Music. It can spark a memory. It can change your emotions. It can lift your spirit.
It is said it gives soul to the universe, wings to the mind, flight to the imagination, and life to everything.
Music is a significant part of our Eucharistic celebration. It is meant to draw us in and emphasize the meaning of the Liturgy. Admit it, there’s always that one song that moves you – that one song that is so meaningful you know God is speaking to you. Eagles Wings? Here I am Lord? The Summons? Amazing Grace (My Chains are Gone)?
There is a young lady at a Northern Panhandle parish, whose voice is a true gift to her parish, but she is too humble to admit it.
Sarah Booth sweetly blushes with embarrassment when folks come up to her after Mass at St. Vincent de Paul Parish in Wheeling, to express their gratitude, because her voice touched their heart.
“That is exactly what I needed today,” said a visitor, who hugged Booth.
“I didn’t realize at first I could heighten the meaning to a song for someone,” Booth said. “I have always loved to sing. I had no idea that my voice would be so powerful and emotional. It’s humbling.”
Booth has been singing at the church since fourth grade, when she transferred from a public school across the river in Ohio to the parish’s grade school.
“My sister and I were bullied and teased at our old school, so our parents searched for a welcoming Christian school,” she said. “We weren’t Catholic, but they had friends whose children went to St. Vincent’s. We fit right in, so much so that not long after we all became Catholic together. This church means a lot to me.”
During Mass it’s not uncommon to look around the congregation and see grown men and women wipe a tear from their eye, when Booth belts out “You Say” by Lauren Daigel during the presentation of the Gifts.
“That’s my favorite song,” she said. “That’s probably why I put more emotion into it as I sing. It speaks to me.”
The lyrics in the song are relatable to a number of bible verses: You say I am loved (Ephesians 2:4-5); You say I am strong (2Corinthians 12:10); and You say I am Yours (Isaiah 43:1-7).
“Music IS prayer,” Jacki Laurine, music director at St. Vincent’s emphasized. She coordinates all 8 cantors and several musicians at the church. The group Booth sings with at most 9 a.m. Sunday Masses is called The Praise Band. It is made up of Eli Lambi on keyboard; Ezra Hamilton on guitar, and Jason Birch on drums (outside of Mass these gentlemen are a part of the band Hit Play).
“We are blessed to have a strong music program,” said Laurine.
The songs Laurine selects for the Masses are both traditional and contemporary. It’s all part of the inspiration and importance of the specific liturgical message for the weekend.
Msgr. Paul Hudock, pastor of the Wheeling church, said having a mix of rich traditional hymns with sacred and contemporary songs brings a special gift to the people.
“Our goal is to have them uplifted so they leave church with a new song in their heart, a song that they spontaneously catch themselves humming during the week,” Hudock said.
“My hope is that those who come to Mass are moved on multiple levels – hearing the word of the Lord; encountering fellow friendly Catholics; listening to a homily and message that they can connect with; and enjoy music that stirs their soul,” he said.
Ultimately liturgy is meant to be a unique and uplifting experience, Hudock said.
“In that one hour at Sunday Mass you experience something you can’t get at the mall or online, you can only receive it by being present in the celebration of the Blessed Sacrament.
“God has blessed Sarah with a voice that is wonderful and uniquely hers. What is equally as impressive is her example to share her gift with us at Mass. Everyone no matter if they are young or old is encouraged to participate in Mass whether as a greeter, a reader, a cantor, etc. It is a blessing to be a blessing!”
For more information about the musical ministry at St. Vincent de Paul Parish, contact Laurine at email@example.com.