Monday, April 20, 2009

Impromptu soloist on Divine Mercy Sunday

Yesterday some friends and I were at St. Thérèse in Alhambra, a big stone church with a high ceiling, tall stained glass windows, huge pillars, and a tendency when candlelit to look like something from a Dracula movie. But this was a sunny afternoon, and people were gathered for a traditional Latin Mass. Afterward, in honor of Divine Mercy Sunday, there was a Eucharistic procession all around the church, and you should have heard the organ filling the rafters with music while the schola in the choir loft led us in verse after verse of Pange, Lingua. We'd repeated the first four verses about three times before the priest finally reached the front of church again and placed the Blessed Sacrament in the monstrance. The organ got even louder as we all burst into "TANTUM ERGO SACRAMENTUM..." It was really something.

But the whole time I was aware of a woman, a little distance behind me, talking very loudly. I couldn't make out what she was saying, but she certainly was animated. The music was too beautiful and loud for me to pay her much attention. Then the music came to its triumphant conclusion, the last note ended, and utter silence descended upon the church, leaving us all on our knees praying.

Only her voice didn't stop. "Is that you, Joseph?" she called out, loudly enough to be heard by at least half the church. I realized who it was: an little old lady who always attended that Mass. I'd noticed her before, and she sometimes seemed to be mostly deaf and somewhat unaware of her surroundings.

This dear woman proceeded to serenade us all. It was a song I'd never heard before, in Latin. Something from the churches of her Catholic childhood, no doubt. She gave us one verse, and then to our dismay she went right on to the second, in a somewhat off-key but determined warble. This whole time the rest of the church was trying to pray, and nobody moved a muscle. Whoever had helped the woman get into the church in the first place didn't seem to be around to shush her now.

But in due course the woman finished her recital. There was a little pause. Then suddenly she burst out, "Well, now I've heard everything! That was wonderful!" At this I couldn't resist turning around, and there she was about ten feet behind me, sitting in her wheelchair, beaming at me. I smiled back. I'm glad she enjoyed it!


Joe of St. Thérèse said...

I hope you enjoyed the extra incense i sent your way ;)

Rachel Gray said...

You incensed me so much, it's amazing we're still friends! ;)

Lee Gilbert said...

"Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings thou has formed perfect praise." This probably includes the slightly daft as well :)

Seriously though, as beautiful as the music and the moment might otherwise have been, I wonder if perhaps Our Lord did not enjoy the patience of His people even more.

Rachel Gray said...

Lee, that is a really good point!