Friday, March 8, 2013

Unexpected Treasures & Saying Goodbye to a Kindred Spirit

Have you ever had a day where you acted upon an impulse, uncertain if maybe it was the smartest or the most sensible thing to do, only to have it actually turn out even better than you thought? I definitely had one of those days today!

After my sacred choral repertoire class today, I decided I wanted to do some window shopping. As you might expect, it turned into the usual female shopping excursion where the woman begins with no particular inclination to buy anything, but she returns home with less money in her pocket than when she left. I started by going to a couple boutiques, but not needing anything in particular clothing-wise, I decided to explore a nearby second-hand store. My mom, sisters, and I are regular thrifters, so I thought I might have better fortune there, and you never know what you might find at these odd and sometimes extraordinary shops. Sure enough, there I found and purchased two unexpected treasures that I thought were well worth the price!

As I was perusing the religious/inspirational section of the book shelves, I stumbled upon a biography of St. Dominic, a saint to whom I have a particularly strong devotion from my years in undergrad. at Franciscan University. This may seem odd: Franciscan University, Dominican saint? This is a lengthy story for another time, but to put it briefly I have come to believe that the vocation of a musician has more of a Dominican character than Franciscan. The distinct vocation of the Dominican order is to study, to preach the truth, and to share the fruits of one's contemplation. Musicians share the preaching aspect of the Dominican charism in that they are called to preach through Beauty.

St. Dominic, founder of the Order of Preachers

But back to my story! There are precious few biographies of St. Dominic, partly because so little is known about this saint. This one, titled "St. Dominic: The Grace of the Word" is by Fr. Guy Bedouelle, O.P. In addition, they are not necessarily found even at Catholic bookstores. So imagine my surprise to find this in an ordinary little thrift shop! I knew immediately that I could not leave this for someone else to find -- even if it wasn't about St. Dominic, I almost always feel a sense of obligation to "rescue" Catholic items from thrift stores or garage sales or rummage sales, mainly because some of them are sacrementals (that is, visible signs or reminders of invisible realities) and I suppose as a Catholic I think I mighty be partially responsible for what happens to them.

St. Hildegard von Bingen, patron saint of sacred musicians
and Doctor of the Church
My second treasure was a CD I found titled "Music from the Vatican: Alma Mater" featuring the voice of Pope emeritus Benedict XVI. I had seen this at the Franciscan University bookstore a couple times. It seemed particularly appropriate to bring this home with me for a couple reasons.  First of all, it seemed even more valuable now that he is no longer the Holy Father, though he is still very much with us in prayer and in spirit. Secondly, it is a CD consisting largely of Gregorian chants. Benedict XVI is a great lover of music: he plays the piano and his favorite composer is Mozart, which makes me appreciate him immensely. He was also pope at a significant time in my life when I was discovering the wealth of sacred music which belongs to the Catholic Church, from Gregorian chant to Palestrina and so much more! These are things which the pope also prized immensely, as seen during his pontificate both in the liturgies at the Vatican and in his actions as pope. These actions for the promotion of beautiful music and beautiful liturgy together accomplished so much for us sacred musicians, from his motu proprio on the extraordinary form of the Roman liturgy to his canonization of St. Hildegard von Bingen, patroness of sacred musicians, to name two of the most significant events. Having the combination of chant and his voice on this CD seemed like an ideal combination, as well as a comfort in these times of uncertainty as the Church awaits the selection of a new Holy Father. It seems ironic, or perhaps meant to be, that one of Benedict XVI's final actions as pope was to call the year of faith and now we -- or at least I am called to grow in faith that  the Lord will provide us with a capable shepherd. It was an immense comfort to know that I had a kindred spirit on the papal throne (did I mention he also was a cat person, and an introvert), thus making it very difficult to say good-bye. However, I pray for the cardinals as the conclave approaches and for the guidance of the Holy Spirit.  I also continue to pray for Benedict, as even though he is stepping down from the papal throne, he is still going to have his health problems to bear.

I'll conclude with a beautiful quote from our beloved Benedict XVI.

"I am convinced that music really is the universal language of beauty which can bring together all people of good will on earth."

 -- Pope Benedict XVI, Paul VI Audience Hall, Vatican City, 16 April 2007.

We love you, Benedict XVI, and we miss you!

(source: Program notes for the CD "Music from the Vatican: Alma Mater, featuring the voice of Pope Benedict XVI")