Fans of popular music would admit that even beyond matters of taste, so much of the music bombarding our senses is poor in quality. And with digital music made available more readily than ever before, the sheer quantity of bad music is enormous. But there are those moments…
A catchy melody, a well-sung vocal harmony, a turn of a lyrical phrase still have the power to make one pause, listen and ponder. We might respond by humming along, retaining the passage in our memory, or lightening our day with a dance step.
At any rate, we are catching a graced moment, a gift of beauty from its spanine source.
It should not be so hard to believe that the Holy Spirit would act through human artifices to reveal God’s constant presence among us. This is what good art does. In the case of music, even a flawed piece can become the setting for a moment of beauty and truth. Witness the reflection by author Christopher West in this issue. He tells how the graced moments of the Irish rock group U2 invite listeners to “taste a bit of heaven” and experience a kind of communion. For all its flaws, pop music and that of any genre has the power to uplift human hearts.
This is what Pope Benedict XVI had in mind as he spoke to an audience following a concert of classical music (his personal favorite) last week.
“This concert,” he said, “has given us the chance to appreciate the beauty of music, a spiritual and therefore universal language, and hence the appropriate vehicle for understanding and union between inspaniduals and peoples.
“Great music distends the spirit, arouses profound emotions and almost naturally invites us to raise our minds and hearts to God in all situations of human existence, the joyful and the sad. Music can become prayer.”
The Catholic Church has from its beginning recognized this, incorporating music in public worship and private prayer to almighty God. Here and now we see examples: A jazz concert at St. John Neumann Place in South Philadelphia will take place next week; a classical orchestra and choir will perform a musical setting of Haydn of the Mass at Our Lady of Mount Carmel Church, Doylestown, in December; churches throughout the Archdiocese enrich the liturgy every Sunday with music from African-American, Latino and other cultures.
All this music is both praise and prayer to God, and at times the means for His communication – graces too subtle for words – with us.