US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Sing it to the choir

By Kira Dault | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

I have this memory from going to church when I was a kid. My mom sang in the choir and my dad sat in the congregation so that my brother and I would have someone to sit with. But even though we were in the congregation and not the choir, every time it came time to sing a hymn, Dad would sing loud and proud, so earnestly that everyone around him (including his children) couldn't really help but feel lifted up. (It did help that my dad has a lovely singing voice.)

Earlier today I came across this story on NPR about a recent study asking what happens to choral singers' hearts when they all sing in unison. The first thing that happens is their heart rates slow. Then, before too long, the heart beats of the singers start to synchronize. The rhythm of the breathing involved in singing means that the singers' hearts all follow basically the same pattern. Their hearts beat as one.

I don't go to church with my dad all that often anymore. I'm grown now with children of my own, and we live halfway across the country from where my parents continue to sing hymns with gusto. But we do go to church, and when the hymns start, my husband and I both belt out whatever hymn is listed in the bulletin. I'm always a little shocked and sad when the rest of the congregation either looks bored or annoyed that they're being asked to use their vocal chords.

We in the church are not always good at acting like one church. We stake out our positions as righteous and holy while spitting vitriol at the other side. But this study from NPR makes me wonder if we sang with real enthusiasm together a little bit more, maybe our hearts would beat as one church, if just for a moment.

Image: By Sandrafernd (Own work) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons