When I was a teenager in the 1960’s, we listened to all the latest music on our little transistor radios. I can remember my cousin Greg, sitting innocently at his desk in the 5th grade, appearing to study with his hand covering the earphone and wire running down the sleeve of his shirt. My favorites were Roy Orbison, Four Seasons, Beach Boys, Dion, and many of the girl groups, Shirelles, Ronettes, Crystals, and more.
Then the Beatles came along and changed everything! I was never fortunate to attend one of their concerts, but we all watched them on the Ed Sullivan Show. The shrieks of young girls in the audience pretty much drowned out the music. My parents just shook their heads. To them, it was just a lot of noise. I loved it, and I still do.
These days, my wife and I take frequent trips to visit our grandchildren some nine hours away. To pass the time on the long tedious drive, we still listen to some of the same music we grew up with. While we like the same songs, our disagreement tends to revolve around the level of volume those songs should be played. I like to hear the music, not to the point of blasting the eardrums, but sufficient to hear the instruments over the road noise. My wife can be satisfied with just enough volume to tell it’s playing, and maybe identify the song. We compromise and I crank up my hearing aids.
Having listened to the Beatles repertoire for more than fifty years now, I thought there was nothing much more to appreciate, but recently I stumbled across several you tube videos of musicians analyzing the Beatles’ instrumentation. Some of my favorites are by Mike Pachelli who posted instructional videos on the genius of each one of the Beatle’s guitar techniques.
I am not a musician, so anyone capable of playing an instrument is fascinating to me, but I gained a new appreciation for the Beatles’ music after viewing Pachelli’s analyses. When he played individually what each guitarist was playing on recordings, I became aware of sounds I had never noticed before, and they were complex, yet simple and beautiful. Pachelli, a really excellent guitarist himself, marvels at how these young men from Liverpool created these innovative techniques at a very young age. It must be a God-given talent. The next time I listen to this music, I will be looking for all the subtle riffs, chord changes, and the stuff to which Pachelli marvels, even though I don’t have enough music theory to always understand what he is talking about!
And this brings me to what I believe is analogous to the way many of us Catholics view the Mass. We can attend Mass hundreds, even thousands of times, without ever appreciating all of the elements. Sometimes it takes another person with greater insight to break it down into its component parts for us. For example, Dr. Scott Hahn, whose enthusiasm and theological understanding goes way beyond the average Catholic, essentially does the same thing for Catholics that Mike Pachelli does for Beatle fans. By explaining the intricate structure of our liturgy, we learn to appreciate what we experience with new clarity and excitement. By hearing someone explain the Mass in historical detail, we can suddenly go from weariness to WOW!
Complacency and indifference can make the Mass seem repetitive, even boring. The problem is getting folks to dig deeper rather than accept a cursory approach. It will not happen without some personal initiative. Too many of us never make the effort. To do so can be life changing, and it is not difficult. It can be as simple as taking a few minutes to watch a video on you tube. A person does not need to enroll in a weekly study, although one may be inspired to do so later. Take a little time and broaden your liturgical horizons. Imagine experiencing Mass in an exciting way you never did before!