EAREST musicians, colleagues, and friends, I wish you all God’s peace and protection during this exceptionally difficult time. Societal lockdown and cancelation of Mass is unprecedented in any of our lifetimes. It’s a spiritual, emotional, and economic challenge. It is difficult to know where to place our energies while remaining physically safe and adhering to our grave responsibility to keep others safe.
I’m concerned about those who may suffer creeping depression from prolonged isolation or underutilization. I am concerned about underemployed and unemployed liturgical musicians, pastoral staffs, and teachers who are not lucratively paid during the best of times. I am concerned for the safety of our priests.
I am worried about volunteers who depend on their choirs and communities to sustain their spirit. I am concerned for more vulnerable volunteers.
The litany of worry is endless. We are forced to trust in God, perhaps to a degree that makes us uncomfortable. (I am speaking for myself.) We are brutally — and mercifully — confronted with the necessity of prayer.
Likewise, there are opportunities such as learning new repertoire, composing, or preparing for the future — or better yet — opportunities and blessings to be more present to our families, friends, and neighbors.
“Music arises out of silence and returns to silence.”
Perhaps the greatest opportunity is for prayer. Under normal circumstances, most of us would be exceedingly busy preparing for Holy Week. Now Holy Week celebrations are shrouded with a big question mark. The likelihood is that we are facing prolonged silence.
Yet the fruit of silence is prayer. Cardinal Seán O’Malley is fond of quoting Saint Theresa of Calcutta:
“The fruit of silence is prayer, the fruit of prayer is faith, the fruit of faith is love, the fruit of love is service, and the fruit of service is peace.”
On the surface, silence is antithetical to musicians. But prayer is not. Church musicians are familiar with sacred silence; its importance cannot be underestimated. Today, we may be given the gift of an overabundance of silence, but perhaps its fruit will reverberate for years. “Music arises out of silence and returns to silence.” (Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, No. 118)
My mother is quite fond of saying, “Man proposes. God disposes.” (Homo proponit, sed Deus disponit) Thomas à Kempis writes in The Imitation of Christ:
“Just men depend on the grace of God rather than on their own wisdom in keeping their resolutions. In Him they confide every undertaking, for man, indeed, proposes but God disposes, and God’s way is not man’s.” (Book I, Chapter 19)
Plans and lives uprooted, we may be called to examine aspects of our lives otherwise neglected. With silence and prayer comes faith and love. Faith and love may drive inspiration, call to service, and renewed action. Certain opportunities may be limited today. God will assuredly bless you tomorrow with renewed plans that arise unexpectedly and joyfully.
Meanwhile, our Lenten fast has radically shifted course just before Laetare Sunday. We likely don’t feel the inspiration to rejoice, but we might with a spirit of gratitude. Rejoice in gratitude for each other’s prayers. Rejoice in gratitude for God’s eternal love. Rejoice in the Lord always who will see us through hardship while drawing us to Him closer than we have ever been before.
Furthermore, we have Pope Saint Pius X to thank for the paradigm shift of encouraging frequent reception of communion — something we take for grated now, but was rare throughout the Church’s history. In fasting from the Eucharist now, we may have greater appreciation for the grace of the sacraments, prayer, and a renewed understanding of the power of Spiritual Communion. Our joy when receiving the Eucharist again may be boundless!
I don’t pretend to have any answers or possess wisdom greater than any of you. I am attempting to learn with each passing hour. I am greatly comforted by your prayers. Know you are in mine every minute of every day.
Oremus pro invicem
Let us pray for each other.