gregorian chant and Renaissance polyphony, w/ a few later era catholic motets thrown in here and there. Many long-standing choir members, and very tradionally minded, but we are also a parish with robust growth, and lots of new faces weekly, including lots of newcomers to the TLM in general.
    I want to strive harder to "spiritual feed" my choir members, and connect it in a way to our music.
    Any books you would recommend I read, or books that have short meditations related to catholic music, or music ministry?

    Thanks in advance!
  • Some choirs, probably more Episcopalian ones than others, have choir retreats at least once a year. These can take place at a local monastery, a church-owned camp, etc., and may feature a guest spiritual adviser-lecturer as well as a vocal technician. These can be invaluable for building choral esprit de corps, instilling theological dimension to choir work, and, generally, are a tremendous inspiration for all involved. They may last for as long as one wishes - sometimes a whole week, sometimes a an entire week-end, sometimes just a Saturday - however one wishes to structure it.

    Also, it can be an invaluable morale builder if the pastor makes regular visits to his choir to thank them for their sacred work and say a few words about the spiritual dimension of sacred music and those who offer it, and their sacred role at mass. A conscientious pastor may do this once a month or once every two months, or 'every so often', but it can be one of the most important personal contributions which he makes to the liturgical life of his parish.

    A by-product of the pastor regularly giving attention and appreciation to the choir and its music is that people will take it more seriously, respect it more, and! more might even be inclined to join because they can see that it is important to father.
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    Include a weekly 'choirmaster's column' in the parish newsletter or bulletin. It can include topics such as news about the choir, how and why music is chosen, vignettes about composers or sacred music, the Church's teachings about sacred music, why singing is important (spiritual and psychological benefits), etc.
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    Do follow through with your idea of having a short (sung!) devotional to begin each rehearsal. This may consist of a few lines from one of the many psalms which wax fervently about singing, plus a short Bible verse pertinent to the choir's work, plus a collect or two. Additionally, always close rehearsal with a (sung) prayer, the Our Father, the seasonal Marian antiphon, etc.
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    Thanked by 2Antonio CHGiffen
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,557
    Fr. Dominic Johner's "Chants of the Vatican Gradual" provides commentaries on many of the proper chants, so you may find some beneficial reflections there. The book is available as a free download from the resource page at http://musicasacra.com/ , or you can buy a copy in softcover -- which is probably cheaper than printing the whole thing out.
  • or music ministry?


    First, I would strenuously suggest the dropping of the idea that music at Mass is a kind of ministry -- because this concept usually requires adapting to those receiving ministrations -- and, rather, replace it with the idea of "Office". Those who sing fulfill a kind of liturgical office, and should therefore be taught to cultivate both their musical skill (individually and as an ensemble) and their spiritual life.
  • JahazaJahaza
    Posts: 439
    The words ministry, duty, and office (i.e. ministerium, munus, officium) are quite closely related in Catholic theology and not really separable. To the extent that music ministry is a ministry, those ministered to are the congregation as a whole, not the members of the ministry.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 7,920

    Spiritual feeding of choir members? Hmmm! My choir has better spirits when given donuts.


  • [color=purple]If you're giving spirits, I'll take a Jack Black![/color]
  • Jahaza,

    The term "ministry" is applied nowadays to musicians and all manner of other people -- at least at its origin -- for the purpose of being able to say, "We're all ministers: there's nothing really special about a priest." "Office" sounds too stuffy for what musicians do, especially in the era of "ministry of Greeter".

    Therefore, while I happily concede that the terms ministry, duty and office are closely related in Catholic theology, I must insist that not every use of the term is, therefore, legitimate.

  • First, I would strenuously suggest the dropping of the idea that music at Mass is a kind of ministry -- because this concept usually requires adapting to those receiving ministrations -- and, rather, replace it with the idea of "Office".


    The word Office implies rights: eg a priest has a certain office by virtue of his ordination, and thus has certain rights, irrespective of whether he meets his responsibilities or not.

    Where as the word ministry implies work / service that I must do.

    It is also a mistake to say that music-ministry is limited to Mass: especially as the number of priests decreases, we are likely to see a broadening of the the range of parish activities for which musical support is needed. For example, the people who lead a few hymns at our Eucharistic Adoration have as much right to music ministry support as our choir members do.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 6,557
    In Catholic theological terminology, "ministry" refers specifically to what the ordained do: preach the Gospel and celebrate the sacraments. Back in 1997, a church document about lay co-operation with the ministry of the clergy reminded people of this point.
    "... only in virtue of sacred ordination does the word obtain that full, univocal meaning that tradition has attributed to it."

