How easily things get broken: a simple song

Eucharist by Sr. Mary Stephen

A little late in the day...

Thirty-nine years ago on Saturday (May 19) I was ordained a priest for service in the Archdiocese of Boston. Thirty-nine years ago Sunday (May 20) I celebrated my "first Mass." That "first" Mass was really my second as a priest because every newly ordained con-celebrates the Eucharist with his bishop at the Mass at which he's ordained. But May 20, 1973 was the first time I presided and preached at the Eucharist.

It was a beautiful day, as was this anniversary day. I remember it quite clearly and with great joy. My younger brother John, now a priest himself, was the Cross bearer that day. My parents and sister and my grandparents and aunts and uncles and cousins were in the front pews.  Friends from the seminary formed the choir. Tony Jezowski (since gone home to the Lord) served as the deacon. It was a joyful day indeed and one I will never forget.

As an image in my homily for that Mass, I referred to a climactic scene and song in Leonard Bernstein's MASS: A Theatre Piece for Singers, Players, and Dancers.  You can listen to it below although I realize that without experiencing the whole  production, this excerpt may be difficult to understand - and can easily be misunderstood.  In context, however, and with nearly 4 decades of ministry behind me, I see that this was a rich image for me and for the Church in which I've served.  This portion of MASS is titled How Easily Things Get Broken.  

Bernstein: Mass - Fraction: "Things Get Broken" by Alan Titus; Leonard Bernstein: Norman Scribner Choir, Berkshire Boys' Choir on Grooveshark

 At my first Mass,  I used the image of brokenness to play off the theme of my ordination retreat during which the retreat master had focused on the confluence of what would be our brokenness as human beings, as priests; our vocation to break open the Word in nourishment for God's people; and  the brokenness of Christ, the Lamb of God, in the breaking of Bread and pouring out of his Blood in our celebrating the Eucharist.  The brokenness in the lives of all of us and "how easily things get broken" are images that have stayed with me as surely as the image of Christ's healing: offered in his body, broken on the Cross and in the broken, poured out elements of the Eucharist, offered for the healing of our broken hearts and lives.

Thirty-nine years later, it's the healing of brokenness that I celebrate and minister, trying never to loose sight of how much my own broken life is in need of the Lord's mending mercy.

If you took the time to listen to How Easily Things Get Broken and found it a bit too heavy for your taste, then enjoy this other selection from Bernstein's MASS, my favorite:  Sing God a Simple Song.

Bernstein: Mass - Devotions Before Mass - 2. Hymn & Psalm: "A Simple Song" by Alan Titus; Leonard Bernstein: Norman Scribner Choir, Berkshire Boys' Choir on Grooveshark


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  1. "A Simple Song" remains an enduring favorite of mine, too. I asked a soprano in our parish if she could sing it at my Mass of Thanksgiving the day after I was ordained, and she was all set to to do it, but had to go out of town that weekend for a family wedding.

    But the sentiment of the song? "God is the simplest of all..."

    How easily we all forget that!

    Thank you for the reminder.

    Deacon Greg

  2. Awesome and very moving.
    People who are unfamiliar with Bernstein's Mass may find this synopsis useful


  3. I don't remember one thing about our retreat, not even who gave it. Thank you so very much Austin for bringing that back to me. It means even more to me now. Maybe we know ourselves better in the breaking of the bread that is really ourselves. How well I remember your parents and Ruth and John. I never thought I'd have white hair.

  4. Congratulations on your anniversary and thanks for the rich and inspiring posts you share so generously.
    Blessings galore.

  5. Blessings on your anniversary - thank you for your ministry.

  6. I am so thankful to the Lord for your ministry. You have helped me (and so many others that you will never know) so many times and in so many ways.

    Happy Anniversary!

    God Bless.


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