Music Liturgy

As Sisters of Mercy one of the main works in our lives is to praise and glorify God our Creator.

Ven. Catherine McAuley was blessed with a joyous and happy spirit which sustained her in all her trials. Her whole life was a song of praise, and ‘Mercy’ was her song. We could apply the words of St. Ephraim to her, “I am a song God is singing”.

The Liturgy is the Centre of our lives and we express this mainly through the Eucharist, and the singing and reciting of Psalms and Canticles from the Divine Office.

The Psalms are the sacred songs of Israel and of the Christian Church. Chanting, singing and playing musical instruments enhance prayer, as the combination of melody and lyric move the heart and mind. Music may also be incorporated into communal prayer through the use of opening and closing songs, reflective songs and meditative music.

In Christian thought, the involvement of the senses in worship has a high priority. Creation of a sacred space in which the Community may gather assists the act of worship. Attention to environment and ambience enriches and focuses our prayer. Incorporation of Liturgical symbols such as water, light, incense and music brings together the transcendent aspects of worship. Catherine McAuley portrayed many qualities and gifts to her Sisters – among them she gave an appreciation for music, beauty and the finer things of life.

The Church’s Constitution of the Sacred Liturgy states “the Liturgy is the summit towards which the activity of the Church is directed: it is also the fount from which all her power flows”. (Sacrosanctum Concilium). The Liturgy is an act in which we give worship to God: it is also a time when God comes close to us and helps us to grow.

When we join with the People of God at Sunday Liturgies in our Parish Churches we try to take an active part ourselves and encourage others to do the same. Some of our Sisters have studied liturgy and are thus able to make a bigger contribution whilst others may be able to bring their skills of having the ability to play a musical instrument or sing. Still more have skills of flower arranging and other creative skills to enhance the celebration.

It is a responsibility and a privilege to choose music for people to sing; a privilege to unite voices in praise; a responsibility to find texts and songs that express the mystery we celebrate.

A constant theme of the Gospels is God’s justice, the reign of the Kingdom and the needs of our world. Singing, better articulates Acclamation, Affirmation and Assent. Music helps to unify as we sing with one voice. If the text and music are chosen well it can help those who are worshipping to express their faith and reflect on the mystery in which they are participating. Another reason that music is important to Liturgy is that music creates memories and associations. We can remember and connect with events and times of our lives through music. When teaching Liturgy we need to ask ourselves

  • Is the music and text good?
  • Is it appropriate for the occasion and
  • Is it right for this community?

We need to know not only about music and liturgy, but about our community also. The Jewish and Christian tradition confirms that the Psalms are closely connected with music. To understand many of the Psalms fully, it helps greatly to sing them and when possible, to have instrumental accompaniment. As far as possible hymns should also be sung in Community Celebrations as their nature demands. As Sisters of Mercy and wherever we find ourselves, we try to gather small groups together to study the Word of God, to sing, play music and as fully as possible, to praise God ourselves and draw others into this praise.

“Let the message of Christ, in all its richness, find a home with you. Teach each other, and advise each other in all wisdom. With gratitude in your hearts sing Psalms, Hymns and inspired songs to God”
(Col. 3:16 Eph. 5:19-20)

Many Sisters are engaged in music ministry within their community and especially in their local parish churches where they either lead or support the people in singing their praise to God. Some are organists, some play guitar or other musical instruments. Others help to plan services, arrange flowers, or provide beautiful, aesthetic settings for prayer.