A Catholic perspective on the world and all the good things therein, especially books and food. Literature cum chocolate is the order of the day at The Crockery.

Location: A Collegetown, Undisclosed Location, United States

No longer a graduate student, Teresa is now a professional know-it-all.

Friday, November 25, 2005

Singing for your Supper

I can't sing very well, though I certainly wish that I could. My inability to sing means that I can't lead small groups of people in a capella music. Believe me, I've tried. There's many an Advent gathering that foundered because we had no musical instruments and not enough good singers to carry the Advent tunes I wanted to sing. And you can forget introducing a new piece of music to other people if you have trouble carrying a tune.

One of the reasons I wish I could sing well is that, if I have children someday, I'd like to be able to do what was traditionally called "Family worship." I don't mean that I want to make my children do the whole liturgy of the hours, but I'd like to have evening prayers. If you look at compilations of morning and evening prayer from different denominations, however, you'll see that many of them are designed with the assumption that the group will be singing. Probably this is because such books are designed for use in a church or school, rather than in the family, but I keep wondering if the makers of such books just assume that every family has a piano in their home and that they know how to use it.

Fortunately, John can sing quite well (all the more reason fans should adore him, I suppose) and I live in the hope that if we have children, they will inherit their voices from his side of the family. If so, I hope to teach them this alternate grace before meals:

Lord Jesus, be our holy guest,
our morning joy, our evening rest;
and with our daily bread impart
your love and peace to every heart. AMEN.
-from Daily Prayer

I don't know if anyone else in the world has tried to sing this prayer, but you can sing it quite easily to the "Old Hundreth," the tune from the "Doxology." If you aren't sure which tune that is, click here to listen.

I rather like the idea of singing one's grace. In spite -or perhaps because-
of the fact that I come from a family not noted for singing ability, singing as a means of family prayer strongly appeals to me. Many people find that music moves them to worship more easily than words alone. Though it's possible to get "stuck" on the beauty of a piece of music without really praying, it's also possible for the music to give wings to the words, so to speak, and carry the singer (and listeners) to a higher level of devotion. I acknowledge that the affective state brought about by the externals of devotion (music, candles, incense, artwork) is not necessary for prayer, and may not always indicate one's true state of mind. As a Christian with a sacramental worldview, however, I also think that these externals can be powerful tools.

Catholic families are noted for using the "devotional tools" of artwork in their homes. You can usually tell a Catholic home by the crucifex on the walls, or the statuary in the yard. But how many such families sing together, I wonder? Perhaps it's more common than I know, but I wonder if singing at home is something we've neglected.

If so, I suggest that a way to reclaim family singing is to begin singing grace. You don't have to sing the prayer I've quoted above. You can also use the Doxology itself. It has the advantage of being known by heart by most Christians (Catholic or Protestant), and the tune isn't difficult. If you wish to continue use of your preferred grace before meals, try singing the Doxology as an after-meals prayer. (You don't have to hold hands if you don't want to.) Don't worry about sounding bad. Trust me, you can't sound much worse than I did when I tried my new "sung grace" out. You also don't have to wait until you have a large gathering of people to try singing. Two people can sing together, too.

I have not tried singing grace as a regular habit yet, but I predict that it can do two things: 1) make the prayer more meaningful and uplifting. 2) grant more dignity to mealtimes. This second issue is one near and dear to my heart, or at least to my blog. Expect future updates on how to make meal time sacred time. In the meantime, don't be afraid to sing for your supper.


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