“The American College Dictionary,” defines the word unity as: “1. a state or fact of being one; oneness … 4. the fact or state of being united or combined into one, as the parts of a whole.” The word “music” is a term that is very broad and multi-faceted such as vocal, instrumental, mechanical and digital. For this article, I will confine my thoughts to vocal music, especially hymn singing. How do these two words relate to the experience of worship?

As Catholics, we are one when we answer “amen” at the end of prayers, when we recite the Lord’s Prayer together, when we respond to the celebrant’s greetings, when we respond to the orations, when we recite the creed together, as well as when we worship together in a unified space for a specific purpose. However, can our singing produce the same effect of unity as does the above-mentioned elements?

We currently live in a society where one is made to feel self-conscious about singing in public. Whether this reluctance to singing comes from being “picked on” about the quality of the individual’s voice as a child or young adult, being told to only mouth the words but don’t sing, being convinced that you can’t sing because people will look at you, being made to feel embarrassed because singing is not a “cool” thing to do, the individual doesn’t “read” music or know the “tune” and numerous other reasons. However, when we are at Mass, we are unified in God’s house in order to pray to Him, worship Him and give Him glory and thanks.

Consider the physiological benefits of singing. Singing releases endorphins which cause the blood to flow more easily, reduces heart rate, lowers blood pressure and decreases cortisol (stress hormone). Singing also triggers the release of oxytocin which helps in the reduction of anxiety and can stimulate feelings of trust. Singing has also been proven to release serotonin and dopamine, which are chemicals that boost mood and help to make you feel good about yourself. Thus, singing is medically, physiologically and psychologically beneficial.

God has created us and has therefore created each individual with a unique voice. Since Almighty God gave us our voices, do you think that God is going to be judgmental about the sound of our voice? I think not. From my perspective as a professional Church musician for more than 50 years, there is not a more glorious sound than a congregation enthusiastically singing a hymn. That is a true prayer of unity.

God knows what is in our hearts, so why should any of us be reluctant to praise and thank Him in recited prayers and vocal ones. Never forget that a hymn is a sung prayer and when sung, can evoke emotion that the spoken word cannot.

May we realize that singing hymns in church can create unity as we give God the glory, praise and thanksgiving. 


– Dr. Kevin D. Parizo is the music director and organist at the Church of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary in Middlebury.