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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Dona Nobis Pacem

Grant us peace.

The contentment that began on a rainy day a couple of days has continued to permeate my body beyond the point of saturation. It's spilling out of me.

This morning I went to mass at my parish.  Besides friends and family, weekly mass at St. William Church in Louisville, KY is one of the things I miss most when I am away from Louisville.  The people of St. William are my friends and family, in both the literal and figurative sense. That place is home, even when my house doesn't feel like home.  

Shortly before I left for Turkey/Albania/Iraq, I began singing with the ensemble during mass.  I have been a member of St. William for 7 years, but rarely did I sing with the ensemble, at least in front of a microphone.  I always sang loudly from my seat.

Prior to joining St. William, I had attended mass in Spanish at various parishes and had sung with their choirs.  Focusing on the music distanced me from the goings-on of mass.  Because I worried about what I had to sing next and if I knew it well enough, and if everyone else knew it well enough, I did not listen to readings or the homily with the attention they deserve. When I joined St. William, I wanted to immerse myself in mass without the responsibility of singing in front of a microphone. The same year I joined St. William, I started teaching at Trinity.  That year and the several that followed were ones of great growth and change, but they lacked the musical nourishment I had gotten from singing with a group.  It took a few years before I got back into any formal singing - as a cantor and co-leader of Trinity's liturgy band.  Rehearsing and singing with the group rejuvenated my soul.   It was hard to leave the group.

Thankfully, my time with the Sisters of Charity in Nazareth in India was full of song.  Most evenings during prayer, we sang.  Spirit-filling.  However, the months that followed - in Palestine, with the exception of my frequent visits to St. Anne's church in Jerusalem, and as I worked my way back west - were mostly devoid of singing. When I returned to Louisville from my 8 1/2 month sojourn, my musical reserve needed a fill-up.

Midway through the summer, St. Williams' music director asked me to sing one Sunday.  Yes! Then he asked me again.  I told him I only wanted to substitute occasionally.  But after singing with the group a few times, I realized that I wanted  to get up earlier every Sunday, so I could be among those making beautiful harmonies from the front of the church, not from a seat.

This morning I was eager to join the ensemble and, for the first time since I joined (because I previously declined all invitations), I sang a verse on my own.  During rehearsal prior to mass, I could feel the music streaming from my soul, from the glorious flood within.  Hours later, even though I'm no longer singing, it's an outpouring I continue to feel.

Sometime during today's mass I remembered another time, just a few weeks ago, when music flowed freely at a most unexpected time, with a hoped-for, but unexpected result.

Our Christian Peacemaker Team (CPT) delegation pulled into a gas station.  We'd been on the road all day.  It was dark.  Already at the station were several vehicles that were clearly transporting someone(s) important.  If memory serves me well, there was a police vehicle accompanying the black vehicles.  Standing guard at the gas station were several men, serious faces, feet slightly more than shoulder-width apart, hands folded in front of them, earpieces with cords disappearing under their suits.  When we pulled in in our dusty white 20-passenger van, the men moved closer to us, one man in front of the van, another to our side, no doubt, to make sure we'd be no threat to whomever they were protecting.

We looked out at them.  They looked in at us.

"Let's do something!" a delegate suggested.

I don't remember who suggested we sing.  I suggested we sing the Dona Nobis Pacem.

So we began.  Without ever having sung it together before, those who knew began to sing and somehow the harmonies worked themselves out.  A cascade of women's voices complemented by the rich low tones of the male delegate. Dona Nobis Pacem. Grant us peace.

The guards began to smile.  They may have even laughed.  We continued to sing loudly, ourselves laughing with the joy of a successful endeavor to change the atmosphere we'd entered.  Even serious security guards are not impermeable.

One of CPT's main works is to spread awareness of the on-the-ground happenings of the places they work - to tell the stories that rarely, if ever, make the mainstream news.  Our last day in Iraq, we hosted a press conference in which we shared all we had seen and heard during our days in Iraqi Kurdistan.  As suggested by a local CPT partner, we ended our press conference with a song.

Dona Nobis Pacem.

May God's peace pour out from us in song. (Click on the links to hear a trio or choral version of the canon.)

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