Sight, Sound and Beyond

Posts tagged ‘Holy Rosary’

A Reluctant Organist

unnamedIf you asked me ten years ago if I would ever consider learning to play the organ I would probably say, “Nope.”  For the last couple months, I have been pondering the idea, and with the help of a fellow choir member and colleague, I found someone who was willing to teach me.  I am schedule to have my firt lesson a week from tomorrow.

How did all this happen?  Well, after our church music director got a job closer to home, the choir scrambled to find someone who could fill in until our pastor could hire a permanent replacement.  After playing a few masses on piano at my church and even playing a mass on Christmas Eve with another parish at Westchester Department of Correction, my interest in playing music at church became even stronger.  There was one problem.  I didn’t know how to play the organ, and the more I thought about it, the more curious I became.  Could I actually learn to play?

Once I began considering the idea of learning to play the organ, my mind began to attack me with negative thoughts.

Are you kidding?  At your age?  You’re too old to learn a second instrument!

As a classically trained musician, I have often heard it said that to be a good musician on any instrument, it is best to start very young.  Most accomplished pianists begin their piano studies between the ages of 3 and 5.  I was 8 years old when I started, and according to classical standards, that is considered to be over the hill unless you happen to be a genius.  In case you are wondering, I am not a genius.

Now here I am at 35 years of age wanting to learn the organ.  Besides learning to play on at least two manuals (keyboards), I would be required to play on a pedal keyboard using my feet.  P.S. I am not the most well-coordinated person.  If you don’t believe me, you should check me out when I am out on the dance floor.  I may enjoy shaking a tail feather, but I don’t know if others enjoy watching me do so.

I took 20 years of piano lessons, and it wasn’t until my mid 20s that I began to play at a pretty reasonable level.  How long would it take me to play at a decent level on the organ?  Would it seriously take me another 20 years?

I haven’t even started lessons yet, and I have already been faced with my fair share of challenges.  I thought finding a teacher would be one of the most difficult parts, but there was something even more challenging: getting access to an organ.  I didn’t get the green light from my own home parish, and once I informed my father about it he quoted Luke 4:24

No prophet is accepted in his hometown.

Finally after many emails and telephone calls, I finally cut a break with another parish in my neighboring town.  The music director there was a huge help, and through him I was able to gain access to the organ in their small chapel.  The chapel has less activity than their main church, so I would less likely be an intrusion on other people.  This chapel is actually closer to where I live than my actual home parish.

I do not know what the outcome of all this will be.  I have been told by a couple people that God is calling me to pursue this and to become a church organist.  So far, I am not feeling like that’s the case.  Now don’t get me wrong, I initially felt it when the idea first popped into my head, but the feeling only lasted for a few minutes.  My own mother was confused by my interest in becoming an organist and said:

I don’t understand why are you doing this.  Holy Rosary doesn’t need an organist.

She failed to see that this was something beyond Holy Rosary.  Besides, I wouldn’t say that I am Holy Rosary’s most popular choice for church musician (although the choir likes me yay!).  To be quite honest, I am the one that fills in when there is absolutely no one else available.  For example, I played piano at a healing mass once because none of the musicians from the folk group were able to attend.  It was summertime and people were away on vacation. Let me just say when I was asked to play, I was pretty excited and gave it my best effort.  Sure, I was the only person left in the pool of choices, but I still got the call!

Last Sunday, we had no organist to play for the 9:30am mass and so with only 15 minutes prior notice, I jumped in, hoped for a miracle and played the mass on piano.  I will add that before I arrived at the church, my mother gave me some of her useful advice:

Don’t interrupt the priest by coming in too early with the Sanctus.

She was referring to the last time I played at mass.  Before all the angels and saints could begin proclaiming God’s glory by saying “holy holy holy,” I had already gotten started.  I am thinking all of Heaven was like “Whoa!  Check out that anticipation on Earth right now!”  Either that or Heaven had a good chuckle.  Whatever it was, I hope, it to some extent, pleasing to the Lord.  Messing up in church is truly a humbling experience.  P.S. There were twice as many holies sung at that particular mass.  There’s your silver lining!

Anyway, my parents happened to be at the impromptu mass that took place this morning.  My mother said:

You did very well.  I didn’t hear any mistakes.

