Back in college I became interested in learning to play the Pipe Organ. I had heard the thunderous resonance of that instrument and knew I wanted to play it and make the whole building shake. I had not studied piano as a child and so was starting from scratch. But I hammered away at it day after day, learning not only the hands but to play with both feet as well. In a few years I was good enough that I went on to become the daily organist at the seminary where I attended. But the truth is I never had “the gift.” I am able to play hymns accurately but learning them is hard and I am never really at ease when I play. The more elaborate organ works of Bach I will likely never play or master. It’s OK, because I am glad for what I can do. 

But I must say I have always been amazed when I encounter those who have the gift, those who can play almost without effort, those for who the music seems to come from within. When they play they are not merely playing notes accurately but the music comes from deep inside. It is almost innate. I have met and worked with many who have the gift. Some are able just to hear something once and play it back almost without flaw. Others sight read music with ease. Still others play not only one instrument but many.  God just seems to put music and art inside of some people and no amount of explanation regarding how they’ve studied etc.  can fully explain the gift they have received. Studies can help refine the gift but they cannot explain it. 

I remember a young woman at my last parish, Charnetta. I could put music of almost any complexity in front of her and she’d play almost without flaw. She could also play by ear and shift from gospel to classical, to modern and back again. She played with such ease and though I knew  she’d trained classically there was something on the inside, she just had the gift. 

At my current parish is Kenneth who is also able to play almost anything. He reads music but can also play by ear. He tells me that when he was about five he heard his mother humming a hymn in the kitchen and then went to the piano and played it. At that moment they knew he had “the gift.”  For him too, his playing seems effortless. I rarely hear him practice he just knows the music innately it seems. From classical to gospel, to soulful spirituals and back again. I admire many things about his playing but perhaps what I find most fascinating is the ease with which he transposes. He will play the opening hymn at the organ and gradually take us up the scale, never missing a note. Kenneth too spent many years studying  music and has his Masters degree but in the end what he most has is the gift.   

I remember attending piano recitals as a kid. Most of the kids who played were somewhere between dreadful and mediocre. But there were always one or two who sat down at the keyboard and you knew they were different. They had it inside, they had the gift. 

It was the same with art. There were just some kids when I was growing up who knew how to draw. It was not that they had gone to art school, they just had the gift. I would marvel as they took a simple piece of paper and pencil and just went to work. And they did it with such ease, never erasing, never struggling, just drawing. And whether it was a simple cartoon, or something more detailed it was clear to me that they had something on the inside. I once asked a friend of mine named Ingo who had the gift to draw me a picture. “Of what?” he asked. “Oh I don’t know, maybe a farmer at his farm.” In less then five minutes he handed me a picture and it was good too! Ingo had the gift. 

I guess the closest I can say that I come to having a gift is in the area of preaching and teaching. I love to do both and do them almost without effort. I never struggle with what to say, if anything it is what NOT to say since I go on too long. I often experience the gift most powerfully at 7:00 am weekday morning masses. I may be struggling to wake up, even dosing during the reading but when it comes time to preach I am suddenly awake and firing on all cylinders. And I know it isn’t me, its the Lord, it’s the gift. Sure enough when the homily is over I’m back to being sleepy and fumbling through the sacramentary as I drowsily look for the right page. (I’m not a morning person). 

Don’t miss God’s gifts, in yourself or in others. And most often they can’t be explained in any other way. They are simply gifts. They are inside, deep in the soul. Years of study can help perfect them but the basic gift and ability seem to be right there from the start in those who have “the gift.” It is a uniquely human gift as well. Animals do not compose music or perform it, they do not sing, they do not paint or sculpt. Such gifts are uniquely human and part of our glory which God has bestowed. The gift and the glory are God’s but he has chosen to share them with some of us.

This video features a little girl named Emily who has the gift to play the piano. It was first noticed at age two. Emily, when asked how she can play so well says, “I don’t know, it just comes out of me.” — the Gift. 

 

This video illustrates a young woman who received the gift to paint quite clearly from God. Even more beautifully she received the gift of faith as you will see.   

17 Responses

  1. Katherine G ERT says:

    I, too, admire those who are gifted musically and artistically, because I am not. I can’t sing, either, so I admire really powerful and beautiful singing voices. Well, as one priest I know said, we can all sing, and even if we aren’t good at it we have to “give back what God gave us and sing in church.”

    That is pretty funny and pretty awesome that you essentially “come alive” for preaching at your daily masses but are not a morning person! (I’m not one either, hence why I usually have the night shift).

  2. Jacquelyn says:

    I really admire those who can play the organ. It is like an orchestra to me. I love instrumental and orchestral music. Singing is absolutely wonderful, and I thought birds can sing!

    You can still enjoy playing the piano and the organ. This is one of your many rare gifts. I love to play the piano and continue to play, even though I have been playing some pieces over and over for more than two decades. I never have Moonlight Sonata committed in my memory. I thought Beethoven was off on a tangent at some points. Once the music got inside me, I was off wandering elsewhere. I glossed over too many mistakes before I finished the piece. I have never played perfectly, but I’m never tired of the piano.

