Wednesday, April 11, 2012

Music and the New Evangelization

For normal spiritual reading, I usually take up the work of a saint or some serious theology. But when I'm on retreat, having just a few days to become reinvigorated, I reach for C.S. Lewis. Perelandra is my favorite (Lewis said it was worth 20 Screwtapes) but there are others that I find just as helpful, including The Great Divorce and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

More than any other author, Lewis fuels my Christian imagination.

The rational arguments of the doctors and apologists are wonderful. They can bolster faith and do away with doubts. But, for me at least, they cannot reframe my world, and, in my opinion, reframing the world for believers must be goal of the new evangelization. And it will not be a hard sell. One senses a world-weariness, an information overload. People are looking for meaning, something more, something new--and Catholicism has this to offer.

The Second Vatican Council teaches that music is the most important liturgical art because it is wedded to the words of the liturgy. This is true, and words do become more alive, more urgent and delightful, when set to music. And yet it is also true that music is one of the liturgical arts that can penetrate the imagination to the point of restoring hope to a weary world. Music stirs the emotions, potentially making believers more committed and courageous. It aids that most precious gift of recollected silence. It can provide a sense of unity and coherence with past ages and with all the other believers in the universal Church. It is this kind of coherence that people long for in our age, and try to find in the most inadequate places. The Church has in itself truth and unity and concord, and music can help express this and make it attractive.