St. John Vianney (1786-1859)
While not a great student and barely ordained with grave reservations, John Vianney was known to have been an extraordinary confessor. It has been said that he was one who could really read the soul of another, and was often stationary in a confessional sometimes for hours upon hours in one day.
Pastoral Musicians are, in a way, called to be confessors. We reach and touch souls with the hymns, psalms, acclamations, litanies, laments and songs of praise that speak to the wounded heart, and provide a new song to be placed in their mouths. As the responsorial psalm for today, speaks in the final verse:
“A clean heart create in me, O God,
and a steadfast spirit renew within me.
Cast me not off from your presence,
and your Holy Spirit take not from me.” (from Psalm 51: 12-13)
In Matthew’s Gospel we hear the story of the one who dared to touch Jesus’ garment in order to be healed (Matthew 14: 22-26). We, like Christ, have the sick brought to us, not to touch the tassels on our cloak, but to be allowed a verse or two of the song we lift up, to the One who is the source of all healing and reconciliation.
If we allow our blessed people to come and touch the cloak of our song, healing can come and restore their hymn of praise. And the song will be that much more, the song of God.
St. John Vianney, pray for us.
St. Clare of Assisi (1193-1253)
Some have said that when Clare was seen after prayer, her face shined. This radiance seemed to glow throughout her entire life. As a teenager she was moved by the preaching and message of Francis of Assisi, who became her guide, close friend, and thus created the rule by which she and her companions would live, as the “Poor Clares.” They lived their life in great poverty and seclusion from the rest of the world. They went barefoot, ate no meat, slept on the floor, and observed almost absolute silence. They owned nothing, living only as a result of daily contributions. While her lifestyle was certainly inspired by Francis, she would say that it was Christ that she wanted to reflect in her life. “Christ is the way,” she once said, “and Francis showed it to me.” For her and her fellow sisters, following “Lady Poverty” was the most authentic way of following Jesus.
For many years of her life, she was burdened with illness, and on her deathbed she was heard to say to herself: “Go forth in peace, for you have followed the good road. Go forth without fear, for he who created you has made you holy, has always protected you, and loves you as a mother.” When I think about providing music at funerals, I think this is a wonderful posture to infuse in our sung prayer. May our song not only give comfort to the grieving, but hope, direction, and even, “permission” for those leaving us to go to the light, to do so wrapped in holy love of God.
St. Clare of Assisi, pray for us.
St. Genesius of Rome (Died 303 A.C.E)
Named as one of the patrons of musicians and dancers, Genesius was a legendary saint who was said to be a comedian and actor who was involved in plays that actually ridiculed Christianity. His conversion is said to have happened while acting in one of these plays that mocked baptism, when he had a profound conversion experience on stage, and right then and there professed his faith and asked to be baptized. Now thatis high drama! So it certainly follows that he is also the patron of actors, comedians, and clowns, as well as lawyers, stenographers, and printers, epileptics, thieves and torture victims.
As leaders of liturgical song and prayer, we help give voice to those about to be baptized at services of baptism and initiation, but it does not happen just once. Every Sunday, every Christian celebration, is a reminder and “re-charging” of our baptismal batteries. And we too are called to do some “mocking.” But what we mock is all that comes in the way of our baptism being realized in our lives as Christians. I heard someone say once that the Christian life is to be spent figuring out what our baptism means. Well, Genesius was certainly figuring that out, because the emperor of that time ordered him to be imprisoned, bound and cruelly tortured. Now the message was not being acted on a stage, rather, it was part and parcel of the performance of his entire life when he was heard to shout out, “no torments shall remove Jesus Christ from my heart and my mouth.” He continued this profession of faith unceasingly until he was beheaded, which explains why he is the patron of torture victims.
Our song of faith is a dedication of allegiance to Christ. Our song of faith is a bold proclamation destined to provoke conversion, and yes, also, mockery and ridicule from some. Our song of faith is a hymn of the heart, singing unapologetically and passionately about the saving presence of the Risen Lord.
St. Genesius, pray for us.
Copyright © 2019 David Haas / The Emmaus Center for Music, Prayer and Ministry. Used with permission. All rights reserved.