The word Eucharist means “thanksgiving.” Here are a few things for which I am thankful this Sunday.
* I got to attend Mass with my parents. This has been a common practice over the last five years, after they moved into their senior residential community, but it has been a rarity lately. My mom has had a string of health issues, the most recent of which I wrote about here, so she hasn’t been able to get out to church many times this year. This spring, Dad turned 90 and Mom turned 83 yesterday. I am also thankful to still have them with us and doing comparatively well. While they have had challenges, they are in better shape than so many other folks their age – and so many others were not blessed with this many years on earth.
* We prayed for those affected by the earthquakes in Nepal and took up a collection to aid them. I was grateful for the opportunity to help.
* During the intercessory prayers, we prayed for Sister Rose Margaret on what would have been her 80th jubilee as a Sister of Saint Joseph of Carondelet. Rose Margaret died just before Christmas. She was an amazing person – bright, knowledgeable, an expert in Scripture and theology, skilled in pastoral care, an excellent preacher, kind, generous, loving, and Christ-like – with an Irish twinkle always in her eyes. Called to the ministerial priesthood by God, she was not able to be ordained under current Catholic doctrine, but she lived out priesthood every moment of her life as a sister. She had been an inspiration to Sarah’s Circle. At her sixtieth jubilee, Sarah’s Circle members attended along with the sisters in her order, so she had two circles of women with whom to celebrate her special anniversary. Today, I gave thanks for her time among us and her lasting legacy.
* When I arrived at Mass this morning, my mother told me that the memorial service for our friend Peter had been set. After Mass, Nancy, the music director and a longtime friend, and I had a long conversation about Peter, who had been her colleague for decades. Peter was the organist/choirmaster at Trinity Episcopal in Binghamton NY for many years, as well as the director of Harpur Chorale, the most select choral ensemble at Binghamton University. As accompanist for University Chorus, he was one of my first friends when I moved to the area and became one of the few people for whom I have ever worked when I served for two years as his assistant at Trinity. (Technically, my title was organist-in-training, which didn’t fit very well as I had been playing for over ten years by that point.) Peter was one of the few people left he knew me as a professional church musician.
Peter had incredible range as a musician. He could play organ repertoire across a range of styles well. He had a profound understanding of liturgy and service playing. He could teach choral music to children, teens, college students, and adults through the age spectrum up to seniors. He composed – choral arrangements, hymn introductions and harmonizations for organ, piano pieces. He taught piano and organ; he was my older daughter’s piano teacher for almost ten years. He could play jazz piano. He was a great accompanist, even managing the nearly impossible orchestral reductions for University Chorus rehearsals. He sang bass, although we didn’t get to hear him much as he usually had to conduct or play.
Peter was also generous, as a musician and as a friend. He collaborated well and managed to keep his cool, even in tense situations. He was a good storyteller and had led an interesting life. His sense of humor was gentle, rather than biting. While he spent most of his time on music, he also loved the outdoors, especially if whitewater canoeing was involved.
Peter’s death was quite sudden and we are still all a bit shocked and holding his wife, daughter, mother, and the rest of his family in prayer. We are also giving thanks for his life among us, doing what he loved, and sharing his gifts with us all.