“to make music with what you have left”

July 30, 2017

Here is an abbreviation of an old news item which appeared some time ago and which can instill confidence in all of us:

"On Nov. 18, 1995, Itzhak Perlman, the violinist, came on stage to give a concert in the Lincoln Center in New York City. Getting on stage is no small achievement for him. He was stricken with polio as a child and so he has braces on both legs and walks with the aid of two crutches. To see him walk across the stage one step at a time, painfully and slowly, is an awesome sight. He walks painfully, yet majestically, until he reaches his chair. Then he sits down, slowly puts his crutches on the floor, undoes the clasps on his legs, tucks one foot back and extends the other forward. Then he bends down, picks up the violin, puts it under his chin, nods to the conductor and proceeds to play. The audience is used to this ritual but, this time, something went wrong. Just as he finished the first few bars one of the strings on his violin broke. You could hear it snap - it went off like gunfire across the room. There was no mistaking what that sound meant. There was no mistaking what he had to do. We figured that he would have to get up, put on the clasps again, pick up the crutches and limp his way off stage - to either find another violin or else find another string for this one. But he didn't. Instead, he waited a moment, closed his eyes and then signaled the conductor to begin again. The orchestra began, and he played from where he had left off. And he played with such passion and such power and such purity as they had never heard before.

Of course, anyone knows that it is impossible to play a symphonic work with just three strings. I know that, and you know that, but that night Itzhak Perlman refused to know that. You could see him modulating, changing, re-composing the piece in his head. At one point, it sounded like he was de-tuning the strings to get new sounds from them that they had never made before. When he finished, there was an awesome silence in the room and then people rose and cheered. There was an extraordinary outburst of applause from every corner of the auditorium. We were all on our feet, yelling and cheering, doing everything we could to show how much we appreciated what he had done.

He smiled, wiped the sweat from this brow, raised his bow to quiet us, and then said - not boastfully, but in a quiet, pensive, reverent tone - "You know, sometimes it is the artist's task to find out how much music you can still make with what you have left."

Perhaps that is the definition of life - not just for artists but for all of us! Here was a man who had prepared all his life to make music on a violin of four strings, who, all of a sudden, in the middle of a concert, found himself with only three strings; so he made music with three strings, and the music he made that night with just three strings was more beautiful, more sacred, more memorable, than any that he had ever made before, when he had four strings.

So, perhaps our task in this shaky, fast-changing, bewildering world in which we live is to make music, at first with all that we have, and then, when that is no longer possible, to make music ....!"

Our Stained Glass Window at St. Elizabeth’s

July 16, 2017

Pastor’s Corner: Our Stained Glass Window at St. Elizabeth’s 

In early 2015 our pastor Fr. Rolf asked some parishioners (Lucy and Gary Clark, Barb Lovick, Susan McConnell, Maryanne Tomashewski) to advise him and the parish on a new art work, a stained glass window with the general theme of “Life’s journey towards God, fulfillment, peace and happiness.” After interviewing several artists and their proposals, Mercer and Schaefer Glasstudios was recommended and then selected by Parish Council together with financial approval from the Finance Committee. Several months of work followed, including displays, surveys, feedback from individuals, as well as two lively and fruitful parish community meetings with the artist Tom Mercer.  A few changes agreed to by the artist resulted in a generally accepted proposal.  The stained glass window is composed of several panels attached to the inside of the already existing outside window. Traditional leaded glass, hand-blown and imported from Germany was used because it is much richer in color and light diffusion.  Given that several art pieces within the church were of a figurative nature a more contemporary and abstract approach by the artist Tom Mercer was favoured because the entire window invites the viewer to contemplate the mystery of life, of where we come from and to where we go and what is our relationship with the divine. The window invites the viewer both in the present as well as in the future, whether a person of faith or not, to become involved and to include their own personal reflections and interpretation which may change with time and circumstance. Already the rendering of the last supper in the wood sculpture of the altar invites those who are in the church to place themselves at whatever moment in their lives in the blank faces of those around the table with Christ.   The same is true with the stained glass window which depicts DNA, the fundamental makeup of each human being and of all elements in creation. The path drawn by the DNA reminds us how we are born from the mystery and how into the mystery we return and of how God is integral to it all. It reflects our own journey in life but also of humanity’s journey, reminding us of the importance of each individual and also of how connected we are with each other and with all of creation both on earth and throughout the universe. Tom Mercer decided on the use of DNA on June 23, 2015; you will notice a sundial on the bottom left side of the window. This sundial and the phases of the moon remind us again of our short time on earth and of what we can be and live and do while here. The artist made imprints of his granddaughter’s feet on the right bottom side of the window. These baby’s feet at the beginning of life’s journey are followed by ours as we continue the journey and as we grow and mature on an individual as well as on a communal level. Notice on the top left corner the feet with a dot beside them, feet of those who need a stick to enable to continue the journey but also feet of those who possess knowledge and wisdom! The image of the earth reminds us of the wonderful and peaceful island we live on as well as reminding us of the solidarity we are called to with the rest of the world.  Colors in Christian symbolism have special meanings. The color purple in the DNA symbolizes the divine; the imprint of the divine which reflects how God created the human and all of creation in God’s image (Genesis 1:27); and how that imprint is there throughout the journey (“Do not be afraid; I am with you always” Isaiah 43). Sometimes DNA goes off the path left or right; however some DNA also returns to continue the journey. Blue is the color of the heavens and of God’s love which encircles and permeates all of creation, the human, the earth, the galaxies, the whole universe. The color gold symbolizes the gift of life and the human and spiritual gifts given to us to be developed and nurtured, so that they might grow and be used and shared for the good of all. The color red is both symbolic of the passion needed on the journey as well as symbolic of the dark side of the human and of humanity from which we need to be freed.  Even though the steel beams of the window are in the form of a cross the community and the artist wished the cross to be an integral part of the window, symbolizing how the cross is very much part of our own individual life’s journey and of humanity’s journey both as a source of suffering but also as an instrument of redemption.  You are invited to enter the sanctuary and to view the window close by as well as to view the entire window from afar. Experience the light, the color, the changing reflections, the presence which the window creates. And then come back again another time and have a different peaceful experience!          Shalom,

