Why Chant is Good for Children

From the perspective of a father, Tim O’Malley of Notre Dame writes about the importance of chant in the liturgical life of children.

My son, despite his natural religious imagination, gets bored. Very bored. He wants to leave half-way through Mass, because there is no movement. There is no music. Only the naked human voice reading and reading and reading.

Last Sunday, we went to the Melkite Liturgy on campus. The entire liturgy, as anyone knows who has attended Eastern liturgies, is sung. Despite our son’s lack of familiarity with the words on the page, he hummed along the entire time (sometimes even during the Eucharistic Prayer). With his slight speech delay, with his limited grasp of understanding of English, the chant allowed him to participate in the Eucharistic sacrifice in a way that he rarely experiences.

Not once did he ask to leave.

Not once was he bored (though he did perform frequent prostrations and crossing of himself).

More here.

Once I visited the cathedral in Lisieux, St. Therese’s home parish, with a particular view to understanding how her young imagination was filled with thoughts of heaven. Images, in particular, abounded. Everywhere you looked there was a saint: on the walls, on the altars, carved into the flooring. A smiling Blessed Mother gazed down from the Marian altar.

Appealing to a child’s mind, so receptive to truth, is easy. We have an app for that. It’s called authentic liturgy. 

One Reply to “Why Chant is Good for Children”

  1. I can endorse that. I was taken, as a very small child in the 1950s, to the parish Missa Cantata every Sunday and was fascinated by it. My earliest musical memories are Missa de Angelis and Credo III and my favourite piece was Webbe's 'Vidi Aquam' – the plainchant version was too difficult for both choir and congregation. Sixty years later I can still hear it in my head.

    These days they try to engage children with the Mass by having it in school and trying to involve as many of them as possible in composing little prayers and coming up front to recite them; by singing songs they have learned in RE, usually accompanied on guitar and keyboard by enthusiastic teachers who probably do the same stuff at 'adult' parish masses, and by simplifying the liturgy. Are we missing something?

    Not long ago, as an experiment, I taught a class of 10-year-olds to sing the Kyrie from Mass XI. It took barely ten minutes, and when told the melody was over a thousand years old and the words were in Greek, they thought it 'well cool'.

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