Religious music is wonderful for reinforcing our understanding of our Faith and excellent for building our Catholic cultures, but not all religious music is appropriate for use during the Mass. Just up front I want to let my readers know that: I am totally in favor of singing the mass as the norm rather than speaking it; I am completely in love with the high quality older music that has survived the test of time; I believe the choir should be in the loft or at least well out of the line of sight of the congregation because it is MASS and not a concert; I believe firmly that the congregation should sing when the rubrics call for their participation; I believe that a congregation should only introduce new music when the quality of that music is very very very high, singable, and the words accurately express orthodox Catholic teaching; finally I am against any music that lacks any of the above qualities. What is more, I am really into Church Music, so much so that at one point in my life I belonged to three choirs full time and two others when needed. That is a lot of singing and every single one of those choirs either specialized in church music (four) or included sacred music (one).
That said, here are several excellent articles by persons whose expertise is far beyond mine. I hope you enjoy them!
Sacred Music and Religious Music, A Distinction
To follow up, I love hymns and carols and religious music. A lot of it isn’t right for use during a Mass, but then, I am a firm believer in social events at Church that include music. Whenever possible, youth groups should sing, prayer groups should sing, Children’s Catholic Studies groups should sing, the Catholic schools should have choirs, Church choirs should learn more music than just what is needed for the Mass, and there should be Jam sessions for the casual musicians of the congregation. All these groups should gather to learn wonderful religious music to sing for people in nursing homes and at Church socials. In these venues, there is a lot of leeway for wonderful music that does not belong in the Mass.
Further, music with theologically sound lyrics is priceless in the teaching of the Faith to children. When the music children is taught is banal and lacking in quality of tune and content of lyric, the children’s faith will not be deepened by it and may even be eroded. I learned the basics of correct theology long before I was capable of understanding it when I memorized good hymns as a child.
Dear Lord, thank You for the wealth of music that has come down to us through the Church. Thank You for carols that enrich our celebration of Christmas with caroling and singing with family members. Thank You for the Sacred music that enriches our participation in the Mass. Thank You especially, for the songs that were part of how I learned basic theology correctly as a child. Amen.