Our Church was more quiet today than it has been for the past five years. I could literally feel people straining their ears to hear this morning. It was an "odd" feeling, but none the less, a comforting feeling. Why the quiet? Why the strain? Why the attentiveness? If any of our readers have ever heard me preach, you wouldn't describe my preaching style as passive or subdued. I often joke, "it's not caffeine that gets me going in my preaching, but the Spirit of the Lord!"
However, this Sunday, something happened to me that literally has never happened before in my 10 1/2 years as a Priest. I awoke this morning with literally NO VOICE. As I tried to say "hello" or better yet, "In the name of the Father, Son...." there was hardly a crackle. It was a most uncomfortable feeling for me; one who makes a large part of his living spreading the Word of God through spoken word.
But what was more compelling for me was the attentiveness of the people. I had four Masses to preach and preside over, with a cumulative attendance of over 650 people -- even with a microphone, all it was going to do was amplify the barely audible words of the consecration. However, the Words were enough, for the ears, the hearts, the minds and the Spirit were totally engaged not only within me, but within every person in our Church. Parents immediately calmed their crying child; people leaned to listen to every word; shuffling and fidgeting was all at a minimum for the voice of God speaking through me this morning was weak in tone but strong in presence.
Sometimes, we need change and today change was brought about unexpectedly in the losing of my voice. It reminded me that I am only the messenger, not the MESSAGE. It reminded me today of the beautiful aspect of the Roman Catholic Church that truly draws me and thousands upon thousands: THE TRADITION. Though I might not have been as boisterous, robust or even audible; people knew through TRADITION what was happening and would be happening. But even more importantly, that what WAS/IS/ WOULD BE happening cannot happen with just me (the priest) alone. Each of us, especially the worshipping assembly, has a role; an opportunity to participate and respond through song, responses, gestures and prayers. It seemed today that my weakness, my illness provided the opportunity and challenge for the worshipping assembly to "step up" let's say and realize the importance of each of our roles in worship.
There is an old spiritual that reminds each of us, "Nobody told me that the road would be easy..." and it's not. It is not easy to shift out of what we do and how we do it. It is not easy to shift our views in order to see new things in place of the old. It is often confusing and frightening to make a shift away from the familiar in order to embrace the unknown. Yet it is a necessary labor we must undertake in order to grow. No matter how difficult, challenging, or hard it may seem, shifts and change are necessary when the time comes to free ourselves from the confinement of mental, emotional or physical boxes. I have thought today, as I lie here in bed typing this blog: "What will I do if my voice does not return?" How will I communicate with my family, friends, colleagues and parishioners? Is this a gift to them from GOD? LOL!
I have realized that all shifts create a vibration which in turn affects everything around it. I am reminded of the story that was shared by our bishop. He stated that if you shift one crayon in a box, all the other crayons will move. Sometimes moving one crayon will cause a slight shift. Under other circumstances, moving one may mean the others fall, crack, and/or crumble. This is frightening. Sometimes, in fear of the effects of our changes will create, we delay making a much-needed shift in our minds and behaviors. As a result, our lives and everything around us remain stuck. When the time comes to move, we must move. The longer we fight against it, the harder and more painful the movement becomes.
And so tonight, I am shifting gears. Instead of talking on the phone or conversing with friends, I am remaining silent, still and quiet. Despite the Resurrection joy of the Lord and the Divine Mercy Sunday which we celebrated, I remain eager to see the change that will be completed, in my life and in my voice. I can't wait to talk again, to share the Word and Preach the Message -- It will happen, but not necessarily in the way that it has before.