08Apr ‘Peace be with you’, said Christ: I sang last night

In a review of the movie “A Later Quartet “, reviewer Ivan Hewett writes: “One feels that the players have re-learned something they momentarily forgot: the music they play is wiser than they are.

With the theme of yesterday’s Gospel ” Peace be with you ” still fresh with me. I offer my thoughts about the music being wiser than the player in terms of this priest rediscovering – again – the promise of peace, or rather ” a peace” that disappears from time to time.

Last night I caught myself singing. That I could not have done the day before. Then there was no voice. I was out of tune with me. Discordant with myself, as that black dog depression had again removed life’s rythms. But last night I caught myself singing. The mind’s trip-switch had blipped and this reasonably functioning guy became deconstructed, psychologically, spiritually and physically. For the past few weeks I was functioning, just that, surviving 24/7. An inate fault-line reopened and my emotional universe closed down. Depression, whatever its duration, whatever its particular kind, is a deep wounding in which thought and time become allies with a self-destructive capacity.

Over the years my personal experience tells me that such pain, indeed all pain, is always an encounter with meaning. I can do without such encounters – thank you very much. I want to be reasonably happy, fairly content. There is pain without gain, “they” say. That can seem at times dismissive, callous, that is not my intention here. It contains truth, there is no pain without some gain, even if that gain is a slight movement towards meaning.

There is a hermeneutic of pain. The wounding needs interpetation. I believe from my life’s experience that the now-so-familiar symptoms are in themselves a desire for healing. I believe this to be particularly true of men that we are scared of our very malenss and of anything that might be the slightest hint of weakness. We male priests are very afriad of each other and somewhere within that fear is the issue of male power.

James B. Nelson in his book ” Body Theology ” says ‘ perhaps three of the hardest things for many men tosay are: ‘ I need. I hurt. I can’t.” Maybe, maybe it is only in articulating these sentiments within ourselves first, that we will come to an encounter with God, Father/Mother, Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer.

So, last night I found myself singing, and today I can answer Susan’s unresponded- to five telephone calls of yesterday. Her cat is ill – again. She rings and rings me when Trixie is ill. ‘ You are always there for me Father, what will I do if Trixie dies, please, listen to me.’ I dare not tell her how much i envy that blessed cat! So, with some courage restored and with the ‘ Peace be with you’ of yesterday still in my heart Susan and I will enter into dialogue – again – about her blessed and much-loved Trixie.

I am writing this as part of my voice-finding. I write it for you if you understand what I have been trying to say here and I also write it for you even if you have no experience whatsoever of what I write. It’s just a brother of yours letting you know that I sang last night.

10 Responses

  1. Mary O Vallely

    What a delight to hear that you sang, Tony! What a joy to all of us that you lay bare your innermost self because so many others can identify with you, so many find themselves voiceless, numb and unable to connect fully with the world at times. It is a dreadful illness but thank God for your voice, Tony. It is a blessing and a gift to hear you sing again and it is another glorious resurrection! (Allow me a little hyperbole. It is one of the advantages of being a woman.) 🙂

  2. Padraig

    Keep singing Tony. “We read to know we are not alone.” We watch movies, listen to music etc to know too we are not alone at times.

    Trixie reminds me of my French poodle Fi Fi la Trice.

    When I go in and ask for a pound of ‘mince steak,’ with my Fi Fi in toe, the looks I get from the ‘butch’er would make stones weep. 😉

    I jest. Does scare the hell out of the ‘black dog’ though – the thought of Fi Fi in commandos.

    You speak of wounding. Wounds need to ‘weep’ for proper healing to occur. Not just physical wounds.

    Glad black dog has backed off and you’re more at peace again today.

    Salam 🙂

  3. Sean o D

    Tony thank u for sharing your song. As always an eloquent and insightful piece.
    Here’s to continued good health and peace.

  4. Eileen

    Thank you Tony for sharing your personal experience with us. What a very sincere and touching piece and one which no doubt will resonate with many folk. The acknowledgement of your darkness and of your light gives me hope. May the song of your heart continue to be one of peace and serenity. Eileen

  5. Teresa Mee

    Unfortunately the Blog stops short of allowing for verse form.

    ‘I write it for you/
    If you understand what I have been trying to say here/
    And I also write it for you/
    Even if you have no experience whatsoever/
    Of what I write./
    It’s just a brother of yours/
    Letting you know that I sang last night’.

    “When often on my bed I lie/
    In vacant or in pensive mood/
    They flash upon the inward eye/
    Which is the bliss of solitude/
    And then my heart with pleasure thrills/
    And dances…….”

    ‘My soul is sorrowful/
    Even unto death/
    Stay ye here awhile/
    And watch with Me’

    His disciples have been experiencing him reaching out and identifying with them and with others in companionship, in their joys,struggles and their pain, sharing with them,offering them Life, and enabling them for mission
    Now he’s reaching out to them, inviting, then appealing to them to identify with him, ‘could you not watch one hour with me’, as he struggles with the world and with God in fear and pain, for them and for the world; ultimately to gain and share Life to the full.

