Do Teens Actually Want Sacred Music? You Betcha!

Last year at a diocesan youth rally, I was blessed to able to direct a schola of about 15 young people as we sang the Graduale Simplex chants by Fr. Weber, a few traditional hymns, and the Jubilate Deo ordinary (our bare minimum of repertoire as Catholics), as well as one or two authentic Gregorian chants, as an organist friend of mine accompanied things on an electronic organ I brought with me (instead of a piano). All of them sung beautifully, and the celebrant also chanted all of his parts, making it a fully sung Mass.
But the most fascinating thing came afterward, when the event evaluation forms came in from both the youth and the youth ministers that accompanied the youth. Many of the adults and youth ministers (particularly the older ones) said that they didn’t think the youth were ready for the sacred music and that because of this, we should go back to guitars the next year.

On the other hand, out of all 350 teens, none of them wrote anything negative about the Mass or it’s music on their eval forms. NONE of them, out of 350 teens. The contrast between the adults’ preferences and those of teens could not be sharper.

Now before you get the wrong image of who they were, this was not a Juventutem meeting. It was not a hall full of traditional, homeschooled teens. These were 350 average teens from all around the diocese. Very typical of teens in your confirmation programs all around the US. For lack of better words, very average.

When they filled out their evaluation forms for the weekend, they asked for more Latin, more chant, and said they can’t wait for next year so they van experience the same thing. Some even said that it was the most beautiful Mass they had been to in a long time. But the best thing? One favorite parts for many of the teens was the sacred silence. Not the (extra-liturgical) praise and worship sessions that were held during the weekend, not even the swimming, water slides, or the speakers, but the silence at the Mass and at the evening of almost three hours of adoration during which almost everyone received the sacrament of confession.

From every measure I can see, it’s not that the youth weren’t ready to receive the music proper to their rite, it’s the adults weren’t ready to hear it themselves, and were projecting their view of the world on the teens.

Next time you hear someone say that youth don’t want sacred music or beauty, or if you say it yourself, think twice. So again I ask: do teens actually want sacred music? You betcha.