Our Church is steeped in a tradition of song, from monastic to choral to contemporary expression of sung prayer and Scripture. From the songs of Zion, to the Epistles of Paul, to the plethora of hymnals available today, we share in a constantly emerging tradition of music. The Second Vatican Council brought about a significant explosion of new kinds of music, most centering on the singing assembly as the primary instrument of song. In the last thirty years, children’s music has taken on many forms. On the heels of the Council, Omer Westendorf brought us a publication that might arguably be the first national Catholic hymnal for the United States: The People’s Mass Book (World Library Publications, 1970).
As we began to forge out our pilgrim journey, there was an explosion of music with accessible melodies, from the guitar and folk songs of Ray Repp, Neal Blunt, and others to the contemporary choral music of Lucien Deiss, C.S.Sp. Perhaps the most significant movement forward for this idiom came from the St. Louis Jesuits, who introduced the notion of prayerful scriptural ensemble interpretations. This served to be particularly inviting for youth and young adults searching for innovative expressions of sung faith. Enormous contributions were made in the area of music for young children by Carey Landry, Carol Jean Kinghorn, and Jack Miffleton. Into our ritual came puppets, hand gestures, children’s language, clowns, balloons, and other specialized media for kids. The music and ritual perhaps reflected more the excitement of those eager to plan than the children who actually experienced the moment. So we continued to journey, and to grow. The last decades brought us a deepening sophistication in text and melody, and we continue to revisit the ever-present question of repertoire, for believers of all ages.
The collection of music in BLEST ARE WE responds to the question of repertoire with this intent–to provide music for our catechists that
- captures their attention and invites their participation,
- connects them to a wealth of tradition born of the generations before them,
- includes them in the faith expressions of the broader parish family,
- invites the broader parish family to share in their stable of songs, and
- provides an emerging tradition for the generations who will follow.
The lines between age groups are intentionally blurred. We are ONE family of God, growing and praying and serving and learning and living our faith together.
Learning our faith is not merely the business of children. The sacramental journey does not end with Confirmation. The fullness of active participation has merely begun. In BLEST ARE WE, the music is not restricted to “kiddie songs” or exclusive “adult songs.” Our songs need to reflect the broader collection of the wealth that we share for every age and in every age. We grow together as family into our ever-deepening, constantly emerging tradition. We believe that these songs do challenge us to do so.