22nd November is the feast day of one of the most venerated martyrs of Christian antiquity, St Cecilia. Patroness of church music, she was celebrated as far back as the fourth century.
For her feast day this year, Joe Wells, a member of the Catholic band One Hope Project and leader of the Youth Ministry's Music Scholarship has written about the importance of music in our prayer and praise of God.
Music has a beautiful way of provoking a thought or memory in us. Listening to one of our favourite pieces of music, for example, has a mystical way of transporting us to a particular emotion or memory and when it is written and performed with Christ as the centre, it helps us to engage with God in a deeper way.
Hymns and worship music can literally bring us into the presence of God. As it says in Scripture: Yet you, the Holy One, who make your home in the praises of Israel, in you our ancestors put their trust, they trusted and you set them free (Psalm 22: 3-4)
Being in the presence of the Lord in this way can have different elements to it. Firstly, it can remind us again of who God is; the Lord of all things, who has us and the whole world in his loving hands. It also reminds us of who we are, that although sinners, through the mercy of God we are made right as his children, loved wholeheartedly. Finally, worship music can have a prayerful effect on the world around us. Our worship and prayer is a place where heaven meets earth and where God’s kingdom is breaking through; ‘Thy Kingdom Come’.
The Church and our beautiful world needs musicians and songwriters. We are in relationship with the Lord, the most creative being in the universe and when we are creative, we echo him. When we hear pieces of music or sing a hymn, we can encounter God in new and different ways, so my encouragement to all creatives, musicians and songwriters is: keep creating. Your art can help us all come to know the unconditional love of God.
We ask St Cecilia to pray for us and all who are involved in bringing music to the Church.