Father Michael Barrow

From the parish of St Francis of Assisi

MUSIC AS A WAY OF PRAYING

MUSIC AS A WAY OF PRAYING

In January this year we had a recital in our Catholic Cathedral and also in St Francis Catholic Church which we billed as "a concert of classical cameos" sung by two brilliant sopranos.  It was deeply moving but because it was a concert it was accepted that everyone should applaud the end of each item. A number of times I was so moved and almost wanted to call out "Don’t applaud, let's just savour the moment and the movement.”

 

Prayer is an action like that, which moves us into a completely different dimension from the normal material world in which we are living.  I'm afraid the way that we have been taught to pray often divorces it from other natural movements of mind and heart.  So we end up with a feeling that to pray we must do it ourselves – with some discipline and perseverance, trying to avoid distractions. But really prayer is allowing God to take hold of us. It is not what we are doing but allowing God to pray in us. St Paul says "When we cannot choose words in order to pray properly, the Spirit himself expresses our plea in a way that could never be put into words, and God who knows everything in our hearts knows perfectly well what he means." (Romans 8.26) 

If we open our hearts to the touch of God, so many things in our material world can move us into a completely different dimension, away from time and space  –  and there we find God.  It might simply be our being moved by the beauty of nature in this island.  Face it, that is why so many people come on vacation here, not just for the weather but to experience the beauty of creation here. For some it will just be a wonderful relaxing experience but for many of us it is a way of experiencing the touch of God. And this is prayer. 

Those of us who were brought up as Christians come to accept this as normal and don't always realise the power of it or the fact that this is real prayer. A few years ago David Durston, an English Anglican priest, went to Latvia soon after communism had fallen in the Soviet Union and was talking to some people who had come to a real spiritual faith, although their parents and grandparents had no faith at all (not that they just didn't go to church – they simply had no idea of any reality beyond what is material).  

He wrote: 
"A major factor in several of their stories was the importance of music. For example, one woman said that her first awakening to the religious dimension of life was through a music teacher who was the first teacher to make the school choir interesting and who taught them some classical Christian music. She mentioned JS Bach and also Negro Spirituals. (The teacher was later dismissed from her job).  Another young woman started her story about how she came to faith in Christ by saying she was a musician. She was in the local choir, and towards the end of the Soviet period they had been allowed to sing church music. She mentioned Bach first, then Britten's Requiem, Byrd and Poulenc.   Church choirs have also clearly been of importance to many young people as a vehicle for the expression of developing Christian faith."

For some of us our education in prayer, which we received as children and hardly developed since, restricts us from appreciating the full nature of prayer – perhaps the expression "spiritual exercises" might be more helpful. Let us make use of the visual beauty of this island, of art and music and poetry, to open our hearts to the touch of God. 

 

Perhaps our two sopranos will be inspired again to take us beyond this world and open our hearts to the touch of God. 

PILGRIMAGE TO ROME
Time capsule!!!