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Father William Dotson practiced a Communion hymn, “Racimo y Trigal,” in the rectory at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in St. Charles April 16. Father Dotson’s music accompanies his recorded Masses that are streamed for parishioners. See the videos at www.facebook.com/Borromeo1791/videos.
Father William Dotson practiced a Communion hymn, “Racimo y Trigal,” in the rectory at St. Charles Borromeo Parish in St. Charles April 16. Father Dotson’s music accompanies his recorded Masses that are streamed for parishioners. See the videos at www.facebook.com/Borromeo1791/videos.
Photo Credit: Lisa Johnston

Music adds to inspiration at parishes’ online Masses

Music director says aim is to help people move closer to God

Liturgical music not only is a means of active participation, but it is another source of beauty that can lift hearts and inspire worship.

That reality inspired many parishes to include music in Masses livestreamed for parishioners.

Marc Strathman, music director at Mary Queen of Peace Parish in Webster Groves, said “it’s important for the congregation to still have that opportunity (to sing) whether they’re there or not.”

It’s difficult for him not knowing if people are participating by singing at home, but “hopefully I’m helping the people move closer to God,” he said.

Masses at Mary Queen of Peace Church are livestreamed on Facebook at 9 a.m. on Sundays and at 10:30 a.m. on Wednesdays. That day is the regular weekly Mass that is celebrated for schoolchildren.

“I feel honored and blessed to be able to do it,” Strathman said. “But leading music to an empty church was very difficult and emotional.”

Strathman, who has been in music ministry for more than 20 years and at Mary Queen of Peace since 2015, appreciates the comments people make about the music on Facebook (facebook.com/mqpwg).

Father John Vien, pastor of Mary Queen of Peace Parish, said music “takes us to a different place to raise our minds to God. People want to do that at home. We sing ‘Happy Birthday’ at home, I don’t know why we wouldn’t want to sing at Mass.”

The music and homilies at Sunday Mass connect with people’s faith and are something they retain the rest of the week, he noted. “Music speaks to people in a way words can’t. Music really does unite us,” he said.

The idea for having a children’s Mass livestreamed came from a parishioner and helps children connect with their faith, Father Vien said. “Our (school) children were used to going to Mass on Wednesdays, so we thought why not do that and keep some consistency in their schedule,” he said, adding that other children join, too.

Lifting spirits

St. Cecilia Parish in St. Louis has music at all of the Sunday Masses and most of the weekday Masses. St. Cecilia has livestreamed Mass in English at 9 a.m. and in Spanish at 11 a.m. on Sundays. Weekday Masses are in Spanish, with the schedule posted at www.facebook.com/stceciliaparish.

The parish generally has music at a livestreamed Holy Hour with exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.

“We’re trying to help people lift up their spirits, their hearts, to our Lord and help them experience some comfort in these trying times,” said Father Timothy Noelker, parochial administrator.

The music is primarily organ and voice with hymns and Gregorian chant, Father Noelker said. The music director is Carlos Flores Ramirez.

Music is important, Father Noelker said, pointing out that St. Augustine said that “He who sings prays twice.” The organ “helps accompany our voices, inspires and lift our thoughts, minds and hearts heavenward. We’re trying to do the best we can do, allowing our Lord to give His inspiration and comfort and continue to accompany the people,” Father Noelker said.

Father William Dotson, pastor of St. Charles Borromeo Parish in St. Charles, plays guitar, so he records the music in order to “make it feel more like Mass as people are used to it.”

He said recording the Masses allows for adding music and extra editing such as adding the words to a spiritual communion prayer during Communion.

Masses at St. Charles Borromeo Parish are available at www.facebook.com/Borromeo1791 or http://bit.ly/youtubescb. The Masses are celebrated in English weekdays without music and in Spanish and English on Sundays with the music added.

Father John Paul Hopping, associate pastor, who is calling to check on families with students in the Parish School of Religion, received much positive feedback on the availability of the Masses and of the music. Father Dotson said there are plenty of sites with recorded and livestreamed Masses, but people appreciate having Mass available online at their parish and with their priests.

While the availability of Mass online is good, Father Dotson said, “being able to gather for Mass on Sunday is powerful and important. It’s not something to take lightly. Once we can gather for Mass on Sunday, we can do it more deliberately. We’ll see it as more meaningful because we see what it’s like to not have it.”

Father Dotson also is connecting with people with an online Bible study, a drive-up eucharistic adoration on the parking lot that ensured social distancing and more.

>> Sacred music

The Catechism of the Catholic Church (no. 1156) addresses the importance of music in the liturgy:

“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as a combination of sacred music and words, it forms a necessary or integral part of solemn liturgy” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, no. 112). The composition and singing of inspired psalms, often accompanied by musical instruments, were already closely linked to the liturgical celebrations of the Old Covenant. The Church continues and develops this tradition: ‘Address … one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody to the Lord with all your heart.’ ‘He who sings prays twice’ (Ephesians 5:19; St. Augustine, Expositions on the Psalms 72,1:PL 36,914; Colossians 3:16).

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