Let’s talk about singing. I like to sing. Some of the more perceptive of you may have noticed that I sing loud. I don’t always (or for that matter, usually) sing well. Nonetheless, I sing. And I enjoy it.
I hope you like to sing, too. As Americans we are generally not very good singers. When I was on sabbatical at the Catholic University of Belgium I was impressed with how the Belgians were so much more at ease with, and so much better at, singing than most Americans. The Belgians sang at the drop of a hat. They have a saying that the Belgians are born speaking three languages and singing in four parts. Unfortunately, just as we don’t speak any foreign languages, we don’t sing very much either.
Partly this is due to our educational system. While singing ability will surely make your life much richer, it won’t make you richer in terms of money, so therefore it is regarded as frivolous and of no account. That is too bad, since singing really does make life much fuller. My Mother told me toward the end of her life, when she had cancer in her cheek, the thing she missed most was singing. And I remember an elderly, tough, Scottish lady I brought Holy Communion to in New York. When she could hardly speak she could still sing songs of her youth with relish and gusto. Truly singing is a treasure.
Where do we get an opportunity to sing these days? Families don’t sing together except for 30 seconds at a birthday party. Maybe we croak out a carol or two around the Christmas tree once a year. Perhaps you croon in the shower when you think you won’t be heard. And certainly we do not sing at a baseball game, as most of us cannot hit the high notes in our national anthem. Singing in bars and pubs and at social meetings is just not done here as it is done in Europe or many other places in the world.
Let’s face it, the main chance most of us get to sing is at church. If you miss church one Sunday you may not get another chance to sing for the whole week. Church is your opportunity finally to open your mouth and belt out a song, and I encourage you to take full advantage of it. It is a wonderful way to pray. St. Augustine (not our St Augustine of Canterbury but the other one of Hippo) famously said that to sing is to pray twice. If you are out of practice and think you cannot sing, don’t let that stop you. I have it on very good authority that God is tone deaf. God will not be upset if you hit a couple of sour notes. If on the other hand God gave you a truly bad voice, then in all fairness you should plague God with it since He created you that way. Let Him suffer the consequences!
Of course, you can learn how to sing better, practice and improve. And the more you improve there is a very high likelihood that you will enjoy singing even more. It just so happens that this Monday & Tuesday, and then again the following Monday & Tuesday, we have a Singing School right here at St. Austin, “available to any adult in the parish who would like to improve their singing abilities.” The details are available elsewhere in the bulletin. I hope to see you there!