Well, I managed to fool her.  There were plenty of mistakes and thankfully, our Lord was very gracious in helping me cover them up.

As I bring this blog post to a close, I recall a phrase that someone very close to me said a couple weeks ago:

“Go where God leads you.”

Let’s see where He takes me.

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My First Visit to Israel

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A View of Jerusalem from the Mount of Olives

I remember studying the middle eastern countries in high school, and to me, it was one area of the world I did not want to ever visit because of all the war and conflict over there. I remember saying to my friends, Mary: “I would never visit Israel. I would probably get myself killed over there.”

Several years later, I found myself signing up for a Pilgrimage to the Holy Land lead by my parish priest, Fr. Martin. I had been taking a lot of bible studies and was learning about scripture and the story of salvation, something I never quite understood as a child. I did not have the privilege to study at a Catholic school like my parents did. They both attended catholic elementary-middle schools as well as catholic high schools. My father even attended a Catholic college. Even though I did receive religious instruction at my parish and received my sacraments, I still felt like I had a lot of catching up to do when it came to understanding the whole story and my place in it.

I was learning a lot and the opportunity to visit Israel seemed to come at a perfect time. It was like the Lord was calling me to go. Once I made my decision to go, I got a lot of mixed reactions from people. My mother’s comment was: “Don’t get shot over there.” I signed up to go in May of 2014 and then in October of that year, headlines all over the news broke out about people getting killed over there. My mother kept saying: “I think your trip to Israel is going to get canceled.” Yet the trip was still on. People kept telling me that I was crazy for wanting to go and I would say something like: “Look if I get killed over there, what better place is there to die?”

As the time of departure moved closer, my mother kept reminding me: “Stay with the group” and “Stay away from ISIS.” I let her comments go in one ear and out the other. I wasn’t worried because I had talked to many who had visited Israel and assured me that I would be safe.

I left for Israel on February 18th and returned on March 1st. It was a wonderful experience, and I got to visit all the places where Jesus walked, such as Nazareth, Cana, Capernaum, the Sea of Galilee, the Jordan River, Mount Tabor, Mount Zion, Mount of Olives, Bethlehem and the Old City of Jerusalem. I also visited Caesarea, the Golan Heights, Masada, Qumran and the Dead Sea.  I traveled with a nice sized group (there were 16 of us all together) and we all felt completely safe.

When I returned everyone asked me about my trip and my experiences and it was difficult to give a summary. In fact, I plan to post some specific experiences on this blog since it would be too challenging to describe it all in one post, so stay tuned!

A Eucharistic Minister

Holy Rosary Church

Holy Rosary Church
Hawthorne, NY

A few years ago, I had told my parents that I was interested in becoming a Eucharistic Minister and both they gave me a good chuckle.  I am not a devout Catholic.  I guess that is why I call myself a practicing one because I am still trying to get good at at it.  

I have always been fascinated by the mass and when I was about 7 or 8 years old, I remember telling my mother that I wanted to become a priest.  Her response was: “Oh you can’t be a priest.  Only men can become priests, but you can become a nun.”  I didn’t want to become a nun though.  I wanted to be a part of the mass and at my church, i never saw nuns participate in the mass.

Why exactly did I want to be a priest?  There was always something fascinating about watching the priest lead the mass.  I loved when they would give their homilies.  With some priests, it was like a real artistic performance as they would speak from their hearts and we, the congregation, would be attentively listening.  I loved how one person could inspire a large group of people.  But I remember one priest telling us that we all are priests because it is our mission to bring those around us closer to God, not so much by what we say, but what we do and how we respond to situations.

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This is a prayer book I received when I made my First Holy Communion on May 12, 1990

A couple years after expressing my interest in becoming a Eucharistic Minister to parents, I actually followed through and became one.   Why did I wait a so long?  Well, I am not one who likes to act out of impulse.

I was installed as a Eucharistic Minister on December 22, 2013, but I did not serve my first mass until January 4, 2014.  So far I have served two masses and serve another this Saturday, February 15th.  Though I am still learning the ropes, I must say that it is quite an amazing experience giving out the blood and body of Christ.

I am hoping that being a Eucharistic Minister will help my relationship with God develop further and will continue to inspire me to serve as a fine example of love and unity.

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