The 70s are widely considered the nadir of Catholic liturgical music and justly so, and yet I cannot help but feel nostalgia for the songs of my youth, like this one:
Five mornings a week we went to Mass in our cafeteria/chapel. The chairs were metal, the kneelers were wood, and the half hour seemed long, but how we loved to sing!
Joy abounded in those songs, both in the lyrics and our voices. Here’s another one you probably know.
This one was probably my favorite. (Sorry for the goofiness of the video–it’s the only one I could find!)
We loved the “hahaha” part and accompanied Father Wyatt’s recessional very enthusiastically–which Father, who loved to sing, concluded with a very emphatic “HAHA” of his own from the sacristy!
In this the Third Week of Advent we are reminded to be joyful. In the Second Reading on Sunday Saint Paul commanded us to “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, and give thanks in all circumstances.”
Children don’t have to be reminded to be joyful. Children find joy everywhere, effortlessly. Think of all the viral videos of babies laughing at everything from funny faces to paper tearing. Too bad that we grow up and away from joy and into worry and distress. Joy ceases to be an everyday thing. It becomes something to be found in only the most extraordinary events–a wedding, the birth of a child. And yet if the joy of the Lord is meant to be our strength, surely adults need it as much or more than children do?
William Wordsworth wrote that children come “trailing clouds of glory, from God . . . Heaven lies about [them] . . .” Perhaps their closeness to Heaven explains the joyfulness of children. But how can we adults reclaim this joy?
At the end of one of my favorite novels, Catherine Marshall’s Christy, the titular character finds herself having a close encounter with the afterlife as she lies near death from typhoid fever. She sees a recently deceased friend, vibrant, young, restored to health, holding the children she had lost years before. Everywhere is the joyful noise of children at play. There are no cares, only love and joy. She longs to join her friend but finds herself being called back to life by the prayers of the man who loves her, a man who has been brought back to belief in God because of the love he feels for her. She grasps his hand, he calls her name, and the book ends with: “The joy of the children was in his voice.”
That is Joy. A bit of Heaven on Earth, courtesy of love.