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Using Chant to Help Your Prayer Life

November 15, 2015 by  
Filed under Dan Burke, Music, Prayer, Prayer Life

Using Chant to Help Your Prayer Life

I was driving home alone from Mass recently and experienced a rare post-Mass time of silence and reflection. Out of habit, I plugged my iPhone into the charger and, as usual, the car radio began to play a random music selection from my phone. Even though this always happens, I wasn’t paying attention or expecting this because my mind was elsewhere.

Then I noticed the music.

Using Chant to Help Your Prayer Life -

It was an extraordinarily beautiful chant piece. Immediately my heart was lifted to prayer, but I was curious as I didn’t recognize the artist even though I knew it came from my selection on my phone. When I came to a stoplight I looked down at the display and was pleasantly surprised to see the face of Kitty Cleveland. The name of the compilation was also listed: Sublime Chant.

Decades ago I began a serious exploration of prayer. One of the things I noticed in prayer was that the music I regularly listened to would show up in my head as I was trying to pray. By this time in my life the my music preferences didn’t glorify sin or other dark matters. However, the tunes would inevitably stick in my head and were always ready to invade my prayer time.

Early on, as I was thinking through this challenge, I also began to listen to chant. I think I was first introduced to chant as a Protestant when secular stations picked up and popularized a chant album by Benedictine Monks.

As I began moving toward the Catholic Church my interest in chant increased. One of my favorite artists as a Protestant was John Michael Talbot. I soon learned that he had a chant album as well and so I purchased that and began to make chant a more normal part of my life. This continued as I became Catholic and I noticed that this decision helped me to calm my intense temperament.

I also noticed something else that surprised me; chant never disrupted my prayer.

When I say never, I really mean never. Even if I listened to chant prior to prayer, there is something about the nature of this form of music that doesn’t lend itself to the same kind of endless replay as does music in popular culture or Christian music that follows the style of popular culture.

As well, even if a chant piece was floating around in my head, it never distracted me from prayer. As time went on my prayer improved significantly as my music choices included more chant and more toned down Christian music.

Often when folks are trying to develop a healthy prayer life they don’t take into account factors that influence their prayer that are completely outside of the realm of prayer.

If you find your prayer time disrupted by popular music (in style or lyrics), you might try introducing more chant into your play list. If I might make a suggestion, Kitty Cleveland’s Sublime Chant album would be a great place to start. Her voice is exceptional and the particular approach of this album reveals a haunting beauty that draws the heart to prayer.

You can find more about Kitty on her Facebook page.

EWTN Religious Catalogue also caries a few good chant albums here.

I pray that your adventure into sublime chant results in an experience of sublime prayer.

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About Dan Burke

Dan is the President of the Avila Foundation, the parent organization of, the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, Divine Intimacy Radio and Divine Intimacy Radio - Resources Edition, Into the Deep Parish Programs, the Apostoli Viae (Apostles of the Way) Community, and the FireLight Student Leadership Formation Program, author of the award-winning book, Navigating the Interior Life - Spiritual Direction and the Journey to God, Finding God Through Meditation-St. Peter of Alcantara, 30 Days with Teresa of Avila, Into the Deep, Living the Mystery of Merciful Love: 30 Days with Thérèse of Lisieux, and his newest book The Contemplative Rosary with St. John Paul II and St. Teresa of Avila. Beyond his "contagious" love for Jesus and His Church, he is a grateful husband and father of four, the Executive Director of and writer for EWTN's National Catholic Register, a regular co-host on Register Radio, a writer and speaker who provides online spiritual formation and travels to share his conversion story and the great riches that the Church provides us through authentic Catholic spirituality. Dan has been featured on EWTN's Journey Home program and numerous radio programs.

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  • Judy Silhan

    Several months ago, the seminarian intern we had at our parish suggested playing chant in the background as I pray, actually to help stay focused. Indeed, it works, and as you said, it is not distracting. I have not listened to Kitty Cleveland’s album; but I shall check it out.

  • Instead of just listening to chant, why not learn to chant the prayers? When I started chanting the office instead of reading it, it changed everything.

    • LizEst

      Yes, this is wonderful, too! God bless you, Sara! Great recommendation.

      • Thank you, Liz. Blessings to you, too. 🙂

        • LizEst

          Thankk you, Sara. 😉

  • Brian Corrigan

    I have Pandora on my phone and my TV and have a chant channel that I set as my alarm. I wake to chant every morning, get up, take my phone downstairs, grab my breviary and begin my daily prayer while the chant channel supplies the background music. The only time I would say it disrupts my prayer is when it goes from a quieter chant to a louder one and I’m not prepared for it. It (chant) is an excellent accompaniment to my prayer time.

    Great article! Thanks Dan!!

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  • Agnes Goh: on Feeding-Tube :-D

    This brought back a memory from years ago when my upstairs neighbours started playing loud heavy metal. I didn’t want to confront them so I put on Placido Domingo’s Sacred Songs CD (not loudly). After a while the upstairs music stopped and the people unexpectedly all left together. Amazing!

    • LizEst

      Wow! Thanks for that witness, Agnes. God bless you!

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  • Something about chant maybe because they are prayers but it calms the soul especially when praying.Sometimes too much because it has put me to sleep but the I wake up and resume my rosary.

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