While many kids these days are listening to Justin Bieber on their iPods, there is one group of Fairfield County youth who are gearing up to sing Gregorian chant at the 2011World Youth Day in Madrid this August, the gathering of the world’s Catholic youth, for prayer, adoration, catechism, and entertainment with Pope Benedict XVI.
This unique group of young adults, ages 9 to 18 from St. Mary Parish in Norwalk, Connecticut, has been singing together for nearly three years as the St. Mary’s Student Schola , formed by organist and choirmaster David J. Hughes. A schola differs from a church choir, in that they are dedicated to the teaching and practice of chant, the music Pope Benedict calls the “supreme model of sacred music.”
Chant is a form of music that is making a comeback in the Catholic Church. With Pope Benedict’s recent lifting of restrictions in the celebration of the 1962 Traditional Latin Mass, churches in Connecticut , and nationwide have begun to celebrate the Traditional Latin Mass, including the music that is specific to it, Gregorian chant, with its unmatched purity and timeless beauty. While chant is making a slow turn toward mainstream, David Hughes admits it is not something that the youth at World Youth Day may readily recognize. Then why sing it?
Hughes believes, as many popes including John Paul II and Benedict XVI have written, that chant, unlike any other genre, aids in the spiritual formation of all Catholics. “Chant is prayer taking shape in the form of song,” he says. “Chant is not a sonic overlay to prayer, but rather is prayer itself.” Hughes is certain it will reach the youth at World Youth Day, and lead them deeper into praying the Mass. "I have every confidence that the intrinsic prayerfulness of chant… will be experienced by the youth that hear these children sing."
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