Sister Anne Flanagan, FSP
It started as a single, very simple concert on New York's Staten Island. Nineteen years later it has become a two-week road trip with a benefit dinner-concert on Staten Island, and engagements in New Jersey (this year Ramsey and Piscataway), Alexandria (Virginia), Cleveland (Ohio) and Boston (Massachusetts). It can be hectic, tiring, intense, and sometimes frustrating. Bur for me, it is the high point of the year: non-stop singing for two weeks!
Night after night, I feel I am lending my voice to the people (by now thousands of them) who share these evenings with the Daughters of St. Paul Choir. I want to carry them along with me in the prayer that those songs become, and in the simple joy of some of the lighter pieces that are just for fun: the innocent pleasure of pure play.
Music is the oldest of our Christmas traditions. Before there were presents under the tree (before there was a tree!) or a crib scene in our homes and churches, there were songs celebrating the coming of God Incarnate. (The great Church Father, St. Ambrose, wrote some of the lyrics that you'll find in hymnals to this day.) When you think about it, Christmas and music have been together since the very first Christmas. “Gloria in excelsis Deo”? Those standard Christmas carol words come to us straight from the Good Book's own Christmas story (Luke 2:14). “Angels We Have Heard on High” was part of the report those first shepherds made as they left the Manger (Luke 2:17-18).
This year, the concerts take on a special tone in the light of the ministry of Pope Francis. Have you noticed how often he has urged Catholics to “go out” toward others with an offer of friendship? In a way, we Sisters feel that this is what we are doing in our concerts: going out to people who don't ordinarily come to our bookstores, blogs or Facebook pages, and bringing something delightful. (Surely a sign of just how much delight is in the response we get from the children in the audience!)
This year, in the spirit of Pope Francis, why not “go out” to your family and friends who may have become alienated from the life of the Church, and invite them to join you at the Sisters' Christmas concert? It may be the start of a beautiful new Christmas tradition!
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Sister Anne Flanagan, FSP (@Nunblogger) writes from Chicago. A native of New Orleans, she has been a Daughter of St. Paul since 1978.