I have learned in my life, that music is powerful beyond words, and often does what words alone can never do. I have often heard or read a certain Scripture which may have had only marginal impact on me. And then the choir takes it up in song, and it is pressed on my heart like never before, such that I can never forget it.

I have also learned with humility that I may preach boldly, but that it is often the choir’s sung response that makes the thought catch fire. I have learned to link what I preach to what is sung and work carefully with the choir and musicians. For while the spoken word my inform and even energize, the sung word strikes even deeper, engraving the word not only in the mind, but touching the deepest parts of the heart.

There is an old saying:

Bach gave us God’s Word, Mozart gave us God’s laughter, Beethoven gave us God’s fire. God gave us music that we might pray without words. — quote from outside a German opera house

Scripture says the Lord puts music in our hearts and that many, by it will be summoned to faith: The Lord set my feet on a rock and gave me a firm place to stand. He put a new song in my mouth, a hymn of praise to our God. Many will see and fear and put their trust in the LORD. (Psalm 40:3-4)

Yes, music can often reach where mere words cannot.

In this remarkable video, there is a older man, Henry,  who, likely due to a seizures or other age-related factors, had largely turned inward. In fact his very posture illustrates well St. Augustine’s remarkable diagnosis of our problem: curvatus in se (turned in on himself).

Henry’s daughter remembers a lively vivacious man who quite literally danced through life a had such a joix de vivre. But in the last ten years he had shut down and turned in.

Then the miracle, a miracle in something ordinary, yet mystical: music. Wait till you see how it awakens Henry. Quite an astonishing difference. Yes, and suddenly there came the discovery for the staff of the nursing home, and Henry’s daughter, that there was someone “alive inside” Henry’s aging body. Alive indeed, the human soul still deeply touched by the good, the true, and the beautiful.

Henry says when he hears music, “I feel loved….the Lord came to me and made me a holy man…So he gave me these sounds.”

It’s the old Henry, the real Henry, alive and joyful. Where word’s fail, music speaks. Where therapy struggles, music soars.

I am mindful of an older woman I used to visit, Ms. Lorena, she died some years back at age 104. And when I’d visit, there wasn’t much she or I could say. But suddenly, gently, I’d start singing one of those old hymns, “Hmm…By and by….yes, we’ll understand it better by and by.” And Ms. Lorena would light up and join in. She’d sit up straight and be young again.

An old spiritual says, Over my head, I hear music in the air, there must be a God somewhere. Yes, Mr. Henry knows, yes, Ms. Lorena knows, there IS a God somewhere. And when words alone fail, He still calls through music.

Enjoy this powerful video:

14 Responses

  1. Alice Culbreth says:

    Thanks for sharing this , Msgr.! Just awesome how God’s power and love speaks to us through music….and he who sings prays twice! I’m going to try this with someone I know who is slowly slipping away. God bless you!

  2. RichardC says:

    Amen. .

  3. Vince C says:

    I shared this video on Facebook earlier this week and people were deeply affected. It shows forth both the power of music and how in even the most silent, seemingly moribund human beings, someone is alive inside.

  4. Jsisso says:

    OMG this was beautiful! Thank you for sharing this story with us. I know when I stop and listen to the music I don’t feel so alone nor do I feel scared. It makes me wonder why we don’t stop and listen more often.

    God Bless you for sharing this.

    Dawn

  5. Michael B Rooke says:

    Msgr,
    Firstly thank you for all of your inspirational publications.

    Here is a link to a youtube of Msgr Marco Frisina’s remarkable music ‘Ascensione Del Signore’ – Christ’s ascension into heaven. Towards the end the music fades into plainsong representing the Church Temporal.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yh-etC9qaVM

  6. Brandy M. Miller says:

    Music is the language of love, and dance is the body’s natural response to that music. I think this just proves that.

  7. CS says:

    Active listening is one skill that everyone should take the time to cultivate (simply put, this means putting aside whatever we might want to say, or think about, and instead focus on the ‘other’ be it music or another human being).

    I don’t think any soul can actively listen to Motzart’s Requiem and come out the same.

  8. Margaret O'Hagan says:

    I wait for the day when broad acknowledgment of the power of great and beautiful music has for mental prayer

  9. Chris Sarti says:

    This reminds me of an experience I had when I took my eighth grade students Christmas Caroling one year. We were at a Nursing Home and for some reason we ended up by the lock down door for the Alzheimer’s unit in a corner several times. There was a woman who was in a wheel chair and we would find her there when we arrived there she would join us. I instructed my students to continue singing and we did so. The woman in the wheel chair began to “sing’ with us and became very animated. She even attempted to follow us as we moved on to other areas of the Nursing Care Center. I had not known this resident so I did not know anything about her.

    When we were getting ready to leave the activities director pulled me aside and said that the woman in the wheelchair had been a resident there for over 7 years. She had never responded to any stimuli and no one had ever heard the slightest vocal sound from her until that morning. This is only one of several such experiences of just Christmas Caroling with my students. No wonder music is the most esteemed of the Church’s treasures.

    Thank you for sharing this as well.

  10. mary says:

    Music is the universal language of the soul. It speaks to us and for us in ways that communicate emotional consciousness common to all of us. At the level of the soul where God and love reside, we are all one

  11. C.Cotter says:

    So I hope this lovely gentleman has his music on at least a daily basis.

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