Perhaps it has long been the case. However, today it seems undeniable that the order of the two great commandments has been reversed. Scripture tells us that when asked what the greatest commandment is Jesus said: “Love the Lord your God with all your heart, all your mind, and all your soul” and then added as a second commandment: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mt. 22:37) . It is, perhaps, understandable that we “moderns” with our commendable concern for respect for human dignity, social justice, peace, and so forth, and confronted with an increasingly irreligious culture, tend to downplay the mandate of the first commandment, the call to worship, and concentrate on the second, the call to care.
But, is this as it should be?
A primary purpose, indeed obligation, of the Church is to worship God. And, as the Greek word for Church suggests (ecclesia) we do this as an assembly. The word ‘liturgy’ comes from the Greek word for public works. So, the Church is about public worship. The most sublime worship is, of course, the Eucharist. But, surrounding and supporting this “source and summit of the life of the Church” is the ministry of music. Since the earliest days – see St. Paul’s letter to the Colossians – this has been so.
Even beyond its spiritual and liturgical implications, choral music elevates and inspires its singers and lifts them to higher levels of beauty. In their shared endeavor to stretch and reach for harmony, melody and cadence, its performers discover a wondrous reality which as individuals they could not. Such discoveries in today’s beauty starved world are increasingly rare and therefore increasingly important.
Given the edifying and unifying effect of choral music on its performers, and the enriching inspiration and faith confirmation it produces when delivered with sacred context, readers will not be surprised to learn about the growing popularity of an organization with a wonderfully Latin name: Pueri Cantores.
As its website states (www.puericantores.com), the American Federation Pueri Cantores was formed in 1953 to expand the efforts of the international organization to expose youthful choirs in Catholic parishes and schools in the United States to sacred music. In the latter part of the last century, as post Vatican II liturgical life was still being clarified, the movement was relatively dormant. However, in recent years it has enjoyed a renaissance.
Today the movement is growing, and understandably so. A choir’s membership in Pueri Cantores creates opportunities to sing in local, national and international settings. It is, as one might expect, an effective way of confirming a youngster’s faith while at the same time introducing him (and her because – its name notwithstanding – it is for both genders) to other singers from different cultures. Imagine the diversity of groups that will attend the Pueri Cantores International Congress at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington in July 2013! Or, imagine when the America Federation joins with its counterparts at St. Peters’s basilica in Rome! What an experience for committed 9 to 18 years olds!
To sing is to worship. It’s also to experience joy that comes with the advance of the Kingdom.