“Qui bene cantat bis orat”, one of my favourite quotes, is greatly attributed to Saint Augustine of Hippo whose feast we celebrate today. This Latin phrase when literally translated to English means “He who sings well prays twice”.
A catholic forum also published the un-abridged version of this: “For he that singeth praise, not only praiseth, but only praiseth with gladness: he that singeth praise, not only singeth, but also loveth him of whom he singeth. In praise, there is the speaking forth of one confessing; in singing, the affection of one loving.” (St. Augustine, Commentary on Psalm 73, 1)
As a child who loves to sing, I have always believed in this dictum. I love to sing my praises. And I, somehow, feel closer to God when I sing my prayers instead of just saying them.
As early as 12-years-old, I became a member of the church choir. The group was composed of young boys and girls whose dedication to singing was evident in their commitment to attending the practice every Saturday — rain or shine … unmindful of the tedious walks, long sessions, and the simple merienda of nilagang saging (boiled banana). Our choir master was very skilful in bringing out the best in these young voices that the singing in the Sunday morning mass always turned out to be outstanding.
I loved singing with the group, and I loved it most when one day, I was given a solo part. I remember being so nervous that Sunday morning that I refused to eat and talk to anybody. I vowed to give it nothing less than my best… and, as our choir master gave me a quiet thumbs-up after my part, I knew I did well! At a tender age of thirteen, I felt the joy and gratification brought in by not simply singing my praises, but singing them from the heart.
Growing up, I had to leave the church choir as I have to move to Manila for my university studies … but I made it a point to sing my praises whenever I can, whenever possible.
The movie “Sister Act” made a lasting impression on me. Not only because of the outstanding performance of legendary Hollywood actress Whoopi Goldberg, but more so because it presented how music can bring people back to the church, and even reunite a community that ceased to exist due to the lure of modern life. Some of the traditional and conservative members of the church may have categorized this movie as profane and sacrilegious because it diverts from the conventional way of praising — the solemn and almost inaudible utterances read from the book of customary prayers voiced for centuries — but let’s be honest … what works for the modern world is the always the unconventional.
“Songs are prayers wrapped in wonderful melodies,” this is how a good friend of mine puts it and I completely agree with him. The melodious sound when sung sincerely and beautifully, to me, is a more powerful prayer than parroted litanies of the rosary uttered again, and again, and again.
Call me finicky, fastidious, or fussy … but I am not embarrassed to say that I only go to a church that has a good choir. For me, a good choir is an aid to a more meaningful service or mass. Of course, how the priest delivers the homily is another one of my criteria in choosing a place of worship to go to, although I tend to compromise on that aspect because I believe that if I intently listen to the gospel, I can relate to it in my own way. The Lord speaks to us beautifully through the gospel, why can’t we pray the same way to Him … by sincerely giving thanksgiving and praise though the beautiful melodies of the songs.
***All images are borrowed from the net.