Sometimes You Just Need A Little Music

Bishop Thomas J. Tobin

I confess to being a news junkie. I follow international, national and local news. I’m interested in political and religious events, in weather reports and happenings in the sports world. I watch the news in the morning during breakfast, at noon during lunch, and at night during dinner. I sleep with the radio on, usually listening to talk radio, and if I wake during the night, I check my phone to see what’s happening in the world. It’s a very bad habit, I know, and probably not good for the body, mind or soul.
Once in a while, it all gets to be too much. Recently, with the flood of just awful news inundating us – the horrible mass shootings in Buffalo and Texas, the destructive war in Ukraine, the escalating crisis on our Southern border snaring families and children, raging inflation and the lack of baby formula, the cruel war our society is waging on unborn children, the frustrating partisan finger-pointing – I just couldn’t take it anymore.
So, instead of the watching the news while I ate, I “watched” and listened to the music channels on cable TV – classical music, and easy listening music, aka “elevator music,” in particular. My body relaxed and my blood pressure dropped almost immediately.
It shouldn’t be a surprise that music, at least some music, has such a positive effect on us. Throughout the ages, commentators have identified and spoken about the calming nature of music. Hans Christian Andersen: “Where words fail, music speaks.” Martin Luther: “Beautiful music is the art of prophets that can calm the agitations of the soul.” Berthold Auerbach: “Music washes away from the soul the dust of everyday life.” And, of course, the well-known saying: “Music soothes the savage beast.”
The Church has found comfort in music too, especially in Gregorian chant that has soothed the soul of the Church throughout its turbulent history. Perhaps it’s for that reason that the Church insists that Gregorian chant “should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” We might not understand the Latin words, and the musical notation of Gregorian chant is complex, nonetheless, listening to chant invariably lifts us from the cacophony of this world, connects us to heaven, settles our spirits, and gives us peace.
So, if you find that you’re troubled by the bad news of our world, be sure to get away from it, at least for a while. Take a walk, pray in silence, and listen to music. It will do you good.
Something to think about: Do you listen to music? How does it help you?