Saturday, April 21, 2012



At our Easter Vigil I once again had the joy of singing with the St. Mary’s Parish Choir in the abbey church as I do for the major feasts. Their music reflects the African and African-American makeup of the parish, using some African, some Caribbean, some traditional Catholic and Protestant hymns. The accompaniment is provided by organ, piano, guitar, drums and other African percussion instruments. What characterizes this choir’s style is ebullient joy and an energy that keeps on pouring out in exuberant song for ten minutes even after the recessional hymn is over. This year as we were singing the recessional, “The Strife is O’er” I felt as if every cell in my body were shouting "Alleluia!". It reminded me of a saying attributed to St. Augustine, “A Christian is an Alleluia from head to toe.” That was me!


Then a couple of days ago I was thumbing through an old copy of Conversions: Reflections on Life and Faith by Rev. James Turro (Tabor Publishing, Allen TX, 1993) which I hadn’t looked at in years. Almost immediately I came across the following passage:

"A person is a song that God sings. Each one of us is God’s song, God’s way of softening and beautifying life here on earth. Let the world hear loud and strong that splendid melody that God is humming – that melody is you" p. 4.

I’ve always loved to sing, so this passage was particularly meaningful for me: I’m called not just to SING God’s song but to actually BE a song that will “soften and beautify life here on earth” for my brothers and sisters. God wants to use the melody of my life to lighten the load and brighten the path of my brother monks, my students, my Sunday parishioners, my friends and family and others who meet me.


Later in Fr. Turro’s book I read this:

"Would it make sense for an orchestra to play its music silently? Or for an artist to paint pictures invisibly? Certainly not! And neither does it make sense for a person to be a disciple of Christ secretly. We Christians have to declare ourselves by what we say and do… " P. 53.
My sketch of Sacre Coeur

 This one, too, struck me. As someone who enjoys sketch- ing I tried to imagine show- ing someone my sketchbook filled with blank pages and explaining to them “My draw- ings are all invisible.” My life is supposed to be God’s sketchbook in which people can see the Lord’s beauty, goodness and truth. For me the issue may not be so much that I do ugly or horrible sketches, but rather that I don't do any that are visible to other people.


The great Caruso
Finally, on page 74 Turro tells of the time the world-famous tenor Enrico Caruso walked into a bank in New York City and tried to cash a check. The alert bank teller, seeing the famous name on the check, became suspicious. (This was in the days before television, which would have made his face familiar.) The more Caruso tried to convince the teller the he was in fact Caruso, the more convinced the teller became that he was a fraud. Then Caruso had an inspiration: Stepping back from the window, he put his hand to his chest and launched into a breathtakingly beautiful operatic aria. As the bank patrons listened in awe, the teller began counting out the cash. This was surely Caruso; there was no doubt about it.

Part of the point of being a Christian is to act like one. To say you’re a follower of Christ, to say you’re a child of the light or an Easter person or an “Alleluia from head to toe” is all very nice, but it means nothing. You have to do what Caruso did; you take a couple of steps back and prove beyond a doubt who you are by your actions, your beautiful Easter actions, calling people to life, washing their feet, lightening their load, and brightening their darkness.
..........This is us, from head to toe!

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