soulful saturdays: song as prayer

Soulful Saturdays

In the year and a half since I’ve been keeping a blog, I’ve shared much about my family life, writing and faith, but there’s one aspect of my life that has gone, mostly, unrevealed — my life of music. And yet music has been a common thread throughout my life, a soul-sustaining element that has wafted through all forty years of my existence. Even though the music side of me is less visible most days, it is by no means on a lower rung of importance.

It started in infancy when my father would sing my name to me: "Rox-a-ane, where are you?" he would chant, though it’s hard to write the tune, the inflection, here. His intention was twofold: teach me who I was as well as prompt my interest in what he was trying to convey through song. Without knowing it, perhaps, he was paving the way to a life fueled on many levels by song.

I sang through my childhood, tapping out rhythms of the songs I heard in my head on my fingertips in bed on nights I couldn’t fall asleep. I would belt out songs I thought might be appropriately placed on the stage of an opera, only to be told I was "screeching." I sang through childhood and afterwards in ensembles and choirs and in duets with my sister, and eventually, met my husband in concert choir in college. He was the baritone who sat behind me, wondering if he dare ask me out. I was the soprano up front, wondering about the cute guy forced to stare at my backside each day.

And then came motherhood, and I eagerly awaited the day I could sing to my babies, and was perplexed when, even though I was a trained vocalist, they would shout, "Stop singing, Mom!" That said, my middle child would sneak out of her room on nights I was up practicing for church, apparently somewhat enamored by what she was hearing.

These days, that’s where my singing mainly happens — at church. Like many church cantors, and unlike church pianists, I do this without monetary compensation. But I don’t mind. It is a gift, and I’m happy to give to my church in this way. As my father, and St. Augustine before him, always said, "Those who sing pray twice," and it’s true. Singing at Mass helps connect me to my faith and allows me to be an integral part of the celebration. But it’s not a performance, and it’s not about me. I always pray before I cantor — that my voice would be strong and clear, not for my own glory, but so I might be a vessel that would bring others closer to God. There are times I mess up, or my voice is cloudy due to a recent illness, or I miss my place in the music, but I feel honored to use my talent in this way, and grateful, at last, that I have a place to share my songs; a place where I won’t be hushed and told I’m screeching or to stop singing, but appreciated for helping bring the words of love given to us by our Creator more fully alive.