I have loved to sing since I can remember. For years I have been creating little “ditties” and humming folksy tunes that make no sense to anyone but me.
When I was in the eighth grade, I began to learn how to play the guitar–simple chords and what was lovingly known as “the Catholic strum”. All I needed to know was this strum and about three or four chords and I could play any song ever written…or so I thought.
The Girl Scouts and the Folk Group at my Parish nurtured this cause and soon I was strumming away and even doing a little picking!
This musical involvement kept me tethered to the church. I loved the freedom that came with liturgical experimentation and the delight of harmonies, guitars and percussion.
My guitar accompanied me to college. About this time, the St. Louis Jesuits were making their mark in mainstream church music. I loved their songs–they spoke words that formed me, shaped me , gave word to my young adult prayer. And, these guys were guitarists–that went a long way in music cred for me!
My ministerial life has evolved from those early days of music making. In fact, those guys, and those times were foundational for my approach to music ministry, ministry in general and church overall.
This past weekend, on the eve of our first Jesuit Pope’s visit to the USA, and at a time in which the local and national institutional church has become so orthodoxy driven, I had the opportunity to step back and into a full circle event.
The aforementioned St. Louis Jesuits were in Milwaukee for a benefit concert for the first Cristo Rey Academy in Milwaukee. I had the great joy and honor of making music as part of a choir that accompanied them. Let it be known that these guys are no spring chickens anymore. They have aged, we have aged. And yet, the voices were golden and the prayer was deep. [Their music has always and first been about the prayer.]
So I realized three things (probably more but this post is getting long):
Bucket List time
- I was singing with 5 great men, musicians, shepherds–holy cats! i was singing with the St. Louis Jesuits!
- I was sitting center stage in the Pabst Theater–the closest I’ll ever be to Carnegie Hall
- and, the man who penned the recessional from our wedding [Bob Dufford–Be Not Afraid] was standing ten feet in front of me. I made sure to share that story and to thank him.
One final realization–I was fully cognizant that in the audience were many people I knew and loved, many I did not know, and a few who would love my head on a silver platter for various and sundry reasons. And yet, we were all gathered praying, singing, and experiencing God’s incredible presence. My spiritual director pointed out to me that I had a kingdom experience.
I had come full circle.