And now it begins. This sweet blog o’ mine. I have no idea what lies ahead of me, nor have I any grand ideas of what might be posted here. The thought of writing my own blog never appealed to me until I met my beau Sam, a blogger himself. Early in our relationship, after we became friends on Facebook, I clicked on the links that led to his blogs. And though I am inflating him because he’s the dude who set this thing up for me (and he laughs at pretty much anything mildly amusing that I say), I have to say that I was genuinely blown away by his creativity. Though he modestly snickers when I compliment what he does, seeing his drawings, pictures, and witty musings on daily life still inspires me.
Today is the Monday of Holy Week and it hit me that this is the best time to begin. For church musicians like me, this is a hectic time of year. So why would I take on a project like this now? Because I had a moment today that rose up from my gut that I couldn’t ignore. A memory of my grandmother who passed away just before Holy Week last year. Our beloved Grammy was a devoted Catholic who had a novena for everything. We knew St. Martha novenas were said on Tuesdays, that St. Dymphna was the lady you prayed to if you had “nerves”, and that it was good luck if the head of a statue fell off. (It meant that prayers were answered, according to Gram. When I was about seven, she gave me her Infant of Prague statue whose head popped off so many times that it both freaked me out and amazed me at the same time. She had also re-painted his face following every disfigurement suffered from falls off the window sill. She also sewed majestic robes of sequins and velvet for this tiny statue with her arthritic hands.) Stories of my grandmother’s faith and religious practices could probably fill lots of future posts.
I wonder sometimes how much the influence of my grandmother played in my gravitating toward my current job: playing organ and piano, directing choirs of children and adults, and coordinating a music program at a local Catholic church. Even though my use is taken completely out of context, whenever I hear the passage from the Gospel of John that goes, “It was not you who chose me, but I who chose you”, I realize this is how I feel about my work. Someone greater than myself had a hand in placing me where I am. My current position came to me by accident and so did learning to play the organ as a child.
My upbringing as a Catholic is kind of slippery. Even though I was privileged to attend Catholic school from pre-school through high-school (and, I might add, those were amazing years of my life, overflowing with memories and life-long friendships), we didn’t attend Mass regularly. My folks were not joiners and only supported the parish by popping their envelopes in the collection basket. My mother went through periods of weekly attendance, but they seemed to be short-lived. There was also something humorous about religion in our family and when we went with my mother, there always seemed to be something to giggle at during Mass. Whether it was something in a homily or a funny name in the bulletin (for years, we cracked up at the thought of a guy going through life named Don Rother, as opposed to Dan Rather), we were always laughing in church.
Church provided an endless supply of mystery, especially since we spent lots of time there during school hours. There were confessions and First Friday Masses and benediction on Friday afternoons at 1PM. We prayed so much in grade school, it is a miracle that we learned anything. I found myself attracted to prayer books and eventually, began to swipe a missalette or two from the church. And a hymnal. I even had the timing of the thievery down-pat; I would steal a missalette when I knew it would be the last Mass they would be used at. My logic was that they would just be tossed anyway. As I got older and learned to play piano, I would play the music from the missalette. When my piano teacher began to teach me organ, she endorsed my removal of these items, for educational purposes.
The missalettes from Holy Week gave me a thrill because they were not only thick, but they also contained the full text of the readings and psalms for each day, from Palm Sunday all the way through Easter. I removed one on Palm Sunday because I couldn’t resist. I recall being home from school due to illness one day during Holy Week in the third grade. Or I feigned illness to stay home to read my missalette. I enjoyed reading the prayers out loud (or playing church with my brother), either alone or with my Barbies. That day, my grandmother was in charge of me and I remember asking her to read the readings aloud with me. And she said no! I never knew why she denied upholding the religious practices of her granddaughter at that moment, but I never forgot that day. She didn’t want to read along with me, but she did provide me with the correct pronunciation of the word ‘evildoer’.
Today I remembered those feelings vividly. Waking up early to play piano for a school Mass and direct the children’s choir of children of missalette-stealing age, it occurred to me as I accompanied our children’s choir on piano that the word ‘evildoer’ makes an appearance in Psalm 27, today’s psalm. Maybe my grandmother’s belief in the afterlife impacted me enough to snicker and shake my head today as I imagined her remembering that day – from heaven.