The Challenge: Reasons Four and Five

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February 22, 2013 by lucieromarin

A break from bullying! So – I’ve set myself the challenge of coming up with ten reasons to be grateful for my state in life/ending up like this (depending on how piously you want to word it!).

Reasons Four and Five both fall somewhere in between ‘despite everything, I’m grateful for this, this, and this…’ and ‘I’m actually grateful for this situation, because…’ Unfortunately, they’re both borderline pious, but at least they’re the kind of piety that actually helps in real life.

4) A few years ago, I suffered a series of accidents. First, I split the back of my kneecap, which meant six weeks on a couch. Then, I tripped on some stairs and injured both my knees, which meant more weeks on the couch. Then, as I was leaving work, I tripped on a ‘Slippery Floor’ sign, which bounced, landed on my foot, and…you can guess the rest. There was a walking-stick involved in one of these accidents, too – I forget which one.

Anyway, while I was couch-bound, two things happened. One was that nice parishioners  volunteered food and cleaning. The other was that people asked me to offer up my boredom and knee-pain for them. Well, Catholics hardly have a monopoly on acts of kindness; I was grateful for them, but they didn’t strike me as the requests for prayers and sacrifices did. I realised for the first time that our culture came with an in-built mechanism for distinguishing between physical incapacity and actual uselessness. I couldn’t move, I couldn’t see my friends, I was dependent upon other people just to have something to eat…and yet, I was also valuable. They weren’t asking for my prayers to make me feel good about myself; they really wanted them, precisely because I was unwell. 

Okay, I wasn’t suffering from any Grade-A illness at the time, but it did make me think. What would it be like to be injured, ill, or in pain, in a culture in which the sick don’t have a value specifically their own? What must illness and physical suffering do the minds and hearts of persons who can’t feel that they, by their suffering, are actually doing more for their communities than their communities are doing for them?

5) Singing in a liturgical choir means seeing your fair share of funerals, and, while there’s no such thing as a happy funeral, there are some in which the particulars of the death make your whole being turn cold as you wonder how any family living could bear the grief of it.

Obviously, I can’t share other people’s stories here without their permission, but let’s just say that, more than once, a grieving person has said to us afterwards something to the effect of, “I never expected to find any consolation today – but that chant…it really helped me.” A teenage girl, who encountered the Latin Mass and Gregorian chant for the first time at a funeral, sent a message, “The singing was amazing. Everyone was talking about it.”

This is not a post about how everyone should listen to Gregorian chant all the time or have no other musical preference – one man’s meat, and all that. The point is that there is something to be said for a musical form which gives solace to the grief-stricken and this is something that could only have happened a) in my particular subculture, and b) because I was single, and free to sing.

I’m willing to bet that even this fairly narrow example could be matched by comparable experiences in other people’s lives- examples of support or comfort that they were able to give, not despite the subculture, but because of it.

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