Saturday, May 26, 2012

Keeping it together

When things go right, nobody notices they are going at all.  When things go wrong, it is amazing what one learns.
If you were at the eleven o’clock Mass last week, you noticed the paramedics in the choir right before Holy Communion.  Gemma Adami, a choir member famous for her remarkable soprano voice since the days of Msgr. Stricker, lost consciousness and slumped in her chair.  After she was deftly removed to the hospital for tests, she bounced back quickly, and it was determined nothing grave had occurred.  She benefitted from the prayers of all who offered them for her.
This was not a good thing in itself, and I would not seek to see it repeated.  But it revealed something beautiful that I want to share with you. 
When Gemma lost consciousness, the other choir members responded.  I found out what was happening when two of the other sopranos came out side to guide in the EMTs.  Their concern for Gemma was obvious and genuine. They had noticed she was not doing very well earlier in the Mass, and had been keeping an eye on her and talking to her about how she felt.  
When I arrived to lead the medics into the choir and give Gemma the sacrament of anointing, other choristers were at work gently caring for the unconscious Gemma, and trying to reach her family members.  As the medics carried her to the ambulance, the singers were recounting to them everything that Gemma had said or done that might shed light on her condition.
Something beautiful was at work in all this, too.  I could not help but marvel at the genuine friendship and affection that obviously exists in the choir, and the great care they have for one another.  This is all the more remarkable because of the broad range of age and experience in the group.  While Gemma is in her sixth decade singing for us, some of the others are in their first year.  The sopranos who were so attentive to her are the age of her granddaughters.   
This broad variety of people come together to sing and praise God every week in our parish, uniting men and women of diverse backgrounds in one common endeavor of glorifying God.  They form a microcosm of the parish itself, with bonds that grow strong and beautiful, manifest for all who have eyes to see.
Right before Easter, another chorister, Bernice Bartlett, died at the age of 95.  A remarkable woman who was always smiling and loved to be with the choir even though she wasn’t up to singing the more demanding pieces, she was loved and respected by the singers.  This was clear when they all sang for her funeral  -- on Wednesday morning of Holy Week, the most demanding time of the year for church singers.  This was a beautiful display the true bonds of community that exist across differences that divide other aspects of society, as some who knew, loved and sang for her were not even one-quarter her age.
Yes, one of the things I want to do by this is to encourage you to consider joining one of our choirs.   There is probably someone there already with whom you have something in common, but not everything.  It is famously said that he who sings prays twice, and singing together makes for a powerful union in prayer.  Who among us does not need to strengthen that union?
But also, I want to draw your attention to the strength of the communion you already have within our praying and singing parish, in which more folks than you realize know about you and care for you.  We help one another and pray for one another even when it our particular need is not so obvious to everyone.  Last Sunday morning Gemma received more prayer and assistance than she will ever know.  You don’t have to wait for something to go wrong, much less accrue her kind of seniority around here, to receive the exact same thing.

Monsignor Smith

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