Witnessing to the faith in music

March 13, 2018

On weekend mornings, the first thing I would hear would be music. It was the alarm from my parents to wake me up. Being raised in a Latino household meant there was always music. In school, before sports, on the bus, walking, and anytime I had the chance, music was played.

The American culture is filled with music: in malls, elevators, movies, commercials and sports events. This year’s Super Bowl half-time musical performance was watched more than the game itself.

Music is always there making our heads move, our hearts skip a beat and bringing back memories. Militaries march to music. Work is done faster to it. Mental health patients are calmed by it. Even our national pride is heightened by it playing. It is a part of the American culture.

At Creation, there is music. Chaos, nothingness, darkness and then a melody bringing order! What a sight to see and hear. All through the Scriptures we find music and even instruments (see: Leviticus 25:9; Revelation 5:8) being used to help worship and praise God!

Webster’s Dictionary defines music as “art of ordering tones or sounds in succession…” It is “ordered” sound. God brings order out of chaos. Music is bringing order out of noise. With this in mind, it is simple to state that music is good, and can be used to help evangelize the American culture.

There are many points in the Vatican II documents to draw from in terms of evangelization. Guadem et Spes, Paragraph 2 says: “There are many ties between the message of salvation and human culture. For God, revealing Himself to His people to the extent of a full manifestation of Himself in His Incarnate Son, has spoken according to the culture proper to each epoch.”

Jesus, the Apostles, St. Paul and all Christians through time have used culture to evangelize. By now it should not be a question whether we should use music in evangelization. However, there is more to consider.

Teens, young adults, both inside and outside the church, are heavily influenced by pop culture. Why is this important? The music that is in pop culture is not always accepted and taken seriously as a form of music, like classical or country. The “accepted” types of music tend to have odd time signatures.

On the other hand, pop music repeats and loops. The “accepted” forms of music are mainly about the melody and harmony, while pop music is about the rhythm and bass.

I’ve heard some argue that pop music “isn’t music.” I refer those to the definition provided earlier. Some people state it “lacks creativity” since there aren’t big changes in the song progression. I would argue there is more to pop music. It seems to be “more organized” and stays in a steadier progression.

Those who are against pop music can sometimes form a mindset because they may not be used to this type of music. In its deepest essence, evangelization is about God meeting man where man is at. Evangelization done in the Church should always be that. Evangelization is fruitful when man responds to God.

It is through venues like movies, music and social media where we can meet the Young Church where they are. We are called to enter into their world, and to better understand it, even if we are uncomfortable. We must try to understand the world of our young people, and by doing so, we can better understand them.

As we evangelize, let us use all forms of music to reach out to our young people. It is through this process that we can reach out to them, gain their trust, and accompany them to the Lord.

St. Cecilia, patroness of music, pray for our young people! 

Alex Gotay is the director of parish formation and evangelization at Christ the Good Shepherd Catholic Church in Spring.