Recently a friend of mine told me of his experience in college. At the time, he formed a singing quartet with three other collegians. At the best, each one had only an average voice, but when they sang together, they produced a superior kind of music. To their own surprise, the group brought home many first place trophies from musical competitions they entered across the country.
No one can sing harmony by oneself, because harmony comes about from the blending of many voices into a pleasing sound.
So, too, in living life, a person can only bring harmony into the music of his life by the addition of other voices. When one has peace, joy, love and hope in his spirit, this person is truly living in harmony with God’s wishes. No human being can bring about this harmonious condition with his own single voice.
The voices of family, friends, community and especially, of Jesus of Nazareth must sound out to blend with one’s own voice. Family and friends encourage one to persevere in pursuing high ideals. The members of the community gather in the parish church to sing God’s praises and to listen to the Holy Scriptures read and preached about. All these voices add enthusiasm to the desire to live a harmonious life. The Christ of the Gospels comes into the gathering.
The Lebanon Hostage Crises between 1982 and 1992 is well known. I remember reading about a group of four men who were released explaining how they had kept their harmony of spirits during the troublesome time of captivity. Several times a day, the four of them would come together for public prayer. In these sessions, they heard each other’s voices praising God. In conversation, they encouraged one another not to give in to depression and despair. All the hostages told how their special prayer came to be the invoking of the Lord Jesus to come into their gatherings and to remain with them.
As a result of all these voices blending together, the hostages came home in jubilant spirits. This weekend, as you attend Mass, don’t worry about the quality of your voice. Join in with the others present and pray and sing as one voice to Jesus of Nazareth and you too will go home in high and joyful spirits!
Fr. George Mc Kenna
Some folks are asking me about how I lived to the age of 95 and stayed 70 years in the Priesthood. The genes parents give their children usually determine the number of years the children will live. My parents, Irish immigrants, blessed us four children with good ones. My sister, Catherine, died at 96, my brother, John, at 95 and Frank at 85. Frank did much more difficult physical work than the rest of us.
Something more precious than the good genes came in the gift of the Catholic Faith our parents gave us. My sister attended daily Mass for the last 50 years of her life. My brother, John, studied four years for the priesthood and then left in 1932 to help support our family. My brother, Frank, raised his five children as Catholics. These nephews and nieces still attend Mass on weekends in 2014 out of love for God. I mention these family matters because their good example helped me to treasure my Priesthood and my work as a Priest.
In my teen age years in the 1930’s, my plan for life sounded like this: no alcohol, drugs or smoking. At the age of 17 I took the pledge to refrain from alcohol in any form for the rest of my life. This solemn promise still holds in my life at 2014. Parents, encourage your children to do this. Alcohol never tasted is never missed.
Traveling to Europe and the Middle East gave me a deep interest in life and the different peoples of these countries. I didn’t travel as a sightseer, but as a pilgrim on pilgrimage to holy places. In my 20 visits to Paris, France and its environs, its shrines to many saints richly strengthened my Catholic faith. France’s saints became more real to me: St. Vincent DePaul, St. Catherine Laboure (The Miraculous Medal), St. Therese (The Little Flower), St. Mary Margaret Mary (The Messenger of the Sacred Heart), St. Bernadette of Lourdes (15 times I visited Lourdes), St. John Vianney (Cure of Ars).
In Italy, my travels took me to the shrine of St. John Bosco, St. Francis and St. Clare, both of Assisi, St. Pius X, and St. Padre Pio. I offered Mass at the tombs of all the above Saints, except for St. Bernadette of Lourdes. These experiences made me fall in love with my Priesthood and my Catholic Faith. My work as a Priest gave me much joy and sense of fulfillment and much help to my good health.
My 27 pilgrimages to the Old City of Jerusalem and its environs, Galilee, were carried out with one purpose in mind: to drink in the Spirit of Christ as much as possible. While I was in Calcutta, India, Mother Theresa and her Sisters taught me to see the Face of Christ in everyone. During my times as a missionary in Alaska, the Eskimos showed themselves to be a long suffering and gentle people, living in darkness and stormy weather most of the year.
In my adult life, my weight stayed the same at 150 pounds, a help to good health. After 75 years as a golfer, my legs enable me to walk with a walker on all occasions. Open heart surgery at the age of 82 in 2001, gave me a new lease on life. In 23 years, up to the age of 91, as Chaplain at Chicago Midway Airport, I met travelers from across the USA and the world at large. These were the happiest years of my life.
Finally, my Blog has occupied my mind during the last 3 years, up until now, 2014. The blog, with its weekly messages has been touched in 116 countries and viewed over 19,300 times. Amen!
Fr. George Mc Kenna