Music does help the soul

  • August 28, 2008

A few weeks ago, I hopped on a Greyhound bus, heading to a friend’s wedding, and as luck had it, landed a seat beside a Jamaican reggae and gospel artist.

As he learned that my knowledge of both his music and culture were limited, but that we shared a common Christian faith, he excitedly began to sing excerpts from songs on his latest CD, snapping his fingers and even clapping to keep the beat — I’m sure to the discomfort of some passengers, to the amusement of others.

But what struck me most was that his music was happy music. Happy lyrics about God, faith and also literally about just being happy — a foretaste of heaven I suppose.

It reminded me that music can be and should be our expression of closeness to God or an expression of our desire for closeness with God. Music can also help us grow in virtue. And of course, the music genre doesn’t have to resemble a Bob Marley classic to do that.

Growing up, music taught me many things. Like playing for the soccer team, playing for my high school band helped me learn to be a team player.

In playing an instrument, you have to learn how to work with others so that the end product is something that people can enjoy or at least appreciate.

Knowing and practising the basics of music can allow a person to be creative and expressive. Music elevates peoples’ minds in a much different way than a soccer game ever could. There are so many studies out there that prove how music helps brain development and thus helps people improve in areas other than music. I can only draw one inevitable conclusion: God meant for us to have music.

Just think about how close music can bring us to God. Many years ago, through youth groups, I discovered a love for quiet adoration interspersed with guitar strumming and songs of praise and worship.

The words, the rhythm, the effect some of these songs had on me is unbelievable. Although I can develop an intense conversation with God in quiet prayer, it usually takes me longer to focus. With music, it’s easy to quickly feel raw and open to the Lord.

I’ve also noticed that just about every successful youth Mass that I’ve been to had a great music ministry — which I think can be compared to how a parish with an active and good choir tends to have more people singing along in Mass.

If people know there is music to guide them, they’re not as hesitant to sing out loud. But even better, if people are trained in music, they are more likely to take part.

It’s too bad that not every school has a qualified music teacher. If students were at least all trained in song, then more of them might have the confidence needed to sing out loud at church or step up to lead the congregation if there isn’t already a choir in place.

Coming back to my Jamaican friend — he informed me that more than half the population of his island is Christian. Could it be due to their love of music? Maybe.

But I do know that music has fed my soul, so it might not be a far cry.

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