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Praying is Singing 0.5 Times

John Kelleher

"Singing is Praying Twice." It is said that St. Augustine, in an inexcusably weak moment, let that slip from his lips, prompting the writing of his Confessions.

Since then, "Singing is Praying Twice" has been babbled endlessly by generations of slim-witted choir directors, despite the fact that if singing is praying twice, it must follow that praying is singing 0.5 times; an awesome demonstration of the dictum that phrases successfully used to increase prestige will be long-lived, even if they have no intellectual content whatever.

Once such a scaling of incommensurables is established, it follows (if that is the correct term) that absolutely anything can be rated in Standard Quantized Singing Units.

Technical note

As several eminent researchers have observed, St. Augustine's original formulation set the relationship between singing and praying in terms of a proportion, similar to Boyle's Law for gases; indeed, since singing can be thought of as the production of hot air, some historians of science give Augustine credit for seminal work in this area of physics. Be that as it may, the choice of a neutral reference baseline can serve to give Singing the preferred quantized unit value of 1.0, so that Singing is exactly one Standard Quantized Singing Unit.

The precise numerical values for some of the Moments given here remains controversial among active SQSU researchers. Some, for example, look askance at the high value assigned one good night's sleep, especially considering that both Singing and Praying are rated much lower; others fix these critics with their one remaining open bloodshot eye, and with their last ounce of energy, laugh hysterically. While not entirely settling the matter, this does tend to enforce a semblance of comity (or at least, silence) in this difficult scientific area.

The sample Ratings given here were originally determined via a multi-site (site n = 1) study among a self-selected population of Mass-attending US Catholics (mean n = 1) in 1990, when the SQSU scale was first developed. The raw data were then directly extrapolated to a target n = 30,000, and from the target n, 95% confidence intervals for each of the ratings were calculated. Remarkably, all ratings were found to vary less than +/- 0.001 SQSU.

As is now standard, the reference baseline used here is "watching television," which is assigned the value of 0.0. While a minority of researchers continue to insist that watching television should be a negative experience on the SQSU scale, the consensus assessment of television-watching is well expressed by D.W. Bongstreft: "Hey, it's a lot better than having your fingernails pulled out."


Typical Catholic Moments

Measured in Standard Quantized Singing Units

  +5.5 Complete night's sleep,
one or more children 3 years
of age or younger
  +3.25 Kissing
  +2.25 No unscheduled auto
repairs, 4 consecutive months
  +1.0 SINGING (2.0 times Praying)
  +0.5 Praying (0.5 times Singing)
  +0 Watching television
Smoking -0.75  
                  during Mass -1.25  
Watching reruns of "The Love Boat" -2.0  
                  during Mass -2.75  
Singing "Whatsoever You Do
to the Least of My People"
Putting your gum under the pew bench -6.0  
                  right before Holy Communion -6.25  


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The quotation in the monograph above is purely fictitious. No reference to any actual quotation is intended or implied. No saints were harmed during the making of this monograph, in whole or in part, nor during any aspect of data collection, analysis, and dissemination. "Standard Quantized Singing Units," and the acronym SQSU, are trademarks of the International Academy of Standard Quantized Singing Unit Research. All rights reserved.

"Qui cantat, bis orat" (He who sings, prays twice). Augustine of Hippo Sermons 336, 1 PL 38, 1472.