Prayers/Reflections for Humility for Choir?
  • Hello,
    I am a seminarian assigned to a parish for a Pastoral Year. They sing mostly contemporary hymns here but the choir director is a humble woman who has confided in me that she is upset with the "monsters" she has created: a group of egos all wanting to perform rather than raise hearts and minds to God and heavenly things. She has asked me for any prayers or reflections that she could share with her choir members to encourage them toward humility in their ministry and away from pride or jealousy: e.g. "You only assigned me two solos this month but you gave her four", etc. Do you all have any mind? Quotes from relevant documents, prayers to St. Cecilia, etc.?
    In Jesu, per Mariam,
    Matt Hardesty
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,828
    Hi Matt:

    I just read this to my choir. These are excerpts from the latest document put out by the USCCB about the role of the music in the liturgy and more.

    The following is excerpted from:
    Issued by USCCB, November 14, 2007
    Copyright © 2007, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. All rights reserved.
    Sing to the Lord:
    Music in Divine Worship

    Why We Sing
    Obedient to Christ and to the Church, we gather in liturgical assembly, week after week. As our predecessors did, we find ourselves “singing psalms, hymns and spiritual songs with gratitude in [our] hearts to God.” This common, sung expression of faith within liturgical celebrations strengthens our faith when it grows weak and draws us into the divinely inspired voice of the Church at prayer. Faith grows when it is well expressed in celebration. Good celebrations can foster and nourish faith. Poor celebrations may weaken it. Good music “make[s] the liturgical prayers of the Christian community more alive and fervent so that everyone can praise and beseech the Triune God more powerfully, more intently and more effectively.”
    Charity, justice, and evangelization are thus the normal consequences of liturgical celebration. Particularly inspired by sung participation, the body of the Word Incarnate goes forth to spread the Gospel with full force and compassion. In this way, the Church leads men and women “to the faith, freedom and peace of Christ by the example of its life and teaching, by the sacraments and other means of grace. Its aim is to open up for all men a free and sure path to full participation in the mystery of Christ.”

    Within the gathered assembly, the role of the congregation is especially important. “The full and active participation by all the people is the aim to be considered before all else, for it is the primary and indispensable source from which the faithful are to derive the true Christian spirit.”

    The Church at Prayer – The Gathered Liturgical Assembly
    Singing is one of the primary ways that the assembly of the faithful participates actively in the Liturgy. The people are encouraged “to take part by means of acclamations, responses, psalms, antiphons [and] hymns. . . .” The musical formation of the assembly must be a continuing concern in order to foster full, conscious, and active participation.
    So that the holy people may sing with one voice, the music must be within its members’ capability. Some congregations are able to learn more quickly and will desire more variety. Others will be more comfortable with a stable number of songs so that they can be at ease when they sing. Familiarity with a stable repertoire of liturgical songs rich in theological content can deepen the faith of the community through repetition and memorization. A pastoral judgment must be made in all cases.

    Ministers of Liturgical Music
    The Choir
    The Second Vatican Council stated emphatically that choirs must be diligently promoted while ensuring that “the whole body of the faithful may be able to contribute that active participation which is rightly theirs. . . .” The choir must not minimize the musical participation of the faithful. The congregation commonly sings unison melodies, which are more suitable for generally unrehearsed community singing. This is the primary song of the Liturgy. Choirs and ensembles, on the other hand, comprise persons drawn from the community who possess the requisite musical skills and a commitment to the established schedule of rehearsals and Liturgies. Thus, they are able to enrich the celebration by adding musical elements beyond the capabilities of the congregation alone.
    Choirs (and ensembles—another form of choir that commonly includes a combination of singers and instrumentalists) exercise their ministry in various ways. An important ministerial role of the choir or ensemble is to sing various parts of the Mass in dialogue or alternation with the congregation. Some parts of the Mass that have the character of a litany, such as the Kyrie and the Agnus Dei, are clearly intended to be sung in this manner. Other Mass parts may also be sung in dialogue or alternation, especially the Gloria, the Creed, and the three processional songs: the Entrance, the Preparation of the Gifts, and Communion. This approach often takes the form of a congregational refrain with verses sung by the choir. Choirs may also enrich congregational singing by adding harmonies and descants.
    At times, the choir performs its ministry by singing alone. The choir may draw on the treasury of sacred music, singing compositions by composers of various periods and in various musical styles, as well as music that expresses the faith of the various cultures that enrich the Church. Appropriate times where the choir might commonly sing alone include a prelude before Mass, the Entrance chant, the Preparation of the Gifts, during the Communion procession or after the reception of Communion, and the recessional. Other appropriate examples are given in the section of this document entitled “Music and the Structure of the Mass” (nos. 137-199). The music of the choir must always be appropriate to the Liturgy, either by being a proper liturgical text or by expressing themes appropriate to the Liturgy.
    When the choir is not exercising its particular role, it joins the congregation in song. The choir’s role in this case is not to lead congregational singing, but to sing with the congregation, which sings on its own or under the leadership of the organ or other instruments. Choir members, like all liturgical ministers, should exercise their ministry with evident faith and should participate in the entire liturgical celebration, recognizing that they are servants of the Liturgy and members of the gathered assembly.
    Choir and ensemble members may dress in albs or choir robes, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as choir vesture.

