I need help in trying to understand what place hymns have within our Catholic liturgy. I realize that prayers take on many different and myriad forms. And, I understand that hymns offer us a truly significant way of lifting up our hearts and minds to God. And, finally, I totally agree that the church is comprised of all of the faithful. Thus when all of the faithful, in one voice, sing praise to God, the Church is glorifying God the best way it can. Ok, so what is my problem?

The problem that I have is I fear that with so much emphasis on praying and singing together as a community, the individual’s needs are being trampled on. We sing at the beginning of Mass, which I believe is totally appropriate. The community rejoices aloud for that which is about to take place. We sing our responses to psalms, which is exactly how the psalms were intended to be prayed. The Gloria, the Holy, Holy, Holy and the Great Amen are all occasions of joy and should be sung with gusto and enthusiasm. Even the closing hymn, the community rejoices over what has just happened and prepares each other to go out and bring Christ into the world. All of these occasions are not only acceptable venues for song, but probably even demand that they be sung.

BUT… when I receive Communion, I, the individual, need private time with my Savior. I need my refuge, my time of peace and quiet to express my love, to hear Jesus whisper His love to me. Yes, I am part of a community, but I am an individual also. My participation in this community does not cause me to lose my identity. No, on the contrary, my being a member of this community magnifies my need to be a vibrant, vital cell of this Living Body. My growth in Jesus, my love for the Beloved must continually increase. There are many opportunities for this growth in Jesus, to be sure. But isn’t it most logical that at that most intimate time when Jesus and you are truly one sacramentally, you and He can truly commune? You and He can have the opportunity to speak to each other’s heart? That intimacy cannot be accomplished if we are required to sing words from a hymnal. At that crucial, intimate time we sing words that really don’t reflect our thoughts. We are unable to express our own personal thoughts.

In our desire to express our love and unity for each member of the community, we cannot sacrifice the need for the mystical, as well. We want the Church to be dynamic, and purposeful. We want it to be relevant in today’s world. How is this to be accomplished, if we deprive each member of the community from establishing a meaningful relationship with their Savior?

We might argue that singing and joy is a natural outgrowth of having just received Holy Communion. And that argument would be totally correct. But, if singing at Communion must be done, then let it happen after everyone has had the chance to speak privately with their Lord and Savior. Isn’t it more logical to clap your hands and shout for joy because Jesus has already come to you? After you have been nourished with the Bread of Life, after you have once again expressed your love and re-dedication to the Lord of Life, then it is time to sing. Now, as an individual, having been nourished, it is time for singing and an expression of joy. A chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Each link needs the climate, the time and the opportunity to grow.

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