It is such an honor to join my fellow choir members and other pilgrims to journey to Rome and to be so personally involved with Pope Francis’ prayers for the Church in this Jubilee Year of Mercy. It will be a very human journey for me; my tummy is already telling me so as I contemplate flying for the first time in a long while. My fellow pilgrims all agree it is a once in a lifetime journey.
Right now amidst getting ready for choir and thinking about what fits in my suitcase later today, I’m pausing to say that I want to fill every minute well, to reflect, to listen, to see what God has for me in the next week. I’ll be doing some of that reflection here to share, to give thanks, and to celebrate the work that God is doing in St. Cecilia Cathedral Choir and parish, in our Mother Church, and in my life. Who am I? I am just a pilgrim on the road.
One of the original attractions of St. Cecilia Cathedral for me was its beauty: the meaningful art, architecture, and music that draw the eyes, ears, mind, and heart toward a deeper experience of Christ’s communion with his Church. Another attraction was its size and the personal space that affords seekers and wounded worshipers a place of shelter in which to meditate and approach God in response to a call rather than a push. The choir is, likewise, a sheltered place for Catholics and non-Catholics who are drawn together by their love for beauty, the great canon of sacred music, and the opportunity for service to the important ministry of the cathedral. Some members are alumnae of St. Cecilia school and its wonderful music program. Others are music education colleagues and friends in multiple musical venues. Others, like me, are wayfarers who found a home and a more sure anchor in the strong faith of our Catholic church.
Practicing to perform at a level that matches the beauty and important ministry of the mother church of our diocese does not always afford us the opportunity to know each other individually as well as we might like. We routinely begin and end with devotion, committing ourselves to “believe in our hearts what we sing with our lips, and what we sing with our lips, we might show forth in our lives.” We join our prayer with Christ and with our patroness, St. Cecilia. So we are bonded in this prayer, but minutes always matter. Social time has to be brief or scheduled and intentional.
Our pilgrimage to Rome gave choir members freedom to spend time with each other. We shared deep experiences of our faith, such as walking the pilgrim path to the Holy Door. We laughed and had time to talk, enjoying family style meals in local eateries. We shared concerns, seeking those who had missed connections, and caring for those who experienced illness or pain from the demands of the busy itinerary. I recall how we were literally squished together as we tried to make our exit from St. Peter’s after the Consistory. Security halted us at the door to the courtyard and pressed us together to make way for the family members of the new cardinals to pass ahead of us.
As I reflect on these experiences and my faith journey at St. Cecilia Cathedral over the past seven years, I discover that I am getting ready to let the cathedral be smaller, closer, and more personal. I find myself reaching out to know and be known, to forgive and be forgiven, to embrace and be embraced, to love and be loved. That has been Christ’s gift of mercy for me.