    The Cantor
    The cantor is both a singer and a leader of congregational song. Especially when no choir is present, the cantor may sing in alternation or dialogue with the assembly. For example, the cantor may sing the invocations of the Kyrie, intone the Gloria, lead the short acclamations at the end of the Scripture readings, intone and sing the verse of the Gospel Acclamation, sing the invocations of the Prayer of the Faithful, and lead the singing of the Agnus Dei. The cantor may also sing the verses of the psalm or song that accompany the Entrance, Preparation of the Gifts, and Communion. Finally, the cantor may serve as psalmist, leading and proclaiming the verses of the Responsorial Psalm.
    As a leader of congregational song, the cantor should take part in singing with the entire gathered assembly. In order to promote the singing of the liturgical assembly, the cantor’s voice should not be heard above the congregation. As a transitional practice, the voice of the cantor might need to be amplified to stimulate and lead congregational singing when this is still weak. However, as the congregation finds its voice and sings with increasing confidence, the cantor’s voice should correspondingly recede. At times, it may be appropriate to use a modest gesture that invites participation and clearly indicates when the congregation is to begin, but gestures should be used sparingly and only when genuinely needed.
    Cantors should lead the assembly from a place where they can be seen by all without drawing attention from the liturgical action. When, however, a congregation is singing very familiar responses, acclamations, or songs that do not include verses for the cantor alone, the cantor need not be visible.
    The cantor exercises his or her ministry from a conveniently located stand, but not from the ambo. The cantor may dress in an alb or choir robe, but always in clean, presentable, and modest clothing. Cassock and surplice, being clerical attire, are not recommended as vesture for the cantor.
    The Organist and the Other Instrumentalists
    The primary role of the organist, other instrumentalists, or instrumental ensemble is to lead and sustain the singing of the assembly and of the choir, cantor, and psalmist, without dominating or overpowering them.
    The many voices of the organ and of instrumental ensembles, with their great range of expression, add varied and colorful dimensions to the song of the assembly, especially with the addition of harmonization.
    Those with the requisite talent and training should be encouraged to continue the musical tradition of improvisation. The liturgical action may call for improvisation, for example, when a congregational hymn or choral piece concludes before the ritual action is completed. The art of improvisation requires its own special talent and training. More than mere background sound is called for. When worthy improvisation is not possible, it is recommended that musicians play quality published literature, which is available at all levels of difficulty.
    There are also times when the organ or other instruments may be played alone, such as a prelude before the Mass, an instrumental piece during the Preparation of the Gifts, a recessional if there is no closing song, or a postlude following a closing song.

    The Director of Music Ministries
    A professional director of music ministries, or music director, provides a major service by working with the bishop or pastor to oversee the planning, coordination, and ministries of the parish or diocesan liturgical music program. The director of music ministries fosters the active participation of the liturgical assembly in singing; coordinates the preparation of music to be sung at various liturgical celebrations; and promotes the ministries of choirs, psalmists, cantors, organists, and all who play instruments that serve the Liturgy. In the present day, many potential directors of music are not of our faith tradition. It is significant as we go forward that directors of music are properly trained to express our faith traditions effectively and with pastoral sensitivity.
    Since every ministry is rooted in the Sacraments of Initiation, which form the People of God into “a community of disciples formed by and for the mission of Christ,”47 the director of music ministries has a role that “finds its place within the communion of the Church and serves the mission of Christ in the Spirit.”
    Directors of music ministries and other lay ecclesial ministers exercise their role in relation both to the ordained and to the community of the faithful. Directors are collaborators with bishops, priests, and deacons, who exercise a pastoral ministry based on the Sacrament of Holy Orders, which configures them to Christ the Head and consecrates them for a role that is unique and necessary for the communion of the Church. At the same time, lay ecclesial ministers are members of the lay faithful, “sharing in the common priesthood of all the baptized” and “called to discipleship.”
    Diverse Cultures and Languages
    Even as the liturgical music of the Western European tradition is to be remembered, cherished, and used, the rich cultural and ethnic heritage of the many peoples of our country must also be recognized, fostered, and celebrated. Cultural pluralism has been the common heritage of all Americans, and “the Catholic community is rapidly re-encountering itself as an immigrant Church.” “The cultural gifts of the new immigrants” are “taking their place alongside those of older generations of immigrants,” and this calls for interaction and collaboration between peoples who speak various languages and celebrate their faith in the songs and musical styles of their cultural, ethnic, and racial roots. In order to do so effectively, music publishers need to be encouraged to offer multilingual options for use which would be more expressive of our unity amidst such great diversity.

