ticket the weekend I got engaged (although the engagement was a bright spot), and I’ve been to
the ER twice. The second ER trip is a funny story - I got a concussion from tripping backwards
and hitting my head on a windowsill after a mouse ran from under the couch at me - but after
that particular trip to the hospital, I found myself wanting to stay in my bedroom indefinitely. No
thanks, I did not need to see what else could possibly go wrong. I just wanted to fly under the
radar for awhile because sometimes, all the serious setbacks coupled with the embarrassment
of double-booking myself or pinching my hand in a microphone stand doesn’t feel worth it.
In those moments, I find myself buying into two lies. The first is that the whole year is a failure
because of all my blunders. The second is paired with a fear, the idea that life will always be like
this. These thoughts are pervasive, and color the way most of us view our lives and how we
react. The crazier life gets, the more I want to respond in either of two extremes: shutting down
completely or pushing myself way too hard to get through it. I see it all the time working in
ministry too. Many parents, when asked about the adult retreat, will respond with something like
“Life is too crazy right now with the kids; I can’t leave them right now.” In this and so many other
situations, we are quick to discount ourselves as failures and conclude that we can’t afford to
take any more risks, to make any more mistakes.
Shortly after Easter, in the midst of one of those crazy seasons, an adult choir member emailed
me to say, “I'm very thankful to have met you and been welcomed in the choir. It's really helped
me find time for myself and God. Life gets crazy with sports, kids, work, etc., and Wednesday
and Sunday have been a blessing to get away from it all.”
People have said many kind things to me in the course of my 2 years as the director of music
ministry, any of which are apt to make me cry or encourage me. But this particular email simply
got me excited. Why? It brought me back to the original vision for this music program.
Throughout high school and college, music was a sanctuary for me, a respite from all the
craziness of life. I knew that I could count on that one hour where I could walk into the room and
all I had to do for the next hour was sing and pray and be present to the rest of the group. It’s a
suspension of time and stress, with a simple purpose. I think we find our primary way to pray
when we find something like this, something we can enter into and value it as our time set aside
to just be with the Lord and those around us.
Of course, the ultimate goal of liturgical music is to give glory to God. I think we do this best
when we sing music that is truly beautiful, with lyrical depth and quality composition. But beyond
that, music must be a gift of prayer. It’s like the 1 Corinthians 13 verse that’s so popular at
weddings: “If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding
gong or a clashing cymbal.” If I play the most beautiful Bach prelude on the organ or direct a
choir that can sing a gorgeous 17th century Latin Mass, but they and I do not have love, then
we’re just making noise.
If I take my focus off all the ridiculous things that have felt like setbacks this year, I can see
instead that there is a ministry growing in love of God. The children’s choir had a really
incredible time of Eucharistic adoration during Lent where I had the joy of seeing them all kneel
right in front of the blessed sacrament, confidently singing the worship music we’d worked on for
the past few weeks. The adult choir sang a stunning Easter vigil, and from the conductor’s
podium, I could see incredible joy as they sang the music we’d worked so hard on. Even the
high school youth band, by far my busiest group and the one I got to spend the least time with
this year, they would show up for Mass and really pray the music, a gift which I know is the fruit
of so much time in Eucharistic adoration at retreats.
As choirs end for the summer, I’m using this time as a checkpoint to look back and rejoice in
what the Lord has done in our parish this year, as well as to discern how to move forward. I
would encourage you to take that time as well, to confront the accusations of failure and instead
see how God is working. Encounter Him in prayer and look for that place where you best enter
into time with Him. Who knows, maybe I’ll see you in choir next Fall!