Friday, January 25, 2013

Radical Grace: Music of Hope for the Sorrowing

Today was the 39th annual March for Life in Washington, DC. I participated in the occasion only by the grace of technology, sitting at my computer watching EWTN ("the Catholic channel," the only network to give "airtime" to the entire march, for which I and many others are deeply grateful) and reading (and writing) posts on Facebook. I assumed that at some point later in the day I would end up posting some sort of reflection here in response to all the thoughts and feelings stirred up in me by the day's events.

During a break in EWTN's focus on the march, I took a break too and noticed that my Australian friend Renato Bonasera of the group Radical Grace had "liked" a comment I'd left on his Facebook page a few days ago in response to his invitation for friends to review his soon-to-be officially released album His Grace Is Enough. I decided to seize the moment and write down my thoughts as I listened again to these songs I had downloaded from iTunes some months ago. As I did so, I discovered, to my delight and blessing, that I was listening to songs with a message perfect for today.

If I had to sum up His Grace Is Enough in one word, it would be hope, and each of this EP's five meditative songs will inscribe that word's meaning onto you, whether you listen to them once or over and over, as I sometimes do.

The song that shares the album's title describes empathetically how I have felt many times in my life—"all alone ... strength has gone, the flames extinguished in the night," etc.—but then reminds me what has sustained me many times before—"His grace"—and not because I have remembered where to turn, but because "someone calls your name from a distant place," and I reach out, not so much to take His hand as to let Him take mine. This is the grace: not that I seek Him, but that I, the lost sheep, am sought and found—and not just once, but again, and again.

"How sweet the sound" indeed is the album's fifth track, "Amazing Grace," a fresh, soothing rendition of a song that was already etched as deeply in my psyche as a song first heard before I could sing it could go—I had thought. I am inexpressibly grateful to hear it again today—the Feast Day of St. Paul, one of the most famous and important recipients of the grace that invites conversion; and a day on which I am powerfully reminded what it means to be "a wretch like me."

The album's middle song, "The Joy of Loving Jesus," not only calls us to be joyful in our faith, but actually imparts that very feeling—in "mind and heart and soul"—by means of its memorable melody, layered harmonies, and bouncy rhythm. Its lyrics, borrowed from the Scriptures, remind us who we love with such joy, and why: He is "the rock of salvation" (Psalm 18, Matthew 7:24-27, 1 Corinthians10:4) and "the peace He gives" is "one that the world cannot give" (John 14:27), and "where can I hide from his love?" (Psalm 139:7). Psalm 139 is, appropriately for today, the psalm that prays to God, "You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb.... When I was being made in secret ... your eyes saw me unformed" (verses 14-16). To discover that treasure hidden in the field of this song is an unexpected blessing.

The album's fourth song, "Our Lady of Sorrows," offers its hope in the form of reminding us that even when we, like Our Lady, stand at the foot of the Cross, suffering "along with her son," she is there with us, "sharing the Passion of our Lord," and ours. Before today, I realize now, I hadn't really seen in this song's lyrics the gift that Mary's union with her son in His Passion offers to a mother whose only child's life also ended with him bleeding and broken, leaving her own soul "pierced by a sword."
Imagining the face of her baby
Slumbering, protected from harm
Watching your son, two hearts beating as one
Shedding His blood, redeeming the lost
This Mother's Son shed His blood to redeem the mother of mine.

Finally, the album's second song, "No Need to Fear," sums up, in my view, this EP's message of hope. It is musically the most beautiful piece in the collection, I think (because of its violin and guitar interludes). It is Bonasera's worthy contribution to the music of Divine Mercy, a prayer to which I happen to know he is quite partial.
All your miseries my child
like a twig in a roaring fire
have been consumed
in the flame of my love
Your heart is known to me
Satisfied it will not be
but by my love alone
And there's no need to fear
no need to worry
when there is mercy in your soul
And there's no need for despair
no need for anguish
My heart is mercy for your soul
Let no fear or disturbance be
Let your soul draw near to me
though as scarlet be your sins
Souls who place their trust in me
graces in abundance see
and wonders unimaginable
A twig I am indeed, but the roaring fire I all too often experience is not the the flame of His love but instead my own pain, fear, and anguish. Thank you, Renato Bonasera and Radical Grace, for giving me a new prescription for the medicine of Divine Mercy, Joy, and Hope.

It is with unimaginable wonder that I recommend to you tonight His Grace Is Enough.

Amen.

3 comments:

  1. Alice, I facebooked my response to this beautiful post. Thank you so much for inspiring me and reminding me how God was so much a part of the album. You have seen in the music more than I could have imagined. Thank you for inspiring me again.

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  2. "His Grace is Enough" comes from Suscipe Prayer of St. Ignatius:

    "Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty,
    my memory, my understanding,
    and my entire will,
    All I have and call my own.
    You have given all to me.
    To you, Lord, I return it.
    Everything is yours; do with it what you will.
    Give me only your love and your grace,
    that is enough for me."

    Through the intercession of St. Ignatius, my husband Patrick attibutes his (so far) successful recovery from cancer.

    I am looking forward to hearing Renato's album!!!

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  3. O Janice, I think you will LOVE it! And I keep thinking of Rose . . . must give it to her!

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