In my life, I have learned that music is powerful beyond words and often does what words alone can never do.

Historically, when my soul was asleep morally, it was music that called me back. Although I joined the church choir in order to meet girls, it was through the music that the Lord showed me a deeper desire in my heart for goodness, beauty, and truth—indeed my desire for God Himself. The music awoke my sleeping soul to God.

More recently, and in a particular way, music often awakens my soul to the deeper meaning of Sacred Scripture. I have often heard or read a certain Scripture passage that had only a marginal impact on me. But then the choir takes it up in song and it is pressed into my heart like never before, such that I can never forget it. Through the music, my heart and soul are awakened to a deeper meaning of a text.

With humility I have also learned that though I may preach boldly, 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 may 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 that 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 the remarkable video below, there is a older man, Henry,  who, likely due to a seizure 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 and had such a joie de vivre. But in the last ten years he had shut down and turned inward.

Then came the miracle, a miracle in something ordinary yet mystical: music. Wait until you see how it awakens Henry! Quite an astonishing difference. Yes, suddenly there came the discovery by the staff of the nursing home and Henry’s daughter that there was still 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 that 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 mere 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.

8 Responses

  1. Robertlifelongcatholic says:

    I will be ready for the old folks home the day I hear a rap or hip hop hymn being sung at Mass but a Cab Calloway style hymn is pretty much gospel.

  2. Jas says:

    Wonderful! Praised be the Lord our God! Mr. Henry still has a great singing voice, too! This is what I thought of after listening to his words:

    “And they were all filled with the holy Spirit and began to speak in different tongues, as the Spirit enabled them to proclaim.”

  3. edraCRUZ says:

    Communion I give to those sick and shut-ins, the three things I notice that give joy to them are, yes music, children and the Holy Communion. I see and feel a joy in their hearts my mind could not comprehend. Oh, America and the liberal countries that abort their babies and euthanize their seniors you will answer for this. If you only knew, they are our joys. Also, the kind of music today, they disorganized our thoughts and even our culture. The seniors and the even young ones who know their faith become alive with mellow music, love songs, church songs, classical, praise songs and Gregorian chants. Sing praise to GOD who reigns in our hearts forevermore.

  4. . . . all for Jesus says:

    +The LORD in His great kindness . . . has blessed our family . . . on all sides . . . and saturated it to overflowing . . . with music and musicians . . . all generations . . . (instrumentalists and vocalists all over the place) . . . we have been known to . . . eat . . . breath . . . and sleep music . . . day and night . . . Where the preaching of the Word is the sowing of God’s holy seed amongst souls . . . I kind of think of marvelous good music as the “ watering” of that Word . . . which water can and does . . . truly wonderfully . . . promote healthy growth of that seed so abundantly supplied by our LORD . . .

    For over twenty plus years . . . following a stint as a teacher day-to-day in our church’s school . . . I worked as church secretary . . . and our . . . Wonderful LORD . . . who is so often . . . FULL . . . of surprises for His Dear Children . . . somewhere there in the middle of all those years . . . interrupted my very contented professional life . . . and . . . clear as a bell . . . asked me to . . . TRUST in Him . . . and resign my MUCH beloved church secretarial position . . . (rather a scary situation to say the least) . . . and to my surprise He brought across my path a home where there was great need for immediate help . . . because of serious illness there . . . Prayerfully armed with only the security that . . . somehow . . . this was . . . indeed! . . . God’s true will for my life at that time . . . I took the job . . . and to my absolute amazement . . . discovered . . . it was in the home of two . . . devout . . . Christ centered retired elderly black evangelists . . . who were both extraordinary musicians! . . . the elder . . . quite gravely ill evangelist . . . was also a prolific hymn and spiritual songs writer . . . marvelously gifted spirit filled musicians both! . . . and this sudden change of jobs turned out to be such joy . . . Interspersed throughout the working hours . . . we sang and praised the LORD and prayed together daily throughout our days together . . . truly it was the LORD’s Wonderful . . .Guiding . . . Providential Hand . . . that brought our lives together for that . . . really quite extraordinary! . . . period of time . . . and what in a non-Christian home might have proven to be a very stressful time . . . actually . . . for us . . . contained an ever flowing . . . river . . . of true heavenly joy . . . in the depths of the constant . . . Great Kindness . . . of the Holy Presence of our God . . . with us . . .

    “Behold a virgin shall be with child, and bring forth a son, and they shall call his name EMMANUEL, which being interpreted is, GOD WITH US.” –Matthew 1:23 drv

    “Praise God from Whom all blessings flow!”

    . . . truly it was all . . . with . . . and for . . . JESUS+

  5. Claire L. says:

    I learned something about the first missionnaries who came to America in the 17th century. They worked hard to teach the gospel to the people of the First Nations and in the beginning, they weren’t very successful with their teaching. But they noticed that the people of the First Nations were very enthusiastic about the liturgy and especially the songs of the church. So the nuns and the priests could easily show them how to sing the songs of the liturgy, at first it was in latin. Soon after, the missionnaries translated these beaufiful songs in their native languages, for them to sing at mass. Apparently, they enjoyed it very much, they had beautiful voices and choirs were formed (mostly women voices, because men were often away to hunt). So with the help of music, they learned about the word of God.

  6. JohnR says:

    I have always thought that one thing which stands out in opposition to those who simply claim that we are descended from monkeys by evolution is music! I know of no animal, except the human animal, which has the creativity of being able to produce music.
    Certainly birds can sing. Certainly other animals can make various sounds and that these sounds even can express different moods such as warning off would be predators or calling to would be mates but no other animal can ever create the millions of sounds which the human animal can, and has produced, over thousands of years, expressing all the myriad emotions which the human being possesses.
    The same can be said of the ability to so construct human speech into the art form which we call poetry.
    Birds can build nests. animals can dig holes to live in. But only the human animal can, and has, produced thousands of different buildings, of different design forms for different purposes through the artistry of architecture.
    Only God and the human animal is capable of creativity! It is an ability which is wonderful.
    Thanks be to God.

  7. TeaPot562 says:

    Certain hymns resonate deeply with my emotions, a/c connected with old memories:
    - Praise God from whom all blessings flow;
    - Tantum Ergo;
    - O Salutaris Hostia;
    - We praise you, O Lord, (for all Your works are wonderful);
    - The Anglican sung version of the Lord’s prayer; (sad, because tied to disunity continuing.)
    - A Mighty Fortress is our God (Also sad, a/c tied to disunity);
    - Vexilla Regis (on Good Friday)
    And many hymns appropriate for Christmas and Easter.
    Some people can be reached with music who seem impervious to prose.
    TeaPot562

  8. Jas says:

    Everyone was deeply moved by this at a certain, similar facility. They’re looking to purchase some ipods or similar players for the residents. Thanks for this and thank God, for His wonders never cease! God bless!

Leave a Reply