How can I keep from singing?

My young sons cannot, will not, be silent.

It’s not that they talk a lot, though they can and do. It is that they sing — all the time.

I know they are awake in the morning when I hear a little song streaming from their rooms. And in the evening, I know they have finally drifted to sleep when the song has ceased.

In the between time they do not discriminate. They sing songs from Hamilton, anime songs in Japanese (I don’t think they actually know the words) and that song from The Lion King, “The Lion Sleeps Tonight,” but they only seem to know the a-weema-weh part. You get the picture.

My sons were both in the children’s choir at St. James Cathedral, so occasionally a refrain from the liturgy makes its way into their repertoire. It may be autumn, but they sing the processional for Palm Sunday or Corpus Christi Mass — often. Hearing them praise God without even thinking reminds me of Jesus’ words to the Pharisees. When they told Jesus to quiet those who were singing and praising him, he replied, “If they keep silent, the stones will cry out!” (Luke 19:40).

This past summer, I lamented aloud about not being able to sing in Mass. My 9-year-old looked at me like it was the silliest thing to complain about. “You can always sing at home!” he said as if he’d been waiting for such a duet as this.

He was right. He and his brother had been setting the example for me since they could speak.

There was an old hymn from the Quaker town where I grew up titled “How Can I Keep from Singing?” The words ring true to me today:

Thro’ all the tumult and the strife
I hear the music ringing;
It finds an echo in my soul —
How can I keep from singing?

So I’ve started to join in singing with the boys. Talking Heads’ “Home” has been our COVID theme song. And they might deny it, but we’ve developed a nice little routine to Sam Cooke’s “Bring It On Home to Me.” But my favorite is when we sing “Praise to the Lord, the Almighty.” It is good to worship with my little home church. My voice cracks and I get teary when we sing, “Let the Amen sound from his people again!”

I once heard, “Some days there won’t be a song in your heart. Sing anyways.” I’ve noticed on those days when I don’t feel like singing, if I do, I feel better. Singing has once again become part of my faith.

I sing alone too now, especially on my morning run, when few people are on the Seward Park loop and I can really belt a few out. Turning the bend near the mile one marker, the path opens to a panoramic view of Lake Washington surrounded by lush trees and the Cascade Mountains as a bald eagle soars overhead. I then understand what Jesus meant when he said even the rocks will cry out.

How can I keep from singing? Even if we are silent, all of creation will praise him for us.

Northwest Catholic - October 2020

Shemaiah Gonzalez

Shemaiah Gonzalez, a member of St. James Cathedral Parish, is a freelance writer with degrees in English literature and intercultural ministry. Find more of her writing at

Shemaiah Gonzalez, miembro de la parroquia de la Catedral de Saint James, es escritora independiente con diplomas en Literatura inglesa y Ministerio Intercultural. Puedes encontrar más de sus redacciones en: