ROME – Monsignor Marco Frisina, dubbed by some as “the pope’s composer” due to the number of his scores played during papal liturgies, has said music is key to evangelization, since, as an expression of beauty, it can help people to experience God.
“Beauty is something in man’s heart, every person has beauty printed in their heart because of the image of God,” Frisina said to Crux.
“When man discovers beauty, he discovers God…Music is an instrument to discover the image hidden in the heart of God,” he said.
An Italian priest and composer, Frisina is the director of the choir of the Diocese of Rome and has penned numerous hymns played at papal liturgies and Sunday Masses throughout the city, making him a household name for most Catholic families in Italy.
He serves as moderator for a Nov. 23-25 international choral conference organized by the Pontifical Council for the New Evangelization, drawing hundreds of choirs from around the world, including one from China.
Pope Francis will meet with the more than 7,000 participants on Saturday. The audience will be followed by a concert later that evening featuring some 600 choir members and 70 instruments singing Gregorian chant from different composers throughout history.
In comments to journalists on the first day, Frisina said he thinks music will have a major role to play in the “New Evangelization,” a term coined by Saint John Paul II emphasizing the Catholic Church’s mission to reach out to others, particularly Christians who have fallen away from the faith.
Though modern society is filled with distractions, “it is still sensitive to music, to beauty, especially younger generations,” Frisina said, explaining that music can be a “powerful tool” in communicating the faith in a way that is both new and different, and at the same time traditional.
From the beginning, “the Church has always used music in the liturgy,” he said, but, pointing to modern methods of communicating such as the internet or film, he said “with music we can reach many people, even nonbelievers.”
The reason for this, he said, is that with music, “you don’t need a translation,” or to engage in complicated cultural or political debates.
“Music is an instrument of the heart, of faith. It is an instrument that brings men together, brings people and cultures together,” he said, adding that music is not mere entertainment or something people do to have fun, but it is “an expression of the heart, and for a Christian it is an expression of the faith.”
Frisina encouraged the Christian community to use music more often in expressing themselves and their faith, because it engages both the mind and heart.
In a keynote speech, Monsignor Guido Marini, master of papal ceremonies, spoke on the role of choirs in papal liturgies, saying their role is to “safeguard” the beauty of the liturgy through song.
With a choir, “music becomes the liturgy of the Church,” he said, adding that music and song are only “worthy” of the liturgy if they express the message conveyed in the Word of God in scripture, and if they reflect the reverence due to the Eucharist, the body and blood of Christ.
Calling choir members “guardians of the mystery of God,” Marini said they have been given a beautiful gift they are called to share with the Church, and with the world, particularly in the liturgy, which he said is often expressed in the “small, simple details.”
“The great is often revealed in the smallest,” he said, adding that “the same is true for the liturgy.”
With music, these details are expressed in the journey it takes Mass-goers on from the entrance, through the Word of God, to the Eucharist and to the closing rites, he said, stressing that as the Mass goes on, Christ must always be at the center of the celebration.
“The Lord is the center (and) music attracts us” to God, he said, but underlined the importance of keeping Christ and his resurrection at the center of the ceremony, rather than the choir or the songs.
To this end, Marini said the location of the choir loft is key, and their placement “cannot ever make the choir become the protagonist,” because the Mass is not “a show.”