Singers Today, Catholics Tomorrow
So many Catholic mothers today weep over a child gone astray in our poor world! When the prodigal son hastened home, it was because of the thought of the incomparable joy he had once known in his father’s home. Parents have a very simple means of developing and fostering this joy in their children: song. Education is above all a respiration, and song spreads the perfume of good humor that is so conducive to physical and moral health, it helps to awaken the intelligence, removes the danger of vice and corruption, and contributes to the flowering of virtue. And it is so natural an inclination for human beings that they can scarcely refuse to quench their thirst with it. What will our children sing later on, when their heart fills with enthusiasm, if no one forms them with beautiful music? They will take pleasure in modern songs, those influential agents of moral depravation. Yes, song is powerful over the heart of man, for the bad or for the good. And we might add that it stimulates the capacity to listen, which can spare a child many difficulties in school; plus, the study of rhythm influences the order of the brain, developing logic and the capacity to reason.
Music and Music
How to go about it concretely? By listening to beautiful pieces of music or songs, we form our children’s ear; prefer baroque music (Vivaldi, Bach, Handel, etc.) or classical music (Haydn, Mozart, etc.) and folk songs. The harmony of the sounds should elevate the sentiments and not excite them; romantic music that is more passionate is to be used sparingly. We must obviously keep the doors of our homes resolutely closed to diabolical music such as rock music that too many young Catholics enjoy listening or dancing to, because of their parents. Yes, we must know how to give our children their fill of beauty, and later on ugliness will disgust them. Parents should play a CD sometimes in the car or on Sundays and feast days in the living room. And they should be the first to sing; fathers can sing for their children a good old folk song or Catholic song, with a tone and gestures that will captivate their audience; when putting the little ones to bed, mothers can reward them for a day well spent by singing them a hymn or lullaby.
In All Circumstances
Little ones will quickly learn the children’s songs that the whole family sings for them with the appropriate gestures and dances (“Here we go Looby Loo”). As they grow, they will join their voices to those of their parents in the car, while doing dishes, and during evenings spent together as a family. It is good to sing rounds; they are easy and teach children to hold their voices without being thrown off by the others. Thus, song becomes a pastime and banishes boredom. But that is not all, like we said: we should also use it in difficult, more tense moments (“No matter what, I always go on smiling…”). How many conflicts are calmed, how many disputes between brothers and sisters can be dissipated by singing together: there is nothing like a song for creating a common spirit. We can sing while working to keep the atmosphere joyful, or on walks to encourage the little ones (“Row, row, row that boat”). Holidays should be full of song; before opening their presents, the little ones can process to the nativity scene in the living room to sing a hymn to the Child Jesus. And it is often a simple way of pleasing others. It is good to prepare a song for a visit to the grandparents, for a family party, a wedding anniversary, and why not with adapted lyrics composed by the older children. Older children should be encouraged to participate in the school choir where they will learn a healthy control of their breathing and voices along with a priceless collection of polyphony pieces.
Lastly and above all, we must not isolate this need for song and this joy found in singing from the spiritual lives of our children: we can sing at night prayers, sing the Gloria Patri’s in the rosary, and grace before and after meals, and we should love to participate in the sung Mass on Sunday. Singing is praying twice, with one’s body and soul. And as the dispositions of the body help those of the soul, song makes prayer more ardent and more fervent: see how abundantly the liturgy uses chant.
“Singing belongs to one who loves,” says St. Augustine. Where there is love, there is joy, and joy is the mother of song. For the Church, song is a need, it is the expression of her love. Let us foster this need in our children, and the day will come when they will be constantly singing deep down in their souls the interior song we call thanksgiving.