    [...] The non-ordained faithful may be generically designated "extraordinary ministers" when deputed by competent authority to discharge, solely by way of supply, [the offices of distributing Holy Communion or of witnessing marriages ... ]. Naturally, the concrete term may be applied to those to whom functions are canonically entrusted e.g. catechists, acolytes, lectors etc.

    Temporary deputation for liturgical purposes — mentioned in Canon 230, § 2 — does not confer any special or permanent title on the non-ordained faithful.
    Thanked by 1Jenny
  • I cannot but offer my long-held feelings that ministry and the cooperative performance of musical drivel is basically an oxymoronic coupling of concepts . Ministry is the service to others of what is beneficial to them. Serving them rubbish, even if that is what they want, can hardly be called 'ministry'. It is more like offering a dope addict the heroine he or she desires and calling it ministry. Ministry, by definition, is the serving up of what is healthful. A more apt word than ministry for this sort of 'service' would be pandering. Playing fine hymns for people, along with chant and good choral music is ministry. Playing the down-dumbing sacro-pop to which they have become addicted is not ministry in any meaningful use of the word.
  • Coffee is healthful, no?.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW bhcordova
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 7,920
    A rather brain-damaged flower child once asked, while raving about her "ministries" what my ministry was. I answered, "I play the damned organ. Sometimes I work the light switches."
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 115
    I have been known to clean the music office and put up bookcases.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW tsoapm
  • Elevating lay people to do things that were once reserved to the priest alone is what has destroyed the church in the minds and hearts of many. The creation of false ministries. Francis could say it better.
    Thanked by 1ClergetKubisz
  • The former Director of Liturgy and Music would read a prayer from 'Prayers of Those Who Make Music" available from Liturgy Training Publications. She also gave all the choir members a copy. I still use mine.
    Thanked by 1Stella611
  • CCoozeCCooze
    Posts: 380
    I sort of thought this was going to be more of a "how to maximize my choir's attention TO the Mass, during Mass, while still performing their roles as choir members;" etc. Or even the choir director's.
  • CCooze,

    That would be a valuable topic.

  • ViolaViola
    Posts: 115
    We are considering having a choir retreat, perhaps including choirs from other parishes. Does anyone have experience of this?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 7,920
    My choir retreats every Sunday. It could more properly be called a rout, but we come back for more every Sunday.


  • The best spiritual nourishment for choir members, and in fact for all other musicians, is performing the best music available. For the schola or church choir, this means Gregorian chant and Sacred Polyphony. For organists, it means playing the greatest works of sacred organ music that have been written: for me it would be the Classic French repertoire, but that's just my view, YMMV. No music will draw them closer to God than that.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • canadashcanadash
    Posts: 1,153
    We are considering having a choir retreat, perhaps including choirs from other parishes. Does anyone have experience of this?


    Yes. I led a retreat for my choir and choristers from around the diocese (and beyond actually.) I can send you my outline for the retreat if you like (PM me your email addy). I based it on a day at the CMAA Colloquium. I considered it a success. It was a lot of work though.
    Thanked by 2CCooze Viola
  • Maybe I should be more clear by saying we are an FSSP parish. So there is no need to split hairs about "ministry" or "office" or trying to clarify singers' role to the liturgy. We have no diva idea of our role toward the liturgy. We serve God through our music. I don't have to worry either about the choir program being involved in other ways. All our choirs serve through music at mass or other liturgical events at the parish. That's pretty much it. The sidetrack conversation above on the use of terms doesn't do anything to help me at all. It should be pretty clear even from my original post that by "ministry" or "ministering", what I mean is that I want to help foster greater personal interactions between members and depth of spiritual understanding of what we sing. Choir member feedback recently indicated that new choir members didn't feel very incorporated; after even a whole year, they still feel a bit like an outsider, esp. if they can tell they may not be as "traditionally minded" as some of the other choir members. Maybe most of you can't relate to this kind of situation, if you are working more in the trenches within the NO mass parishes. Since we are beyond that kind of situation, I personally find that as you raise the bar of musical excellence, "cliques" can easily form if there is not enough stress on cooperative effort of ALL choir members, that each have their own vocal strengths and weaknesses to contribute, etc. I want to help my choir members grow in the spiritual nature of their "work" as singers, as well as the depth of meaning of the texts they sing. AND maintain a welcoming atmosphere to new singers, so that those with talent who find themselves at our parish, find the choir program as a place that helps them feel welcomed into the parish community. Whether you agree that the choir program should serve that purpose at all, it is a practical reality, especially if you have a larger parish. People who get themselves involved in different parish groups often do so as a way that makes them feel "at home" and connected to others, especially in this day and age of extended family likely not living close by. I myself, truly see my choir members and involved families, as my spiritual family, and in certain ways feel closer to them now, than my own blood relatives.

