Thursday, December 06, 2007

"You Must be Patient"

A number of years ago, I was at a private reception after a recital by the French organist Marie Claire Alain. As people mingled, I got to meet a fellow Catholic organist. It didn't take long for us to start playing that game that Thomas Day calls "I've got a better one." It goes something like this, "Oh yeah, that's something, but you'll never believe the story about the wedding I played last week." Et cetera.

These kinds of conversations inevitably lead to the "Do I really want to be doing this kind of work?" talk. Many Catholic musicians have one foot out the door at all times. The work is often frustrating and thankless. Moreover, one can be labeled an egoist just for desiring to hold up some standard of quality. These statements usually come from the clergy--not all clergy, but specifically the type of clergy who are themselves egoists. (Reminder: Don't shoot the messenger.)

In any case, this fellow organist and I were playing "I've got a better one" for a little while when I noticed someone looking over my shoulder. It was none other than Madame Alain. I was surprised to discover that she was eager to jump in to this conversation. Surely she is occupied with more interesting matters. "You must be patient," she said. "It will get better. (The music) got better in France; it will get better here."

"You must be patient." I think she repeated that phrase ten times in as many minutes.

For a number of years, I clung to this advice like it was a life raft. Sometimes I did a better job of hanging on than others, but I must say that I'm quite glad that, by and large, I have been patient. I can tell you that it has paid off.

Now there are many musicians who read this blog who are probably coming to the end of their rope. It is only a few weeks before Christmas, after all. This is one of those times when lurking issues come to the fore in parish life. May I be so bold as to offer this piece of encouragement: Be patient. It will get better. Maybe not right now, maybe not in your current parish, but the Church is changing for the better, and we must cling to this hope.

Well, I just thought this was timely. I hope it is of some use to at least one person.

Happy Advent.

And many thanks to Madame Alain for quite possibly rescuing me from attempting a career in real estate. I can promise you that would have been a disaster!

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: