Sunday, January 8, 2017

Silent Testimony

Three months later: weeks of changing light bulbs, crawling through garages to figure out how the heating works, the infamous broken disability lift (which keeps breaking, right before a major event), the gallery whose mould and dust seems to have no end (we’re on a crusade to create a healthy environment for our singers!).

Through it all, the liturgical year has carried us: the messages of the gospels, end-time, and then Advent.  And for the first time in more than fifteen years, I’ll get the chance to actually plan and see into reality the liturgies of Christmas. 

In the midst of all these labours, I’ve had small moments of breakthroughs – not that this is what it’s all about.  But they’ve been there to experience, if one has the eyes to see and the ears to hear.

Since the end of September, I’ve been making sure to be at almost every 1:05PM daily liturgy in Newman’s University Church.  Progress here is measured in centimetres... nothing spectacular.  Every day, I’ve quietly added guitar to the Communion Rite – no expectations of participation.  And the guitar has had to take on many new  Irish tunes as well – beautiful, evocative tunes that this country is known for.

But when we hit the “purple season” of Advent, it was time to make the small move: a printed booklet of hymns, psalms and acclamations from both sides of the Atlantic.  “Sein Allelu” appeared along with a lovely Advent Irish rendition of “Bi Íosa Im Chroise.”  Bit, by bit, we added sung repertoire to the celebration.

And we came, finally, to the last weekday liturgy of Advent, Friday of the Fourth Week of Advent – December 23rd.  Normally Fridays are a scant daily congregation... people are wrapping up for the week.  But this day, the crowd was much larger.  And for the last time in 2016, we sang “O Come, O Come Emmanuel.”  Just one verse (these people are on lunch break!)  And just to close out the season, I played the entire thing through instrumentally, thinking that people would jump out of their pews and head back to work.

No one moved.  Not a soul.  Everyone stood in silent witness, soaking up every note, every chord.  I didn’t even realize it until I looked up, halfway through the “postlude” on the guitar.

It was a silent ratification.  The quiet, appreciative, understated Irish way of saying “thank you for what you’re doing.” 

Now we look to the Nativity.  Step, by step, by holy step.


  1. Thanks for sharing a bit of your faith journey in music ministry in your new position in Ireland. It resounded strong and quite similar to my current position in a small rural parish back here in New Jersey led by a wonderful Irish priest. I have only been here for about 18 months and I feel so blessed. My success lies in asking God for the grace to see these people through His eyes of love and mercy. They know that I love them more than the music and as a result, they are open to anything new that I might offer... one step at a time. I added guitar to the organ and keyboard. My personal challenge was to learn one Christmas song on cello for our Family Mass on Christmas Eve. Thanks to our new digital piano with the ability to record an accompaniment and a high school student on flute, we had a nice little ensemble of Away in the Manger.The people sang beautifully. I have served in different size parishes over the years carrying unrealistic expectations of what I thought I needed to produce as a music director. In this rural parish, I have finally found a home by being in tune with the people God has asked me to serve. Wishing you many blessings and success in your ministry. Happy New Year.

    1. What a beautiful message! I honestly hope that these writings are a way for all of us as colleagues in ministry to be faithful stewards of the Church. Good luck with your ministry! And blessings to you as we make our way, steadfastly, through this new year.