Earlier this week I was asked to sing at a funeral for a man who belonged to my parish cluster. He regularly attended mass at our neighboring parish. Because I haven't had much experience singing at that particular church I got there early to familiarize myself with the space. As I was sitting in the choir section of the church waiting for the pianist to arrive, an elderly woman named Margaret sat down next to me. She gave me a bit of a surprise when she asked, “Are we the choir for the day?” Being under the impression that I was going to be cantoring alone, I was not quite sure how to answer. But I felt the Holy Spirit nudge me to get her a music book and make sure she was all set to sing with me.
She casually started chatting about how she had been singing in a church choir since she was six years old. Out of curiosity, I couldn't help but ask how many years exactly has she been singing. She boldly stated, “90 years!” 90 years?!?! You have to agree…that is a LONG time!! Margaret proceeded to tell me how she had just celebrated her 97th birthday last week! My immediate reaction was to thank her for being involved in music for all of these years. I find her dedication and perseverance in serving the Lord through her gift of singing to be a beautiful testimony!
As we worked together to lead the congregation in song, she hardly needed to look at her book. The nine decades of experience had led to the memorization of almost all of the traditional funeral hymns. It was quite easy to tell that Margaret was not just singing the words on the page but she was truly praying the message of each song. Throughout the entire mass, she was demonstrating a radiant reverence especially towards the Eucharist. She made her love for our Lord so beautifully obvious!
This darling woman started singing for mass in the 1930’s. If you know even the slightest about our country's history you would recognize that during her lifespan she endured major historic events such as the Great Depression, World War II, Vietnam and the Iraq War, 9/11, and most recently the COVID pandemic. I made a point to highlight some of the most horrific large-scale trials that have happened in the last 100 years. This does not even count for the numerous personal hardships that I am sure Margaret must have encountered during her life….Yet when she sat down next to me that morning she had a joyous and loving smile which proved to me that Margaret never gave up on her faith or her relationship with the Lord.
Are you and I met with the same dedication to our ministry? Are we willing to donate that much time in our lives to serve the Lord? Do we present the same obvious love for our faith? Do we remain steadfast in our faithfulness to Jesus Christ, even during trials and storms? In the few short minutes I was able to talk with Margaret that morning, my heart was convinced.
As I conclude, I would like to leave you with the lyrics to one of my favorite church hymns. The words ring true to how Margaret lived out her life and how we can always carry a positive melody with us through our life's journey!
Through all the tumult and the strife
I hear its music ringing,
It sounds an echo in my soul.
How can I keep from singing?
Until next time~your sister in Christ