    I also heard that practice makes perfect. At work, I’m required to write a lot. I’m not working for the news, but I was told to write like a reporter. So, I write with the passion of a sweeper. I write scrupulously, and I constantly look up editorial materials. I’m still not perfect, but I enjoy writing as part of my job.

    I really enjoyed reading your blogs. They are very informative and truthful. God bless you and your works.

  3. Suzanne says:

    My daughter has “the gift” and it has been a joy to watch it unfold through her growing years. One of the challenges when you have the gift is recognizing it as such – it comes so easily it can be hard to see that it is something special that God has given you. She is a teenager now and I don’t think she even yet understands how talented she is. At least we don’t have to worry about a pride issue! From her earliest age I have tried to teach her that her musical ability is a gift from God – and with the gift comes the responsibility to not leave it “under the bushel” (neglecting it for other activities that might seem more exciting), to use it wisely (not succumbing to the lower common denominator in music), and to give it back as a gift to others and God (she plays weekly at the youth Mass and loves it).

    Music and other forms of art have the ability to bring us closer to God, for as much as we stand in awe in the face of a beautiful sunset or perfectly formed flower, we are stunned by the beauty of a Vivaldi concerto or a perfectly rendered painting.

  4. Lil' Sis says:

    How wonderful for those whose gifts are so easily seen or heard.

    But for the rest of us we must struggle, sometimes for a lifetime, in vain, trying to discern what we have been gifted with…

  5. luzminda r penaranda says:

    Good day Msgr. thanks God for the “gift” that He bestows on His children. The painting of the child is exactly the same with the face of Jesus when I walked beside Him showing me the peaceful paradise. That is how God commune with people in their innocence the gift is planted and we have to take care of it and praise God for His kindness. I too just received a “Heavenly Gift” promised to me by God in 1995 which I have to use for the less fortunate of our country. Thank you Lord you never fail your promises to those who believe and trust in you through faith.

  6. esiul says:

    Preaching is indeed a great gift. I have never heard you, but from your writings I can well envision you preaching an inspiring homily. Homilies that hit your heart can bring conversions, hope, and a new life.
    You are much admired. The two videos are a joy to see. They make me say “How great Thou art.”
    Thanks.

  7. Dhanagom says:

    As a person with “the gift”, in particular for drawing and sculpting, I must say this was a great article. As a child I loved being lost in my art, I would literally spend hours a day without realizing that I had spent any time at all; drawing after drawing, building after building. It felt as if it just swelled up inside of me, and had to come out, else I’d just burst. I had to use my hands to make things, and when I did, it just came. I would instantly see things on the paper, in the clay, or from my legos. It was just a matter of breaking the form out from the material at hand. I remember my mother getting after me at times for missing meals and neglecting homework so as to spend more time in my art, in all honesty the world would just fade away, and all that was left was me and my art. I suppose another analogy would be like being put on the spot in a new and different situation and suddenly knowing exactly what to do, how to do it, and doing it beautifully.
    A dark side is that those with “the gift” often feel that the works that they’ve done are not good enough…that they could have really done better. At least that is what I’ve found for gifted people particularly outside the music field. Hopefully they just push forward and don’t become depressed by their own perfectionist standards. I still enjoy getting lost in my art today, and thank God for this talent everyday!

  8. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    I have always been amazed by people who had the gift and ability to bear suffering. That’s a talent I have worked on all my life and as I know I have improved, I have’nt come to master it yet. The older I get, the more opportunity I have to practice it.

  9. Caroline says:

    Sometimes a gift isn’t meant for others. A gifted person will know this
    by the reaction received when trying to give. In that case,
    just give the gift to God in praise.

  10. Therese Z says:

    I, too, have “the gift” of music, as does my brother, and we received it from our father. I didn’t know I had anything more than a mechanical talent and a good memory until I realized that I played best when I was concentrating on channeling the style and time in which the music was written, especially the music of the early 20th century through the war years, even the 50′s. I can often make it sound like it did back then, in timing and pause and “schmaltz,” even though I wasn’t born yet. I can only measure this through the reaction of my audience, and when I started using their reaction as my measurement of success, not the perfection of my playing, I think I completed the reason for having the gift in the first place.

    Get’em to cry and laugh and sing along and remember, and you are making real music.

  11. susan s. says:

    Wouldnt it have been nice if the little pianist had said “from God” when asked where it came from?

  12. John says:

    Yes Msgr., I just have Hope that God more generously bequeaths “the gift” of Faith on me, as compared to what I didn’t receive when He was passing out the art and music presents. :)

  13. jj says:

    What are gifts without repentance? Lord have mercy. Amen

  14. Michele | Lilyputts Gift Baskets says:

    Most times we forget when we have a gift. Even though some of the music comes hard to you, you still have a gift, at times its just harder to realize. Thats what being human is! We are all unique and special in our own right.

  15. Neal says:

    i wanna say that if you have a gift use it

  16. MM says:

    When creating music, songs, and drawing, painting, I often felt it was not me, who is going the art, but God. I am simply an instrument, or His channel. So all the beautiful art and music (or other talents) is from God via us, therefore all this should be dedicated to God. This is reciprocation between God and humans.

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