I have a problem. I speak a rare language that not many people speak, and as such, I often go misunderstood. It can be lonely, but I can’t help it. When I get excited, happy or angry, I just blurt out words..movie lines. After yesterday’s Encounter With Christ, where Jesus uses a little child as an example in this Sunday’s gospel, and then in our case we discussed the power of song in prayer, there was only one thing to do. Review the movie “Australia”.
One of our favorite family movies is “Australia” (2008). This sweeping epic takes place in World War II era Australia, starring Nicole Kidman and Hugh Jackman. Inheriting a huge head of cattle and a lot of political woes, a widow from England travels to her husband’s land in Australia and eventually falls in love with a “Drover” (cattle driver). For me, the love story of the movie is a shadow behind the bigger human rights story, spotlighting a young aboriginal boy who was fathered by a corrupt Englishman, resulting in what the locals call a “creamy” (not totally aboriginal or white) outcast from both “tribes” of society. “Nullah” (Brandon Walters) becomes the icon of innocence, purity, humility, and goodness as he faces his coming of age through the racial tensions in society and in his own life. It doesn’t stop Nicole Kidman’s character, who Nullah lovingly calls “Mrs. Boss” from emotionally adopting this sweet boy and falling for the heroically strong and independent “Drover”, and her new-found family.
For me, the most endearing part of this beautiful movie is that Nullah speaks the language of song. He finds his way through life by listening to the singing of his aboriginal grandfather, believing that song has a spiritual power to guide us through all of life’s difficulties. While grieving his mother, he is soothed only by “Mrs. Boss” singing to him, “Somewhere Over The Rainbow”. Forced onto a ship to be exiled to an island mission by a cruel play of the antihero, Nullah, helplessly aboard the boat cries, “I sing you to me Mrs. Boss!” (Meaning he will sing, so she can find him). Nicole Kidman’s (excellently portrayed) character, desperately grasps for him from the dock, crying and assured, that they will meet again, and it will be by way of the song. The invisible character of “the song” makes it’s pinnacle appearance a few scenes later in the most heart-wrenching scene of the movie, definitely stealing the show.
Discussing this week’s case in our Encounter With Christ prayer group, we reviewed an article written about a man who was a musical director for a church, who explained the powerful impact of music in prayer. We discussed the obvious elements of using song in worship such as further elevating the spirit, and increased focusing of the mind. More interestingly, we discussed many parallel cases in which people petitioned Our Lord for something in prayer for a long time–never receiving an answer–but after singing the petition, their prayers were indeed answered, particularly several cases of conceiving a baby after years of prayer for pregnancy.
As this case unfolded further, we found that many of us had been powerfully impacted by the use of song in our own prayer, especially when we found it difficult to pray because of a hardship or difficulty in our personal lives. Singing along with music in church or in our cars also sufficed to engage our hearts in praise and worship when we can’t muster the energy ourselves. Moreover, it was decided the “posture” of singing–the humbling experience of expressing love for God through our voice (“pitchy” or not)–was likened to kneeling in prayer.
Catholics do a lot of changing of position during the sacrifice of the mass–standing, kneeling, sitting–and that is for the reason of expressing reverence at particular prayers. For example, we kneel during the Eucharistic prayers. We stand during the “Our Father”, and when the petitions for the church and her people are read aloud. We sit when we listen to the three readings from the bible each week. Our physical body is one element of our human being (mind, body, soul) and therefore lends to engaging all of ourselves to God in total worship.
Like this upcoming Sunday’s gospel, Mark 9:30-37, Jesus is still trying to explain to the disciples about what is going to happen to him, and in their confusion, they begin to discuss among themselves which of them is the “greatest”. When Jesus asks what they are discussing, they remain silent. Jesus picks up a child and reminds them “whoever receives one child, such as this in my name, receives me”. Looking at the humility, purity and tremendous amount of trust children must have for those to whom they have been entrusted for care, we can mirror such virtue in our own lives in prayer to God. We can easily be confused by the offerings of this world in the comfort of things that feed our body or our egos, but can divert us from God’s plan. What we don’t understand can often lead us to fear, and ultimately silence from speaking the truth (like the disciples this week). This gospel reminds us to make a conscious act of surrender to the authority of our loving Father, who knows what is best for us, and to direct our efforts back to Jesus.
Theological virtue: Faith
Human Virtue: Fortitude (Ensures firmness in difficulties and consistency in the pursuit of good); Vigilance, Diligence, Fidelity
How We Will Pray and Act
We will spend time discerning what thing we have petitioned the Lord for in prayer and have not yet seen an answer; a long-standing petition, or one that we feel needs powerful intercession will be the focus of our sung prayers. We will sing our special prayer of petition to the Lord. Even if in the privacy of our car, we will take this special request we have prayed about to God in song. Some felt they may also use kneeling more often in prayer. Additionally, we will act in a way as prompted by the Holy Spirit (as a fruit of this sung prayer) if so prompted, by reaching out to others (an offering of thanksgiving, calling someone, serving in some way, etc.) This is left to the specific situation of each person’s petition.
Exodus 15: Then Moses and the Israelites sang this song to the Lord…
Psalm 96: Sing to the Lord a new song; sing to the Lord, all the earth. Sing to the Lord, bless his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds. …
Numbers 21: Then Israel sang this song: Spring up, O well!—so sing to it—
Mark 14: Then, after singing a hymn, they went out to the Mount of Olives.
Acts 16:25 Deliverance from Prison. About midnight, while Paul and Silas were praying and singing hymns to God as the prisoners listened…
The one who sings, prays twice. –St Augustine
Cantare amantis est … Singing belongs to one who loves.” (s. 336, 1 – PL 38, 1472) –St Augustine