The Role of Music in the Spiritual Life: Jeff Miraflor, S.J.
In its relentless pursuit of understanding and manifesting God’s glory, the Jesuit community gathered this week to be illuminated by the words of Jeff Miraflor, S.J., a Jesuit scholastic in his third year on Banks Street. Miraflor, Jesuit’s choir director and co-director of campus ministry, captivated attendees with a discourse that seamlessly wove Greek mythology, personal anecdotes, and Christian teachings to highlight the spiritual importance of music.
Miraflor began by narrating the tale of Apollo and Marsyas, a tale of competition between godly and human musicianship. This ancient story was recounted as an allegory to emphasize two contrasting types of music: one that elevates the soul towards virtue, and another that drowns it in sensory intoxication.
However, Miraflor was quick to point out that the dichotomy isn’t about labeling music as strictly good or bad. Instead, he urged attendees to discern and utilize music for its intended purpose. He shared that, just as in the story, we have the choice to either be drawn to the heavens or be ensnared by the world. It is a call to humility, reminding us that our pursuit should always be for God’s glory rather than our own.
Reflecting on modern music consumption, Miraflor delved into the categories of secular music, devotional music, and sacred music. He spoke candidly about the influence of music on his upbringing and its formative effects on his spirituality.
In a relatable anecdote, he mentioned his early unfamiliarity with contemporary pop stars, having grown up with classics from the 40s to the 70s. This narrative subtly underscored the unconscious ways music shapes our preferences and perspectives.
While secular music has its place, Miraflor emphasized the transcendental nature of devotional music. He recounted experiences from World Youth Day, highlighting the unifying power of devotional songs in fostering community spirit. But he also cautioned against becoming passive listeners. For him, the essence of music at Mass isn’t about being entertained but about lifting our hearts in prayer and sanctifying our souls.
Drawing the audience further into the theology of music, Miraflor championed the importance of music during Mass—musica sacra. He emphasized that the human voice, being the only instrument crafted by God, should take precedence in our worship. While other rites within the Catholic Church sing the entirety of the Mass, Miraflor highlighted the unique practices of the Roman Church, encouraging attendees to not just hear, but to actively engage and reflect upon the liturgical songs.
The evening culminated with a heartfelt prayer, where Miraflor beseeched the divine to help attendees harness music in their journey towards silence, faith, love, service, and peace.
Post-reflection, attendees were invited to a reception where they could interact with Miraflor, further discussing the nexus of music and spirituality. The profound insights from the evening not only showcased Miraflor’s mastery over his subject but also underscored Jesuit’s commitment to fostering holistic development, aligning perfectly with its goal of delivering educating beyond the intellect.