For many years I had a framed plaque in my offices entitled “Music is a Fair and Glorious Gift of God” which was attributed to St. Augustine. He is also said to have declared “He who sings prays twice.” He also says in Sermon 256 which is found in the “Office of Readings” of the Liturgy of the Hours for the last day in Ordinary Time before Advent “Let us sing alleluia here on earth, while we still live in anxiety, so that we may sing it one day in heaven in full security. Even here amidst trials and temptations let us, let men, sing alleluia … God is faithful. Sing then, but keep going.”
St. Augustine (being a favorite of mine anyway) has helped me over the years to develop, refine and enjoy the gift of music, which on so many occasions has lifted my spirits and brought me closer to God. We are blessed here with so many musical opportunities here in Orange County, and particularly in our parish choirs and other missions. I think of the Christ Cathedral campus, with the carillon that is now playing in the Easter Season; with the Francis Cabildo band that played “Waves of Mercy” Praise Band for our young adults during the night hours in the “24 Hours for the Lord;” for all of the concerts and musical events on campus, for the Hazel Wright organ that will soon return and one day give praise to God in our restored Cathedral; and for the voices that sing in praise to God at so many of our churches daily. In this Confirmation season I am blessed to pray for the gifts of the Holy Spirit upon our young people and hear them sing at Mass and all of the music groups and choirs that accompany them. I thank Mater Dei High school for the opportunity to play the keyboard and enjoy music with the “Red Hot Jazz Band” and all of the people at my home who have sang around my 1922 Player Piano.
I have enjoyed stage and musical productions at all of our high schools and know that many of our students are involved in these wherever they go to school. However, most recently, I offer a thanks to the Lord and to Santa Margarita High school for the gift and talent of their theatre department and music department and their marvelous students who welcomed me into the production of “Guys and Dolls”! Thanks to all of them, after a couple of more serious months of ministry and decisions, I found that I still could sing, laugh, and yes, even still dance a few steps , even at now nearly 65 years old! I had played the role of “Nicely Nicely Johnson” in an abridged version of that musical when I was a pastor back in Decatur, Illinois: so my time with Santa Margarita production of that musical helped me to connect with that important time in my life and ministry! What was most impressive to me in that month of singing, and practicing and performing was the hard work, dedication and the Faith of our young people in the cast and crew! I truly enjoyed being with them, and “hanging with them” perhaps more than they know, and they made me, and all of us proud.
Music is truly a fair and glorious gift of God, and all of us involved with, or having seen “Guys and Dolls” experienced that first hand, and in that context, the “Joy of the Gospel” that Pope Francis writes so beautifully about! And, that friends, is the real “marker” that this production offered to me, and to us all!
A blessed Easter season to all, and ALLELUIA as was proclaimed at the Salvation Army mission this past week!
+The Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, Bishop of Orange