Greetings & Blessings, my name is Tom Lelyo. I am a Catholic husband & father, speaker, musician, & blogger. I have an undergraduate and graduate degree in Systematic Theology from DeSales University & St. Charles Borromeo Seminary Overbrook respectively. For almost 10 years now, I have been involved in music ministry within the Catholic Church. I have led worship for local, diocesan, & national level events including liturgical celebrations (Mass), para-liturgical celebrations (Eucharistic Adoration), and devotional celebrations (youth rallies & small prayer groups).
Over the years, I have experienced the majority of ways Catholics pray through music in the United States today: sacred chants, traditional hymns, common mass songs, contemporary worship music, contemplative prayer, & charismatic praise. In 2008, I found myself looking for resources that would help me grow as a “worship leader” in the Church. What I found were a number of non-catholic resources that greatly nurtured my passion for leading others to a closer relationship with God through song, however, the challenge as a Catholic was appropriating these ideas & techniques into the worship-life of the Church.
The problem was, I felt myself constantly struggling with pastors & parishioners who did not understand this “contemporary” style of worship and harshly criticized it. I was looking for something or someone to put into words what I knew in my heart to be an authentic expression of worship within the Church: worship, in the Church wasn’t “traditional” or “contemporary”, “charismatic” or “contemplative” – it was Catholic. And I believed that the Church was big enough to house ALL of these expressions.
The biggest obstacle I faced was the fact that, when Catholics think of worship, we typically think of the “source & summit” of all our worship – The Mass. Subsequently, I knew that volumes upon volumes had been written about “Liturgical Music” – and indeed, the Church is very clear about her preference and what is deemed as having “primacy of place” within the liturgy – however, as I studied the Church’s understanding of liturgical music more and more, I noticed that the “contemporary” style of worship I was advocating was never expressly excluded from the liturgy. There were principles, of course, that ought to be adhered to regarding music in the liturgy, however the Church did not declare chant to be the ONLY expression of worship that was appropriate for the Mass or any other liturgy in the Church.
Beyond the liturgy, I found myself in situations that were not, strictly speaking – “liturgical”, instead I called these situations like Eucharistic Adoration, “para-liturgical” because they relied heavily on liturgical practices, but were not bound to as many specific rules or guidelines attached to the type of worship that was acceptable. Furthermore, since I was accustomed to gathering for prayer with friends & leading youth retreats many times our prayer was not formatted at all. The Church calls this type of prayer “devotional.”
And so, in 2010 I began posting YouTube videos as a way to share with others my experiences as a Catholic Worship Leader. Later on, I began writing about worship in the Church, and asking others in the Church – priests, theologians, music ministers, and parishioners – about their experiences and understandings of how the Church worships. This all led to the creation of The Catholic Worship Blog. The goal of the blog is to rediscover the heart of worship in the Church through prayer, catechesis, and discussion.
My goal for this series, “What is Worship? A Catholic Perspective” is to offer the Musicademy audience an insight into the various “contexts” of worship within the Catholic Church & how music ministers can appropriate different expressions of worship to these situations by understanding and applying the principles of sacred music in the Church. The series will be broken up into the following sections: “What is Worship?” “How does the Church Worship?” (A look into the 3 main contexts of worship in the Church – liturgical, para-liturgical, & devotional) “What types of musical expressions are available in the Church?” (A brief overview of popular sources of worship music – sacred chant, traditional hymns, common mass songs, contemporary christian music, & praise and worship music) & “How do we apply the principles of sacred music to specific settings within the worship-life of the Church?”
In the meantime, I would encourage you to visit The Catholic Worship Blog to get a better idea of what is going on in music ministry in the Church today. We have podcasts, instructional youtube videos, interviews, weekly e-newsletters, & more! Also, if you’d like to discuss this topic more feel free to contact me at [email protected] Until next time, thank you and God bless!