Hey, everybody: I think you should be singing at church. Out loud. Even if you think you can’t sing.
Why? Tons of reasons!
- You like to sing. Admit it: when your favorite song comes on at a party or in your car, you sing along. Of course you do! Singing is fun, and it enhances otherwise normal moments into something more. Human cultures in every time and place have sung songs of joy and sadness to commemorate special events, or simply to bring a little sunshine into a humdrum task. Singing is part of what makes us human, and we should embrace it.
- Singing is praying twice. We offer lots of spoken prayers at Mass as a community, and those are vital and beautiful and good. But it’s important to recognize that the songs within Mass are part of the prayer. They’re not optional entertainment to enjoy while the priest is busy walking around. The hymns are an offering to God, using our bodies and voices to worship him in a different way from spoken or mental prayer. God loves beauty and beautiful song—let’s give it to Him.
- It unites the congregation, turning us from an audience of individuals into a family of participants. Mass isn’t something we watch passively—it’s something we participate in actively. Singing makes us feel like we’re all a part of the action, and we’re in it together. The cantor isn’t performing for admiration from an audience; he or she is leading the congregation to sing in unison, to offer our worship and praise to God together as a community.
- The more people sing, the more other people will feel free to join in. The more voices, the less any one individual voice will be heard—so people who are self-conscious about their singing voice may actually start to participate if there are enough others doing so already. Sometimes peer pressure can be used for good!
- Not singing says, “I’m here, but really I’m too cool for this.” I think most people who keep their mouths closed during the hymns do so because they think other people will sneer at them. Singing is for the little old ladies who warble along, and the people who are, like, embarrassingly into God and stuff. But come on. Don’t get a case of arrested development in your spiritual life and stay a sullen teenager at Mass—lean in. You’re there already, so you clearly think God deserves your time and respect. Act like it. Participate. Sing along.
Can’t carry a tune? I don’t care. Sing softly, trying to blend in with people around you. I am certainly not advising anyone, good or bad singers, to shout at the top of your lungs! But in general, even people who can’t carry a pitch can contribute to the song. One of my college roommates couldn’t carry a note in a bucket, but she sang (modestly, softly, unpretentiously, but earnestly and honestly) every song at Mass. I was always so impressed by that. God gave you the voice you have—He will love hearing it back from you.
If you don’t know the words, use the hymnal! That’s what it’s there for.
This Sunday, think about it. Are you singing? If not, why not? Are you held back by what others might think—and how does that compare with what God deserves? Try joining in a few songs. It might feel scary at first if the people around you don’t sing much, but I bet you’ll come to like it.
As they say in the basilica at Notre Dame: join in with full heart and voice.