Dear brothers and sisters in Christ of Gll, I am glad that we have commenced the Year of Faith not only as a choir community but as a family of God we call the Catholic Church. A couple of weeks ago, I was privileged to have shared with you on “Living an Authentic Christian Life”. I have decided to pen down further thoughts to what has already been covered during the session.
An Authentic Relationship with Jesus Christ
I recalled asking you to write down what does the Christian Faith mean to you. Due to time constraints, there was probably inadequate time for an in-depth reflection. However, at this juncture, it would be good to ask reflect on this question once again as you journey through the Year of Faith.
“Christianity is not a new philosophy or new morality. We are Christians only if we encounter Christ…Only in this personal relationship with Christ, only in this encounter with the Risen One do we really become Christians…Therefore, let us pray to the Lord to enlighten us, so that, in our world, he will grant us the encounter with his presence, and thus give us a lively faith, an open heart, and great charity for all, capable of renewing the world.”-Pope Benedict XVI, Vatican City, Sept 3, 2008
Have you truly encountered Jesus Christ in your life? This fundamental question which our Holy Father has expounded in his quote above could very well be the defining moment not just in your faith journey but in your life and where you head from here.
Prayer: The Foundational Pillar in the Christian Life
In this Year of Faith, every Catholic individual is strongly encouraged to dedicate time to the study of the rich spiritual contents compiled in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC). For younger youth, the Youth Catechism (YOUCAT) is written in a simplified form suited for your understanding. As I have mentioned in the session, the CCC contains all the essential teachings of the Catholic Faith. A Christian who professes the Catholic Faith is called to faithfully uphold and abide by these teachings as though it were taught directly by our Lord Jesus Christ himself.
According to CCC 2559, “Prayer is the raising of one’s mind and heart to God…” We can see that prayer is the proper expression of deepening our relationship with Jesus Christ whom we proclaim as our Lord and Saviour.
We as Christians look towards our Divine Teacher as our living example. Jesus’ life was one single prayer and prayer was always his guiding principle. It is evident in his perfect relationship with the Heavenly Father in the Holy Spirit. The disciples, who lived in community with Jesus, learnt to pray by listening to and imitating Jesus, whose whole life was prayer.
In Sacred Scriptures, we see the numerous occasions where Jesus not only prayed, but prayed intensely (Jesus’ desert temptations by the Devil, his selection of the 12 apostles, his agony in the Garden of Gethsemane where his sweat fell to the ground like drops of blood, his final moments on the Cross). Often, Jesus withdrew into solitude to pray, especially at night. It shows us the need to spend quiet and alone time with God.
St. Teresa of Avila offers us some spiritual wisdom in this quote: “How often have I failed my duty to God, because I was not leaning on the strong pillar of prayer.”
If you remember what the Christian Faith encompasses in the previous section, you will understand why prayer is fundamental in living an authentic Christian life. The essence lies in our relationship with God!
A few days ago, I chanced upon the latest edition of the Catholic News featuring an article by the internationally-renowned music lecturer, composer and conductor Christopher Walker. The title read “Pray well in order to sing well”. God knew I was trying to gather more resources to share with you guys and he presented me with one that was so readily applicable to our choir apostolate. Praise Him!
Christopher Walker mentioned, “Church choir members have to be people of prayer before they can sing God’s praises effectively… Good habits that choirs can imbibe include sharing God’s word, praying together before choir rehearsals and going through mass readings for the week…”
The founder of Opus Dei, St. Jose Maria Escriva said, “Action (singing in the choir’s context) without Prayer is worth nothing; Prayer is worth more than sacrifice” I found this particular quote especially appropriate for our choir apostolate to reflect upon as we go about our future choir practice sessions!
Ultimately, prayer leads us to the very heart of our God whom we desire with our entire being. For those who find praying a real struggle, I leave you with these words of encouragement by St. Jose: “You don’t know how to pray? Put yourself in the presence of God, and as soon as you have said, “Lord I don’t know how to pray!” you can be sure you have already begun”.