Hail Mary, full of grace

June 16, 2012

I have mentioned before that I am part of a choir at St. Thomas More Catholic Church here in Austin. Our choir director has decided that we take a summer vacation so we haven't had rehearsal on Tuesday evenings for 3 weeks. I feel like telling him how much he's wrecked my life by doing this, but I can't figure out how to do that without it seeming to be as pathetic as it actually is. I counted on those Tuesday evening rehearsals; they kept me going from week to week. I've decided that my life definitely needs structure or I lie morosely around my apartment or go out and spend unChristian kinds of money on food and drink – mostly drink.

It's just ironic that we were preparing for Easter at the same time that my CRHP team prepared for our retreat weekend, that I was working so hard for both of them and now they're both over at the same time. It would have been nice if they had been spread out a little.

Last Sunday evening Ren, the Muppet-like choir director, emailed us that one of our members passed away. It was such a shock; I kept rereading the email because I was certain that he meant that her mother had passed away and that I was simply misreading it. But, no matter how I read it, it always came out the same and I had to accept that one of my choir sisters was no longer with us. She was also a member of the funeral choir with STM and now they are going to be singing for her.

Ren wrote the email very late on Sunday and I read it Monday morning at work. I was a little numb for most of the day. I went by the church to talk to Ren and offer a hug, but he was off helping give mass somewhere. I felt lost, like I needed interaction. I told a couple of people and they were sympathetic, but somehow I needed something else.

So, I texted my CRHP brother, Bill, who is the facilitator for the new CRHP team going through formation. When I went through formation there were men who got together to pray the Rosary before our meetings and we began to make that an optional part of our meetings – come 30 minutes early and pray together. I had no idea that men liked praying the Rosary. I mean men in general. I would never have thought that it was something men did; I've always associated it with women.

I asked Bill if they still prayed the Rosary before their meeting and if I could join them. His answer was a simple "Yes and yes". He didn't ask why or question it at all; he just welcomed me to join them. Before we begin the leader always asks if there are any special intentions and I said 'for the repose of the soul of Regina'. A few people heard me and we discussed a little who she was, though none of them seemed to know her. But, we prayed. Over and over we prayed Our Father and Hail Mary and over and over men’s voices rose up in prayer asking Mother Mary to pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

When we were finished Bill walked with me to the door. He asked what I was going to do for the evening. Of course I didn't know. Make dinner, go to bed. But, I told him why I had come and he listened and I thanked him for letting me join them. There is something comforting about being with others that you know and praying the Rosary together. That was what I needed, and this is why I'm Catholic.

Rest in peace, Regina.

e A r n i e

I think I joined a choir

I think I just joined the choir at church. I’m not certain exactly how it happened, but my meds are making me “dizzy” at the moment, so maybe it will make more sense later. What I remember is this:

I recently went though a retreat call Christ Renews His Parish and I am currently going through formation. I can’t say anything more about it, and I might have already said too much. My point is that I was looking through the list of ministries in my church last night and there are apparently over 70 of them. I went through the ones listed in the bullet points of the main page of the Saint Thomas More website. The one that appealed to me most was St. Vincent de Paul. However, the list of contacts was just a list of names; it gave no indication how a person was actually supposed to contact those people. I didn’t write it off, but I felt the need to do something so I continued to look at the other options. This was Saturday night and I was looking around for a ministry to join because even though I’m going through formation I’m still feeling a little lonely in the parish.

Let me back up just a little bit. I don’t think I’ve introduced myself to anybody who might not know me, so there are probably some things that would be important to know before much of this could make sense. First and foremost; I’m single. That speaks volumes in the way my family interacts with me, and the church as well. (I didn’t write The Church because I don’t mean the entire entity which is The Roman Catholic Church. I’m speaking directly about the church to which I currently belong, and the church before that and the church before that. All of them Roman Catholic and all of them very family-oriented and I don’t have a family except for my cats and I haven’t found the official stance of The Roman Catholic Church regarding cats, or pets in general, though I’m certain that it would be a very charitable one. The Right to Life and all. I mean; I don’t think they would picket a veterinary clinic for fixing animals, even if those animals happened to be pregnant at the moment, but I’m sure that they would require the humane treatment of animals in general and pets especially.) So, the church where I have landed is very, very family-oriented and I feel somewhat more isolated here than I did before. I felt alone at St. Ignatius, Martyr; I felt very alone at Sacred Heart in Elgin, but that was mostly because all of the people who would stop and talk to my roommate – and me when I happened to be with him – didn’t look at me twice when I was by myself. An interesting thing about Saint Thomas More is that they have an organization for adult parishioners who are single. However, you have to be 45 years old in order to belong and I haven’t reached that landmark yet. So, instead of waiting around, lonely and wondering why nobody loved me every week when I went to mass I decided to do something, which in my experience produces 23% fewer results than doing nothing. Yes, I wrote the word ‘fewer’. Perhaps it’s because I make bad decision – and I do – or perhaps it’s because I should let Providence have its way, but I’ve discovered that for the most part doing nothing works out better for me than doing something when it comes to personal matters. Professional matters are different, as are charitable ones. As I mentioned earlier, I’m single, and it hasn’t always been that way and it’s better this way than how things were when I did something instead of nothing and made my own decisions about who I would be with. So, when I moved into my present apartment and joined Saint Thomas More I did nothing for a while and then I was invited to attend a CRHP retreat and I did. That was a great experience and if you have the opportunity to attend one I highly recommend it. It’s also another example of my doing nothing and good things happening because this fell in my lap; I didn’t go looking for it.

So now I move on and look for something and it’s getting outside of my comfort zone a little bit. As I said I was up on Saturday evening looking for a ministry in my church (which says a lot in and of itself) and I made a mental note of several that seemed interesting to me. The page for the Music Ministry was subtle about its acceptance of new members. It read something like this. “WE NEED MUSICIAN! OMG WE ALWAYS NEED MUSICIANS. PLEASE FOR THE LOVE OF ALL THINGS SACRED COME JOIN US.” Of course, it didn’t have the acronym ‘omg’ because that stands for something that would not be appropriate on a church web site, but you get the idea.

I thought that maybe I should put those years of voice lessons that I paid for in my youth to work. Of course, I need to warm up the vocal chords again, but that’s okay because it’s almost December and I’m certain that the choir is preparing for Midnight Mass and I can join in January. Not so. Yes, the choir has just begun to prepare for Midnight Mass, but I receive an answer to my email this morning (Sunday morning?) that there will be a hymnal and a STM Music Ministry tote bag waiting for me in 2 weeks when the traditional choir meets again for rehearsal on Tuesday evening at 6:30 in the music room which is opposite the main RE office just down from the Family Center and Gift shop in the building south of the
Church. I’m not saying that they are desperate because the choir makes beautiful music and obviously they have their stuff together. But, he didn’t seem to be taking any taking any chances when it comes to my joining – the date, time and location were crystal clear.

So, now I’m going to go warm up these vocal cords and stretch my range out like it used to be. That will take time; weeks. I won’t be there by Christmas, but I’ll do my best. I feel better already. Fortunately, I’m sitting at a wooden table so I was able to knock on wood because I shouldn’t really make any pronouncements about this new experience until it has actually begun.