Sir,-1 enjoyed Mr. Simon Elwes's S ashing attauk on our "dreary wailing.' which indeed dies away to a pathetic little moan during outdoor processions when we need it most; hut, you know. there are two sides to every question.
1, personally, would love to put my head back and let a yelp out o' me, but I dare not, for I know it would be either flat or sharp. Or just the wrong note. I know that all within earshot. would be offering me up. or else hoping I would have a stroke. Now that may he a personal disabilty. but I believe that the average Catholic is obsessed by the same fear, because he has had little practice in hymn singing. especially as a child.
And why not? Firstly because the Catholic child must be instructed in dogma, and very precise dogma at that. It is not sufficient that he should know some Old Testament stories and the chief events of Our Lord's life. "Gentle Jesus meek and mild" Christianity is not enough. Before he leaves school he must. as far as humanly possible. understand something of sacrifice and atonement. of origina' sin and sanctifying grace, of the Real Presence and the sacraments, and eseecially he must understand something of the relation between the Mass and Calvary. When he has learnt something of these and other mysteries, there is not much time left for training in hymn singing.
Similar difficulties arise in adult life. Most staunch Protestants, certainly Nonconformists. attend every week one or more services of which hymn singing forms a major part, and they' certainly learn to sing very well. The Catholic goes to Mass. and for many of us it is early Mass, either because there is no choice re because we want to go to Communion Frankly. I am even 'ess of a little nightingale on a chilly morning before breakfast; but there is more to it than that. If Authority orders me to sing hymns at Mass. I shall do my best but it will be as great a trial to me as to my neighbours.
None of this provides any justification for singing badly at Benediction. or for having poor tunes for the Tantum Ergo; but it does, think explain why our singing compares so unfavourably with that of our Protestant neighbours. Hymns are, I suggest, a mere frill for most Catholics, quite unessential, and often serving only to encourage sentimental and evanescent piety, or a feeling of uplift which is pleasant but fruit'ess. If we are to sing, then it is not necessarily in such form as may make converts feel at home or give enjoyment to born Catholics We are in Church. not to feel good, but to render worship. How best to do so is for the Hierarchy to say.
Si, E. W. Crealock.