Saturday, May 23, 2015

Something Like A Miracle

Sometimes, you can plan events like nobody's business: workshops and breakouts and prayer services.  And that is all well and good.  But sometimes other things happen in the midst of all this planning – it is what one hopes for, really – when all that planning breaks onto a completely different plane, creating a completely different kind of encounter.

Such was what happened on our first big day of work in Melbourne.  We were working at an amazing campus – the Archdiocesan Catholic Leadership Centre.  This facility, which used to be a parish, was completely transformed into classrooms, prayer rooms, auditoriums, a stunning chapel – even retreat facilities.  And for the greater part of the day, the Folk Choir was to work with about 150 Catholic secondary students from around the city.  Their task, in essence, was simply to give these students permission to be spiritual.

The day was scripted such that we would begin with a concert.  The choir stood all around the periphery of the auditorium, surrounding the students... we began with a new piece, written by John Kyler, c.s.c., and Karen Kirner:  "Take From My Heart."  The harmonies surrounded the high school students, enveloped them.  And the choir trickled in, one by one, gathering into a huge semicircle in front of them.

The song concluded – and then there was polite applause by the kids.  Polite – the kind of applause that said "this is nice, I get out of school, they're not too boring, but I'm not going to show my hand here."

The next piece was "Alleluia, Sing Now With Gladness."  For those that know how we do it, there is a point where, after the doxological verse, the song erupts into hand claps.  And it did this day – and much to the surprise of everyone there, the effect of that moment was something like throwing a match on a stack of hay – the whole place erupted, a spirit seized the room, the looks on the faces of the students were utterly transformed.  They were wide-eyed, receptive, eager, open.  It was something like a miracle.

Song after song, the secondary students wrapped themselves around the enthusiasm of the choir and their repertoire.  At lunch, every Folk Choir member found a table and sat with the kids... I was in the next room with the adult religious education teachers.  All of a sudden, we all heard the refectory burst out in song.

We taught them the Mass for Our Lady, from start to finish.  And by the end of the afternoon, they not only sang it – they owned it.  These young students took hold of the liturgy and threw themselves into it.  The atmosphere was fire-filled, tangibly electric... energy dancing everywhere.

In all my years of working with this amazing ensemble, I've never encountered anything quite like this.  A miracle took place before us: a vanquishing of peer pressure, encouraged by a group of four dozen college students.  And it was not lost on this Director that the event took place as we headed into Pentecost weekend.

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