The beautiful liturgies of Holy Week and Easter have provided an opportunity to listen to some of the greatest and most joyous hymns ever composed and to reflect on the way these hymns can lift the soul. What a blessing it is that we have talented musicians to perform it so well. There have been several experiences that have made me reflect on the importance of music in the life of the Church and in my own life.
On Palm Sunday our family attended the 9:00 a.m. Mass at St. Agnes. The Mass is a moving experience to read the account first of the entrance into Jerusalem and then the Passion narrative. The children's choir did a beautiful job as always and it is wonderful to hear the young voices sing some of our most precious hymns. But the musical show stopper is the post-communion meditation sung by Michael Vaughan, a tremendous cantor. I learned after Mass from Father Jack Graham that some former parishioners travel back from Maryland to Arlington for the Palm Sunday Mass because of the beautiful music and Michael's solo that adds so much to the beginning of Holy Week. For them, and for all of us present, it is truly music that lifts the soul.
On Wednesday of Holy Week, Father Jonathan Gaspar joined Father Matt Williams and me for The Good Catholic Life radio program to discuss the Easter Vigil liturgy. Father Jonathan serves as the Director of Divine Liturgy at the archdiocese and also as a priest secretary to Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley. Like Michael Vaughan, God has blessed Father Jonathan with a tremendous voice and part of the broadcast involved Father Jonathan chanting the Exultet, the Church's Easter Proclamation. The lyrics and melody of the Exultet have moved me since I first heard it in my early twenties and it is one of my favorite parts of the Easter liturgies. Father Jonathan discussed on the program how both the Exultet's lyrics and the melody were both enhanced as part of the New Roman Missal. To listen to Father Jonathan's explanations and hear him chanting the Exultet, please visit www.TheGoodCatholicLife.com
, click on "complete index of shows" and scroll down to show #272.
On Saturday, our family returned to St. Agnes for the Easter Vigil. A violinist and a trumpeter joined the outstanding choir to sing the hymns and psalms. A moment that stood out for me was the singing of the litany of the saints where we begged their help and assistance on the candidate for reception into full communion into the Catholic Church and on all of us. I have never heard the litany be so moving as it was that night. Later, hearing the choir sing one of my favorite church hymns, "O God Beyond All Praising," I started to share with my children how privileged we were to be present together at this Easter Vigil and to hear such wonderful music. I prayed to myself that they would always appreciate its beauty and never take it for granted.
This past Monday, Eric Genuis was my guest on The Good Catholic Life program. Eric is a composer, virtuoso pianist and performer whose music is classical in form with a modern feel. Recognizing that his musical talent was a gift from God, Eric promised God that he would always say yes to any invitation to share the beauty of uplifting music. Over the past 3 decades, Eric has played in schools, churches, concert halls, prisons, homes and stadium arenas.