Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Sarah's Rosary

Sunday 14 July 2013

I am writing this blog on a plane as I wing my way to Richmond, Virginia, where I am a speaker at the annual conference of the Hymn Society, an ecumenical group of church musicians who have a keen interest in the history, development, and performance of songs for worship. Their conference theme this year is “The Blossoming of Song Since Vatican II” — how the Second Vatican Council influenced hymnody across all of Christianity.

My workshops are on the Folk Mass and how the enthusiasm of young Catholics helped create a revolution in worship in the 1960s. Yep. The topic of my book, Keep the Fire Burning. I can’t wait to meet the people and share ideas with them.

On the way to Richmond I have a substantial layover at O’Hare International Airport. It’s a long four-hour flight rom Portland to Chicago. I was up early today (4:00am) and have been drifting in and out of restless sleep while strapped in my aisle seat. Somewhat bored, I reached into my bag for something to read and came across . . . Sarah Kroger’s rosary, a beautiful handcrafted sacramental that she made herself as part of her ministry with young people. It’s made from yarn with a lovely shade of green, pieced together through a single-stitched macramé technique, I think. It must have taken Sarah hours to make this rosary that she gifted to me when I discovered that I forgot to bring my own prayer beads to Ghana. Thank you, Sarah!

Ghana! It’s been just over four weeks since that marvelous adventure co-sponsored by Catholic Relief Services and Spirit & Song. It all seems like a dream now, but a very good dream. As I launched into the Glorious mysteries of the rosary, I prayed for my friends and wondered what they were doing and how their return home has been.

Social media makes it easy to keep up with each other, even if indirectly. Martha and Alsy went straight back to their meaningful work at CRS. Thomas went into preparations for the next group of foreign visitors to Ghana. Ted, like me, just celebrated a landmark birthday with family and friends.

Both Sarah and Ben are dealing with the challenges of moving to new locales: Sarah to Atlanta, Ben to Ohio. Greg went from fighting mosquitos in Ghana to fighting mosquitos at a two-week Boy Scout camp with his sons. ValLimar and her husband Frank are working on music for some lyrics I shared with them. Robert and I helped lead the five-day We Remember, We Believe youth liturgy & leadership camp in Sacramento, California. I also got a chance to visit Los Angeles to celebrate my mother’s 80th birthday, and then last week I was in San Francisco to celebrate my own landmark. This week I’m in Richmond, Virginia. Next week, Robert flies to Brazil for World Youth Day!

Seems like each of us have jumped head first into our respective ministries and busy personal lives. I don’t know whether I will ever again share such an adventure with these awesome friends, but the memories of our experience will stay with me for the rest of my life. From the people of Ghana, I learned to live my life more simply, and to live more harmoniously with others. I learned that joy is contagious and a great source of personal energy, especially at those times when joy seems overwhelmed by the tragedies and challenges of life. From my friends, I learned how fun it is to live in community, and how our shared love for Christ can empower us to truly change the world — one song at a time.

After such a life-changing experience with these wonderful people, I find myself a bit off-kilter without them. But we will always be united in prayer and Spirit. Martha, Alsy, Ted, Thomas, Sarah, Ben, Greg, Val and Robert: This prayer is for you!