On the New Liturgical Movement blog one of the blogging team posted a defense of non singers at Mass. I appreciated it. Finally a church musician who gets it. American Catholics don't sing like the musicians want us to. The artists long for something that sounds like a Baptist or an Anglican church and that aint going to happen. Why? Well, it's simple. Singing and preaching ARE the service for Protestants. That's it. My Baptist relatives have a symbolic communion once a month.
If the music isn't good people leave the congregation. If the preacher doesn't bedazzle, people leave. In a lot of churches people frankly come just for the music. And as, I've pointed out before, at anything other than a mega church the congregation know each other well and live similar lifestyles. The music is ingrained. It's what they heard as babies, it's what they sang together in youth choir. It's what they ask for in the hospital. It's known to the whole family/congregation. At my grandmother's funeral one of her friends stood up and said, "Let's sing Mamie's favorite song." With no hesitation the whole congregation burst forth with the song. It was magnificent.
That could never happen in an American Catholic church. And you know what? That's okay. It really is. In any Catholic church there is something greater than congregational singing: there is Jesus, physically present, not a symbol--- but Jesus just the same as He was when he walked the streets of Jerusalem. He IS the Bread. He IS the Wine.