Ron Rolheiser in the Prairie Messenger of June 14, 2017

July 2, 2017

Those who are ‘pro-life’ must be consistent in all areas of morality  “John of the Cross teaches that within spirituality and morality there are no exempt areas. Simply put, you cannot be a saint or a highly moral person if you allow yourself a moral exemption or two. Thus, I may not allow myself to split off one moral flaw or sinful habit and see it as unimportant in the light of my positive qualities and the overall good I do. For John of the Cross, you cannot be a saint and have a moral blind spot, even if it’s a minor one. A bird tethered to a rock, he says, cannot fly irrespective of whether the cord holding it is a cable or a string. The same is true for our efforts to protect life and foster justice in our world. The protection of life and the promotion of justice are all of one piece. We cannot be an authentic prophet and have a few moral blind spots.  A huge consequence flows from this, namely, we cannot treat issues like abortion, nuclear war, lack of ecological sensitivity, the plight of refugees, racism, sexism, poverty and inequality, poor access to health care, unequal access to education, sexual irresponsibility, and discrimination against the LGBT community in isolation from each other, as if these were wholly discrete issues. Whether we admit it or not, these areas are all inextricably interconnected. To quote Cardinal Joseph Bernardin: “The success of any one of the issues concerning life requires a concern for the broader attitude in society about the respect for human life.” That’s a strong challenge for all of us, on all sides of the ideological spectrum.  Those of us who are concerned about abortion need to accept that the problem of abortion cannot be effectively addressed without at the same time addressing issues of poverty, access to health care, sexual morality, and even capital punishment. The interconnection here is not wholly mystical. It’s real. Abortion is driven more by poverty and lack of adequate support than by any liberal ideology. Hence, the struggle against abortion must also focus on the issues of poverty and support for pregnant women. As well, to morally accept killing in one area (capital punishment) helps sanction its acceptance in another area (abortion). Sexual morality must also be addressed since abortion is the inevitable byproduct of a society within which two people who are not married to each other have sex with each other.  It’s all one piece, and any opposition to abortion that fails to adequately recognize the wider perspective that more fully defines “pro-life” leaves many sincere people unable to support anti-abortion groups.  Conversely, those of us who are concerned with the issues of poverty, health care, capital punishment, ecology, war, racism, sexism, and LGBT rights, need to accept that these issues cannot be effectively addressed without also addressing the issue of abortion. Again, the interconnection isn’t just mystical, it’s empirical: Failure to be sensitive to who is weak and vulnerable in one area deeply compromises one’s moral standing on other issues that deal with the weak and the vulnerable. We must advocate for and strive to protect everyone who falls victim within our present way of living, and that includes the unborn.  It’s all of one piece! There can be no exempt areas, thus opposition to the protection of the unborn is not just antithetical to what’s central within a social justice agenda, but it, perhaps more than anything else, leaves liberal ideology and its political allies compromised in a way that allows many sincere people to withhold their support.  Clearly, of course, nobody is asked to give equal energy to every justice issue in the world. Accepting that none of these issues can be effectively dealt with in isolation shouldn’t stop us from passionately working on one issue or another. But knowing that these issues are all of one piece does demand that we always recognize that, however important our particular issue, we may not see it in simple black and white, without nuance, as an issue that can be dealt with within one ideological, political, or religious silo. We must be sensitive to the whole, to the intricate interconnections among all social issues.  And, not least, we must be humble before and sensitive to our own moral inconsistencies.  We will, this side of eternity, always have them and we must forgive ourselves for them and not let perfection, that fact we can’t be fully consistent, be the enemy of the good, that fact that we can do some good work that is effective. But acknowledging both our own inconsistencies and the complexities of the issues should make us more open to listening to the views of others and make us less doctrinaire and fundamentalist in our own attitudes.  All the issues that deal with justice and peace are of one piece, one whole, one moral corpus, one seamless garment; and, like the soldiers casting dice for Jesus’ clothing, we should hesitate to tear this garment into different pieces.”