About this blogger:
Richard J. Clark is the Director of Music of the Archdiocese of Boston and the Cathedral of the Holy Cross. He is also Chapel Organist (Saint Mary’s Chapel) at Boston College. His compositions have been performed worldwide.
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“Indeed, we may not hope for real Latin poetry any more, because Latin is now a dead language to all of us. However well a man may read, write, or even speak Latin now, it is always a foreign language to him, acquired artificially. It is no one's mother tongue. Does a man ever write real poetry in an acquired language?”
— Rev’d Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923)

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Listening and Mission
published 20 April 2018 by Richard J. Clark

HE MOST difficult and most important aspect of having a conversation is listening. Few things are more annoying than speaking with someone who looks past you, talks over you, and is more concerned about making their next point. Or wants to fix you, when you simply need to be heard. They are not listening. I’ve had more scintillating conversation with a brick wall.

And perhaps I am guilty of this at times, and I need to be less self-absorbed. For when we truly listen (and keep silent for a time) we then know how to respond. This response may or may not be in the form of words, but in action—or simply being in that person’s presence—which may mean everything.

Likewise in prayer and in music, listening is most important. Listening to each other in an ensemble allows us to cultivate a beautiful musical “response.” Cultivating a congregation’s voice, and then supporting their singing requires listening. Otherwise, we are that annoying person who just wants to dominate the conversation, the music, the microphone, the agenda.

ITH REGARD to agenda, God is in change. Sempre. One of the hardest lessons I’ve needed to learn is to trust God and God alone. (Psalm 118: “Better to take refuge in the LORD than to put one’s trust in mortals.”) This requires loss and sacrifice, and strangely enough, only this leads to happiness. (Perhaps such sacrifice for God is no sacrifice at all.)

Ultimately, anyone who makes a life in sacred music, especially in parishes, has probably been listening to God on some level. They have already sacrificed much—time with family, financial security, and quite likely no small amount of sanity from time to time. God has called them to do this work and accomplish his mission. But we can still get lost, thinking it’s only about music, prestige, or ego. People can get lost. Parishes can get lost, overlooking God’s mission.

All that matters is God’s call of service—God’s agenda. This mission of service is primary. Service is a form of love.

OMETIMES WHAT God asks us to do changes, grows, evolves. To keep pace, we need to listen. What do you do best that has the greatest impact on people’s lives?

Service may even require doing what comes naturally and doing what we do best—perhaps something we love to do—what God built us to do. This is often coupled with things we don’t necessarily want to do, but must for the sake of carrying out God’s agenda. Discerning this grows form listening to God, trusting God (and God alone), and getting past the fear of sacrifice required of us.

Maybe God’s trying to tell you something. Listen.

Soli Deo gloria