With the start of Advent and a new liturgical year, I am delighted to announce an exciting development in the life of St. Mary’s: the reconstitution of our choir, and a renewed music program, under the direction of our own Dr. Mary McCleary. As you know, we are blessed with a wonderful staff of organists and singers led by Dr. Paula Berardinelli, Mrs. Susan Olsen, and Mrs. Donna Brown. Our parish has a tradition of excellent liturgy, in which music plays an integral—not merely decorative—role. The impact of liturgical music on a congregation, both in selection and execution, is incalculable, and I have searched for months to find just the right person. Although she would eschew any attention directed at her, it is important to recognize the gifts that Dr. McCleary brings to her position: as a classically trained singer, composer, and academic, with vast performing experience both in the U.S. and Europe.
Music is the Church’s art form par excellence, for it best reflects the human condition, which is both sensitive (the body) and spiritual (the soul); so too, music is both “sensual” and incorporeal (that is, there is no “material” component to it). What’s more, just as human beings who search for God, come into the world, live, grow, and die, so too music lives in time, as it commences, develops, and concludes. Josef Pieper (German Catholic philosopher) points out that the goal of sacred music is not that of secular music: it seeks neither to soothe nor entertain nor intoxicate; to do so is to distract from, instead of enhancing, the encounter between God and the soul. Sacred music expresses and deepens the holy desire for God, “by whose grace our inner yearning finds fulfillment…” (Only the Lover Sings) Likewise, Pope Benedict suggests that music “draws us to what is above…and leads us out of individualism into the communion of saints spanning all times and places.” Like all true art, music “is an assimilation to the artist, to the mind of the Creator (The Spirit of the Liturgy).” Through music, God “woos” the soul.
A music program driven by this aesthetic may at first seem a “tall order” for St. Mary’s, but my thoughts are a hope, not an immediate expectation. Our first steps are therefore small but important. We will publish a Mass program with all printed music in the bulletin, and gradually expand our repertoire to include music from a variety of styles and periods. Our choir will perform at the 11AM Sunday Liturgy, and will be enhanced from time to time with appropriate instruments and ensembles. Although we need new members to supplement all sections—sopranos, altos, tenors, and basses—we have a particular need for male vocalists. No experience is required, and Dr. McCleary will announce upcoming auditions and rehearsals. Our work may be noble, but I assure you that people will have an awful lot of fun as well.
The worship of almighty God and the call to holiness are the first order of business at any Catholic parish. With our newly trained and expanded corps of Eucharistic Ministers, Lectors, ushers, and altar servers, Mass at St. Mary’s will, by the grace of God, be celebrated ever more beautifully and prayerfully.