Madonna House

What Music Do You Listen To?

by Catherine Doherty

Music can be a tremendous tool in the restoration of the whole person to Christ. Like all the arts, it has an immense power—it can lead us to heaven, or it can lead us to hell.

It can free us, lifting us into the realm of the spirit; or it can trap us, and subjugate us in the hands of the devil. Music can powerfully affect our emotions, our mind, and our soul.

Music can appeal to the lower passions, directing us into dead ends, making us addicts of sounds that bring forgetfulness and cater to dreams that should not be dreamt.

Music has the power to take the image of God away from the soul and leave one like an animal, living only through the senses.

When I went to Harlem many years ago, the youth were drugging themselves with sensual music in order to “forget their pain and sorrow.”

What was I to do, I who was dedicated to restoring the whole man to Christ? Ban that music? No. All I could do was substitute better music.

Lovingly I appealed to the deep music appreciation of the African-American people. Some of the most authentic gospel music ever written comes from the American spirituals the slaves sang to give themselves hope.

Within nine years there was an immense change in the youth that came to Friendship House.

I remember that after the First World War, a musical piece called “Blue Sunday” resulted in many suicides in Europe.

In the Soviet Union, the dehumanization of man at the hands of the Communists was helped by the music of composers who sold themselves to the party.

We need to be intensely careful of the music we select to hear.

When music arouses thoughts and emotions that lead us away from God, we should not listen to it. What kind of music leads us away from God? Music that entices us into daydreaming, into worlds that can never be ours. Music which suggests wrong solutions to our problems. Music which leads us into a forgetfulness of our cross.

If music arouses in you a greater understanding of the beauty of the world; if it speaks to you of the depth of the human soul; if it brings you closer to God in any way—then it is good music for you to hear.

Next time you listen to music, examine yourself. If a catchy tune makes you smile and lifts your morale and brings you the joy of the Lord, listen to it.

If a piece makes you sad, or brings you to that street of broken dreams, or draws you away from God in the subtlest way, then it is not music for you. Music can lead us to heaven or hell. We must be careful how we choose.

These criteria for music can, of course, be applied to all the arts and entertainment media.

Excerpted and adapted from The People of the Towel and the Water ,(2010), pp. 143-144, available from MH Publications