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A message from the bishop

Music in Church lifts our hearts, voices to God 
(June 2015)
 
My dear friends,
 
Music is a way for God to lead us to contemplate higher
things. It’s no wonder that singing together in church
expresses so well the sacramental presence of God to
his people. Our pastoral musicians and members of
our choirs use their gifts of music and song for the glory of God and the strengthening of faith of God’s holy people. I want to thank them for helping our brothers and sisters sing a joyful song to the Lord.
 
We don’t have music at liturgies for performance’s sake; high-quality music is meant to express prayer, lifting our minds and hearts to God. We don’t do it for accolades. However, it’s very interesting that after so many
of the confirmation Masses we celebrate at the Cathedral of Saint Andrew, with visitors from across the diocese, there is usually a spontaneous applause after the concluding hymn. No one has called for it—it just happens. While music is not always a part of the celebration of Mass, in many cases, without it, Mass wouldn’t be the same.
 
We see a similar dynamic at sporting events. If you can get the crowd in the game, it fires up the athletes. If you engage the assembly in a deeper way during Mass, it raises everyone’s spirit. Whether you’re proclaiming readings or leading everyone in prayer as the celebrant, it helps make the Mass a more profound experience. Some of the most memorable Masses I have celebrated were during my 20 years in seminary ministry. It’s extraordinary to hear, on a regular basis, all those male voices singing
together strongly and with great feeling and enthusiasm.
 
There is no doubt of the need for ongoing liturgical formation, not only for Catholics in our gathered assemblies at Mass, but especially for those who are engaged in the various aspects of the liturgical
apostolate. That includes musicians, singers and especially our dedicated volunteers. Cantors, choir
members, instrumentalists, as well as our clergy, are to be commended for their many hours of practice.

I’m very happy that the National Association of Pastoral Musicians (N.P.M.) has selected Grand Rapids for their annual meeting July 6-10. N.P.M. is the professional organization for Catholic diocesan music ministers. It is an important opportunity for pastoral musicians to participate in liturgical formation with their peers from throughout the United States. Moreover, N.P.M. is a member of the Alliance for Certification of Lay Ecclesial Ministers which demonstrates the interconnectedness of music within
the pastoral life of the Church and the professional standards to which lay ecclesial ministry adheres.
 
On a different note, summer vacation has arrived. While I hope that during the next couple of months people are able to do many enjoyable things with their families, let’s make sure that the summer isn’t a spiritual “winter.” The vocation to love God and neighbor continues, whether we have leaves on the trees or not. It’s important to stick with the basics! Daily prayer reminds us that God is an important person in our lives. Going to Mass on Sunday keeps us connected to our family of faith as together we praise God and receive Jesus, the Bread of Life. While traveling visit www.masstimes.org and you can find a Mass just about anywhere you are.
 
I also encourage families to go to confession once during the summer. Each season has its joys and its challenges for Christian living; put yourself in touch with God’s Divine Mercy. Pope Francis has declared a Jubilee Year of Mercy, from Dec. 8, 2015, the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, to the Solemnity of Christ the King on Nov. 20, 2016. One of the surest ways for Catholics to place themselves in the path of God’s mercy and compassion is to encounter the risen Christ and the forgiveness of sins in the sacrament of reconciliation. Finally, try to do an unselfish and generous thing for someone at least once a day this summer. Do a chore around the house that you normally wouldn’t do or call someone who has been on your mind. If you want to be happy, make someone else happy.
 
May the morning sun stir you from the bed. May summer heat inflame your zeal. May God Almighty be always at your side May he who is our Creator always be your guide. (Adapted from Summer Blessing by the Christian Brothers)
 
Sincerely yours in the Lord,
Most Reverend David J. Walkowiak