    Is this not what Eucharist is all about? Sometimes the institutional rules, regulations, doctrines,threats and liturgical ‘musts’and exclusions block the contact and the invitation.

  6. Nuala O'Driscoll

    These two words ‘thought’ and ‘time’ brought to mind two men who lived centuries apart. While St.Augustine (354-430) and myself don’t always see eye to eye, he gives an account of time that would make the hairs stand up on the back of your neck..at least it did that for me! It’s in his ‘Confessions’ and for Augustine there is no past or future only the ever present, the present moment, the divine ‘now’. The other man is called Richard Wurmbrand who spent years in solitary confinement in a Russian prison for preaching the Gospel in the 1950’s. He believed that God doesn’t engage in conversation about past ‘sins’ for God there is only the present….and each person has the answer to their own prayer. Many more people will read your article Tony than will respond to it but you may be sure it will strike a chord with them…I have seven men in my life (unlike the woman at Jacob’s well I’m only married to one of them, the other six are my sons!) so I know a little bit about depression…thank you for your article.

  7. Padraig McCarthy

    “Sometimes in our life tears are the glasses to see Jesus”, said Pope Francis at Mass last Wednesday (http://www.zenit.org/en/articles/pope-francis-sometimes-we-need-tears).
    He got it wrong when he spoke of Mary Magdalen if he said, as that report claims he did: “The Pope mentioned her previous condition of ‘sinful woman’ who is redeemed by anointing Jesus’ feet and drying them with her hair.” At least, nowhere in the gospels does it tell us that Magdalen did this. This seems to be the old confusion with the unnamed woman in Luke 7:36.
    But the other part is true:
    “Sometimes in our life tears are the glasses to see Jesus.”

  8. Soline Humbert

    “It’s just a brother of yours letting you know that I sang last night.”
    Thank you brother!You’re ahead:
    This sister of yours is still in Holy Saturday time: waiting in the dark for the Exultet to pierce the night.

  9. Lloyd Allan MacPherson

    Tony, in 2004 I wrote my first song called “Never”. It was drawn from lyrics I was inspired to write after watching “the Passion of the Christ”. Your story hits home to a lot of people and clergy, I’m sure. If you don’t write poetry or play an instrument, it’s never too late to start. If you incorporate this into a daily routine, I believe and many have proven, this can help keep the black dog off your doorstep. Start with weekly lessons if you like (self teaching works too) and keep a journal to always write down your feelings in a rhythm or a rhyme.
    At times, I can barely see you
    Through all this misery.
    Yet I’m careful not to drown
    As I wade through history.
    I can’t stop these feelings.
    I get them all the time.
    They try to upset my balance
    As I walk this thin red line.
    But I know to control
    While I’m in their hold.
    As I wait, unafraid,
    For it’s my chance to say:
    You’ll never break me
    A chance to foresake me
    It’s not my style…
    To live a lie
    So I’ll never;
    no I’m never going to die.
    I can hear them laughing
    The cynics are at play.
    Thinking only to judge
    And it’s for them we pray.
    Why can’t they see differently?
    Do they all seem the same?
    Are they waiting for the outcome
    Of a neverending game?
    But we know to control
    While we’re in their hold.
    As we wait unafraid.
    There’s one last chance to state.

  10. Rosaline

    Dear Tony,
    I just came back from a walk in the park while listening to Beethoven’s Ninth on my ipod and you were on my mind all the time even though I don’t know you. The reason is that you made a very important key point that kept knocking at my heart all week because of the fact that I identified so strongly with it. You said, “Over the years, my personal experience tells me that such pain, indeed all pain, is always an encounter with meaning.” This insight is a real blessing and must not be overlooked by those who read what you wrote. Indeed, I believe it is a minefield of gold for all who would explore it and allow it to speak to their hearts.
    The great Benedictine mystic, David Steindl-Rast says, “Eyes see only light, ears hear only sound, but a listening heart perceives meaning.” This comes from his wonderful little book, “A Listening Heart” which I highly recommend and which has been labelled,”a gem of a book.” (Parabola) He also says that where there is meaning there has to be something that we call “WORD” – something that speaks to us. This reminds me of the great Viktor Frankl’s “Man’s Search For Meaning” and his powerful and inspirational teaching on Logotherapy.

    You also said, “I offer my thoughts about the music being wiser than the player…” and later on, “The wounding needs interpretation. I believe that the now-so-familiar symptoms are in themselves a desire for healing.” These words bring me back to Beethoven and the strange power he has for me in this wounding and healing process. Padraig says(2), “Wounds need to ‘weep’ for proper healing to occur.” I agree. Listening, for example, to Beethoven’s Ninth, is an amazing journey. One can get carried along through every possible emotion until the sublime Third Movement which draws out the sadness and allows the wounds to “weep” as it washes over us like healing, warm honey until we emerge singing that great Ode To Joy in the Fourth Movement.

    Tony, I’m sorry my response comes a little late. I’m not one to weigh in on every item that appears on this website, but I find there is such depth in what you wrote that goes far far beyond what appears on the surface that this response seems to have insisted that it be written.. God bless you!

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