    M. Jackson Osborn - Thank you for the multiple suggestions! Our parish actually uses flocknotes, so that could be a beneficial way to use the "choir news" group on there: to send out monthly tidbits about the choir program.
    Exactly what you mentioned about the pastors' involvement is exactly what I am wanting to try to make happen. we have 3 priests too, and being a TLM parish it is VERY true that when it comes from the priest, parishioners take more notice! They do thank us from time to time on the music, and have a pizza party w/ the main pastor after holy week, but like you mentioned, I would like to try to get more "spiritual/meditative advising" involved into it, even a few times a year/once per season. But I know to make that happen, it helps to give our priests something more detailed or concrete you have in mind, rather than leave it open ended. They are more likely to respond to your request if given a more guided request. So any ideas of specific topics/sources they could give mini lectures on for the choir?

    Thank you chonak
    for your suggestion; I actually do have the Chants of the Vatican Gradual book, and use it sometimes w/ the women schola, but hadn't thought to peruse it more thoroughly and find ways to apply it to the choral groups' music. We do sing motets often though, based on the propers, so I should do that.

    ClergetKubisz,
    we basically do what you say already, singing from the best treasury of vocal music the Catholic Church has to offer, but I find that just singing it is not necessarily enough. I want to help take my choirs the next step deeper; deeper understanding of the text, and really taking that poetic text to heart, and not being afraid to personally express it in our singing. Sometimes our singing is a bit "dry" or "vanilla", because I find TLM goers can be more reticent than most to express emotions to others outwardly. But to move the hearts of our fellow parishioners, to aid them in their prayer... I think it is important to make ourselves as singers, vulnerable to the music in this way.

    bhcordova
    , thank you for the book suggestion!

    Canadash: I will PM you. I would LOVE to know what resources/material you used to have the choir retreat.
  • JL
    Posts: 95
    If such a thing exists near you, it could be worthwhile to have a choir retreat at a local monastery where the choristers can take part in the monastic liturgy as part of the retreat program. If you can find a musically adept monk or nun to lead the retreat, so much the better!

    The RSCM Choristers' Prayer is always a good starter for rehearsals and warmups. You could even chant it to one of the collect tones.

    "Bless, O Lord, us Thy servants who minister in Thy temple. Grant that what we sing with our lips we may believe in our hearts, and what we believe in our hearts we may show forth in our lives. Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen."
    Thanked by 2CCooze Viola
  • JL,
    I actually use that simple prayer with the children choirs. Thanks for the idea of setting it to a collect or psalm tone, though!

    For those interested, I have a couple other prayers I have found and have given to choir members to tape in their music binder:
    "Open my mouth, O Lord, in praise of Thy Holy Name. Cleanse my heart of all worldly thoughts, prepare my intellect and inflame my will that I may worthily sing this Divine Service. As we gather to sing thy praise, may we but touch one soul and lead it to thee. May our music foreshadow thy beauty which we shall see forever in Thy Kingdom. Through Christ Our Lord. Amen."

    And another one:
    "Dear Lord, Please bless this music, that it might glorify your name. May the talent you have bestowed upon us be used only to serve You. Let this music be a witness to your majesty and love, and remind us that You are always watching and listening, from your throne above. May your presence and beauty be found in every note, and may the words that are sung reach the hearts of your people so they will draw closer to You. May your Spirit guide us through every measure so that we might be the instruments of Your peace, and proclaim Your glory with glad voices. Amen."
  • Have you tried engaging your more advanced and/or senior/professional management oriented choir members to help with auditioning new singers and to help guide you in crafting organizational changes that would facilitate the development and integration of new members? It seems that the challenges you face are really administrative in nature rather than spiritual.