St Cecilia, whose feast we celebrate today, is almost always portrayed with a musical instrument in her hands. Sometimes it is a viola or a flute; at other times she is seated at an organ, all because she is said to have heard beautiful music when she was forced to marry a pagan. Amazing really. From a simple incident without a firm historical foundation, Cecilia is honored as the patron of liturgical music. Clearly, it is not Cecilia's demonstrated holiness that keeps her memory alive, although I have no doubt she was deeply committed to God, but the power of music that fills us with hope and joy, and helps deepen the faith that is the ground of our lives.
When I was a boy there was a wonderful choir in my home parish, and although as a child I did not always appreciate the beautiful music they made, my spirit remembers the pride of the adults who who sang in the choir and the joy of those who listened. At Christmas, our choir's ministry was even richer since the men's and women's choirs combined at Midnight mass and at the principal mass of Christmas morning. Our devoted choir was a sign that our parish was committed to God and was willing to sacrifice many hours of practice to help lift our hearts through music and song.
Perhaps Henry David Thoreau said it best. "When I hear music, I fear no danger. I am invulnerable. I see no foe. I am related to the earliest times, and to the latest." Music not only reminds us how important our bodies and senses are in an incarnational spirituality, it helps us to express a love that is beyond words.
Today, take a moment to celebrate all those music ministers who remind us with St Augustine that we pray twice when we sing.