Why Sacred Music Is The Most Important Art Of The Catholic Church

Of all the beautiful and iconic works of art produced by the Church from sculptures like the Pietà, paintings like the ceiling of the Sistine Chapel, or architecture like great cathedrals and basilicas, none is more beautiful and edifying than the musical traditions of the Church.  

The Catechism of the Catholic Church states: "The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art.”  

Perhaps of all the musical traditions of the Church, none is more beautiful than the deep and long tradition of chant. It is at once both simple and complex, the work of humans but the sounds of Heaven. Through much of the history of the Church, chant held the place of primacy in the liturgical traditions of the West. After Vatican II, this ancient and sacred form of art fell into disuse. But this was never the intention of the council.  

The Second Vatican Council document Sacrosanctum Concilium explains, “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”  

But in recent years, the use of chant has begun to return to churches all over the world. One order of Catholic religious keeping the beautiful traditions of chant alive are the Norbertine Fathers of Saint Michael’s Abbey in Southern California’s Orange County.  

The Norbertine Fathers offer Mass at their hill-top abbey that people flock to, so as to join in prayer with the confreres as to praise God in chant. Additionally they have released 3 critically acclaimed recordings of their chants. In the video below you can hear an example of the Norbertine Fathers chanting:

Many people misquote Saint Augustine and say “to sing is to pray twice.” But the actual quote is “To sing well is to pray twice.” Out of the heart of their charism, the Norbertine Fathers seek to worship God by singing well. So that you may seek the intercession of the patron saint of music so that you too may sing well in praise of God, they are offering a free downloadable prayer card of Saint Cecilia.

Immersed in the 900-year tradition of our order, the Norbertine Fathers live a monastic common life of liturgical prayer and care for souls. Our abbey in Orange County consists of nearly fifty priests and thirty seminarians studying for the priesthood.  

For more than fifty years, St. Michael’s Abbey Norbertine Fathers have served the Christian faithful in Southern California—“lifting high the Holy Eucharist over the miseries and errors of this world” (Saint Pope John Paul II). Our community’s apostolic ministries are many and various—from running a preparatory school for young men to teaching religious education in prisons—but they all find their source in our common life of prayer and fraternal charity.