Thursday, November 17, 2011

Oh Heavenly Sounds!

Have you ever wanted to hear the choir of heavenly angels as a sort of sneak preview of coming attractions? You could do worse than attend daily Mass at our church north of Boston. The singing is something to behold. We think of the heavenly angels as singing perhaps something like this:

But no, that’s not my experience.

In our parish, the chief morning angel is an 85-ish gentleman named Frank. He sits in the front row and leads the communion hymn, choosing from one of two short pieces, the lyrics to which he keeps handwritten in his pocket against the day he forgets them. The sound is profoundly moving to me, but Frank will probably never be recruited for any choir whatsoever.

When Frank misses Mass, perhaps to take care of an ailing family member, Henry stands in for him, or kneels. Henry will not be heard singing in a choir near you either. Each man is, let’s put it gently, the singer Tom Waits would be if he were 85 and a tenor. They even move a little bit like Tom Waits in this video, although not as fast.

On the other hand, neither Frank nor Henry needs a “Chocolate Jesus,” since they have the real thing.

We all do our best to chime in with Frank or Henry, as the case may be, although sometimes that takes the ability to improvise. Frank, especially, takes liberties with tempo, suddenly accelerating into the second verse of “I Love You Lord,” before we’ve quite finished singing why we do love the Lord in the first place.

And yet. I would give my vocal cords to approach the Lord’s table with such devotion and purity when I am 85-ish. That, and the open-mindedness of my aged father, should be formally added to my Catholic wish list.

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