As I write this, I am on Aer Lingus flight #123 back to the United States of America. It is Thursday, June 9th, a full week after the end of the Notre Dame Folk Choir’s tour to Scotland, Ireland, and Northern Ireland.
In the span of that week, the landscape has changed a lot.
Now it can be said: what I have been holding, quietly, secretly, in the depths of my heart for the last two months, now can be shared.
For three or four years now, my Maker has been urging me on, in subtle and not-so-subtle ways. And at this point, what has been created at the University – a jewel to reflect the glory of our God – is ready to pass along, into the hands of another steward.
One of my first directors of Campus Ministry, Fr. David Schlaver, challenged me with a quote after he left his post for Ave Maria Press. That quote stayed perched on my cork board for many years – until I had burned the words into my heart:
"Missionaries go to a place when they are needed but not wanted,
and leave when they are wanted but not needed."
Some are asking, “why would you ever consider leaving the Folk Choir?” And the answer is really quite simple. Many people have expressed their want for me to stay at Notre Dame – but the reality is that there are far greater needs in other places. And that beloved ensemble has really been given everything they need to succeed for many, many years to come.
Years ago, at an NPM convention, I spoke about how hearts are broken – not in the romantic sense, but rather that hearts are broken apart so that they can hold so much more. My sense is that the choir has done this, collectively, for years – participated in the fractio, the breaking apart, the very human fraction rite of our liturgy, so that many, many others may be fed. And we are all called to this. Myself included.
The Folk Choir, contrary to what many generous people are saying, was never something I created. Nor was it, or should it ever be, primarily about music. It was, and is, the creation of the Creator, and it was, and is, kindled into being every time we've look into each others’ eyes and hearts, and witnessed to one another’s voices being given over to the courage needed to take up the song. All we can ask is to be good stewards of this gift.
Come September, Michele and I will be moving to Dublin, Ireland, and I will take on a new title, given me by the University, a reflection of the work that, God willing, will bring Irish people closer to their Creator. But I will also inherit a second title as well – that of Director Emeritus of the Notre Dame Folk Choir. I gladly embrace this title: it is a reflection of the more than six hundred amazing people I’ve had the privilege to stand before all these years. And, quite honestly, it gives me the opportunity to invite them to the other side of the Atlantic, to take part in some liturgical and musical opportunities in the future.
We live in a society that all to often robs us of permission to be spiritual, to share our sacred songs, to pass our divine dreams on to our children. And yet, all we need do is cling to the Rock. No storm can deter God’s will if such is done. We simply need to find the courage to sing. Keep singing about that great mystery of Love that has the last word – in the heavens, and on earth.