Multi-tasking is a very difficult skill, and at least according to some studies something that we never really can do. Regardless of how much it may appear that we are doing at the same time, researchers have found that our brains can only focus on one task at a time. To multi-task, our minds simply switch between tasks very quickly. Compared to our busy lives, attending Mass may not seem like multi-tasking, but there is at least one moment I’d like to mention today when the norms given for celebrating Eucharist expect us to do different things at the same time: receiving communion.
The General Instructions of the Roman Missal indicate:
“While the Priest is receiving the Sacrament, the Communion Chant is begun, its purpose being to express the spiritual union of the communicants by means of the unity of their voices, to show gladness of heart, and to bring out more clearly the ‘communitarian’ character of the procession to receive the Eucharist. The singing is prolonged for as long as the Sacrament is being administered to the faithful.” (GIRM, no. 86)
The implication of this instruction is that we have to walk and sing at the same time. Further help is provided in Sing to the Lord: “In order to foster participation of the faithful with ‘unity of voices,’ it is recommended that psalms sung in the responsorial style, or songs with easily memorized refrains, be used.” (STL, no. 192) By using music with refrains, we are less dependent on a book where we have to read every word of the song. We will have some time where we can focus simply of walking and receiving Eucharist while the cantor or choir sings verses. Because the song is expected to continue “for as long as the Sacrament is being administered,” there will also be a chance to sing while you do not have to walk.
Reading the words to a song while walking around definitely qualifies as difficult multi-tasking, which is why every song I plan for us to sing during Communion has a refrain. I hope these refrains are simple enough and become familiar enough that even if it seems a daunting task, you will be able to meet the challenge and become a successful multi-tasker.
Bulletin Notes for the Cathedral of Mary, Our Queen, May 3, 2015