    Latin in the Liturgy
    The use of the vernacular is the norm in most liturgical celebrations in the dioceses of the United States “for the sake of a better comprehension of the mystery being celebrated.” However, care should be taken to foster the role of Latin in the Liturgy, particularly in liturgical song. Pastors should ensure “that the faithful may also be able to say or to sing together in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.” They should be able to sing these parts of the Mass proper to them, at least according to the simpler melodies.

    The Human Voice
    Of all the sounds of which human beings, created in the image and likeness of God, are capable, voice is the most privileged and fundamental. Musical instruments in the Liturgy are best understood as an extension of and support to the primary liturgical instrument, which is the human voice.
    Musical Instruments
    Among all other instruments which are suitable for divine worship, the organ is “accorded pride of place” because of its capacity to sustain the singing of a large gathered assembly, due to both its size and its ability to give “resonance to the fullness of human sentiments, from joy to sadness, from praise to lamentation.” Likewise, “the manifold possibilities of the organ in some way remind us of the immensity and the magnificence of God.”
    In addition to its ability to lead and sustain congregational singing, the sound of the pipe organ is most suited for solo playing of sacred music in the Liturgy at appropriate moments. Pipe organs also play an important evangelical role in the Church’s outreach to the wider community in sacred concerts, music series, and other musical and cultural programs. For all of these reasons, the place of the organ should be taken into account from the outset in the planning process for the building or renovation of churches.

    Care in the Choice of Music for the Liturgy
    Music for the Liturgy must be carefully chosen and prepared. Such preparation should be characterized by “harmony and diligence . . . under the direction of the rector [or pastor] of the Church and after the consultation with the faithful about things that directly pertain to them.” Effective preparation of liturgical song that fosters the maximum participation of the gathered assembly is a cooperative venture that respects the essential role of a variety of persons with mutual competencies.

    Judging the Qualities of Music for the Liturgy
    The Three Judgments: One Evaluation
    In judging the appropriateness of music for the Liturgy, one will examine its liturgical, pastoral, and musical qualities. Ultimately, however, these three judgments are but aspects of one evaluation, which answers the question: “Is this particular piece of music appropriate for this use in the particular Liturgy?” All three judgments must be considered together, and no individual judgment can be applied in isolation from the other two. This evaluation requires cooperation, consultation, collaboration, and mutual respect among those who are skilled in any of the three judgments, be they pastors, musicians, liturgists, or planners.
    The Liturgical Judgment
    The question asked by this judgment may be stated as follows: Is this composition capable of meeting the structural and textual requirements set forth by the liturgical books for this particular rite?
    The Pastoral Judgment
    The pastoral judgment takes into consideration the actual community gathered to celebrate in a particular place at a particular time. Does a musical composition promote the sanctification of the members of the liturgical assembly by drawing them closer to the holy mysteries being celebrated? Does it strengthen their formation in faith by opening their hearts to the mystery being celebrated on this occasion or in this season? Is it capable of expressing the faith that God has planted in their hearts and summoned them to celebrate?
    The Musical Judgment
    The musical judgment asks whether this composition has the necessary aesthetic qualities that can bear the weight of the mysteries celebrated in the Liturgy. It asks the question: Is this composition technically, aesthetically, and expressively worthy?
    This judgment requires musical competence. Only artistically sound music will be effective and endure over time. To admit to the Liturgy the cheap, the trite, or the musical cliché often found in secular popular songs is to cheapen the Liturgy, to expose it to ridicule, and to invite failure.
  • 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.
  • Thanks Francis and Daniel, I appreciate it. I welcome anything else you may find.

  • My chant teacher always opened rehearsals with the following prayer (I try to do the same):

    Direct, we beseech Thee, O Lord, all our actions by Thy holy inspiration, and carry them on by Thy gracious assistance, so that every work and prayer of ours may always begin from Thee, and through Thee be happily ended. Through Christ our Lord. Amen.

    I have found a Latin version of this prayer in two places in the liturgy. In the modern office, it's the collect of Lauds for Mondays. In the older liturgy, it's one of the long set of collects that follows the Litany of the Saints on the rogation days:

    Actiones nostras, quaesumus Domine, aspirando praeveni, et adjuvando prosequere: ut cuncta nostra oratio et operatio a te semper incipiat, et per te coepta finiatur.
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799 if someone can translate this, it may prove relevant.
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,308
    The text on that page is an official exhortation to a psalmist on the assumption of his duties:

    Vide, ut quod ore cantas, corde credas, et quod corde credis, operibus comprobes.

    It amounts to the same content as the prayer Daniel posted above:
    See that what you sing with your mouth you believe with your heart; and what you believe with your heart, you confirm with your works.

    Thoughtfully the book provides the following sentence to be spoken by a bishop when a psalmist is to be removed from his duties:

    Quia quod ore cantasti, corde non credidisti, nec opere implevisti; ideo cantandi officium in Ecclesia Dei a te amovemus.

    Because you did not believe in your heart nor fulfill in your works what you sang with your mouth, we remove from you the office of singing in the Church of God.