Tuesday, February 23, 2010

What Could Have Been

Okay, this is going to be one of those Hallmark Movie type of mushy stories. I'm giving you fair warning. . .

I remember very distinctly the moment I moved into the monastery on August 15, 1994. I had been looking forward to that day for over a year. Almost every day that year, I would get up at 5:00 am, drive to the monastery to attend Lauds (morning prayers) and Mass at 6:00 am. I longed so much for the day that I would be living at the monastery rather than attending as an outsider.

Finally, that day came and I began my postulancy at the abbey. I had moved my things in, got my room all settled, put on a CD of Renaissance choral music and opened the blinds. There, silhouetted against the sunset was the cross on top of the chapel as the beautiful music was playing. It really was one of the happiest, most beautiful moments in my whole life.

Well, seven years later I left religious life – for many reasons I won’t go into here. Some reasons were good, others, not so much. But there’s always a little part of me that longs for it; ever so often, there’s a pang of nostalgia over “what could have been.”

I lost that CD of choral music long ago, and I couldn’t remember the name of the piece that had been playing during the happiest moment in my life.

A couple of weeks ago at choir rehearsal, we began working on music for Lent. Rehearsal began with the music that we’d sing for Ash Wednesday which was a piece by William Byrd: Ave Verum Corpus.

The moment we sang the first measure, I recognized it as the piece that I played on my first day in the monastery. It was that piece!

I came home, downloaded it, and transferred it to my iPod. Now I had it again. Nice.

On Ash Wednesday as I was walking to church, I plucked out my iPod and began listening to this piece just to familiarize myself with it. Instantly, I remembered that first day in the monastery, and of course, there were the old feelings of regret over what could have been.

But then, something else happened.

I realized that in just a few minutes, I’d be singing this beautiful piece rather than just listening to it. Rather than longing for what could have been, I was overwhelmed with gratitude to, once again, have such incredible beauty in my life. Rather than Lent beginning a period of penance, it began for me with the purest bit of redemption.

I began weeping.

Right there on Wacker Drive among the rush-hour crowds in Chicago, just having a good old cry.

Yes, August 15, 1994 was one of the happiest, most beautiful days of my life.
But so was February 17, 2010.
It’s comforting to know they can still happen. . . .

. . . . See? I told you this was going to be a mushy, Hallmark Movie kind of story.

Oh, and if you’d like to hear Ave Verum Corpus, I made a link for you. Just click here and, maybe, have a good cry.

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At 8:43 PM , Blogger Miss Healthypants said...

Wow, I was just telling John about this today!--I really was! :) I do think that it's such a beautiful moment--thank you for sharing it with your readers, Dooder! :) :)

At 10:05 AM , Blogger QuotidianEditorialist said...

Beautiful story, breath-takingly beautiful music. Pass the Kleenex?

At 7:55 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Very soothing and peaceful song!

I'm glad you have the ability to be so in touch with your emotions and can express yourself so well. Those moments of total appreciation for what we have now should happen to all of us more often.

At 8:18 AM , Blogger Br. Jonathan said...

Thank you, Kathy, for your comment and for your recognition of this music.
I wish I could respond directly to your site but it seems to be blocked.

All the best to you, and thank you for your comment.


At 10:53 AM , Blogger Unknown said...

Previously I left comments signed: seachange.

Leaving a reply now, is more difficult. :-)

I don't have a blog or any of the other Open ID accounts. You can reach me at:


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