Beauty is a Salve: St. Mary Star of the Sea Schola, Jackson, MI

Sometimes, we get so used to war that we don’t remember what peace looks like.

Sometimes, we fight so hard for every inch of ground we can’t quite remember home.

This is why the question eats at me constantly: how can we find the energy to resist the enemy if we forget what we’re striving for, if we lose sight of the very things from which we draw strength? 

Some years back, a friend of mine fired off a quick sentence on social media. I don’t remember what it was in reference to, but it immediately struck me, nearly perfect in its succinctness:

Beauty is a salve. 

We are wounded and battle-weary. We need to be reminded of the True, the Good, and the Beautiful on a regular basis or we risk losing our way. Whether it’s the prayers of the Church’s ancient liturgies, the rhythm of the Divine Office, a rosary in the briskness of an early morning walk, the sun setting over God’s creation, the sound of the wind, the rain, and the waves, the quiet Eucharistic presence of Our Lord within an architecture that reveres Him…whatever it is, we find God in the things that please us, that delight the senses and fill us with joy.

Perhaps one of the best such things is sacred music. Last month, I received an email from a reader that I had completely forgotten about until I committed myself today to attacking the hundreds of unread emails that never stop piling up in my inbox:

Dear Steve,

I am very fortunate to be a part of a little traditional schola at St. Mary Star of the Sea, Jackson MI. It’s a beautifully preserved church, a gem in the heart of the city.

St. Mary’s schola started out with one lone member. He chanted and sang his heart out for about 6 months. Tired of doing the one man show, he recruited two of his siblings to assist. I’m one of them. We started praying for more willing souls to participate and God ( rather quickly, I might add) has blessed us with a number of committed people, mostly amateur, with a couple of talented music directors from other churches in the area. The schola has developed a sound, one that comes with working closely together, every week. Also, a sound that comes from all of us seeking to, in our small way, give God His due.

The thing is, God answered the prayers of a few lone volunteers and, with His blessing, we now number about 12 steady members. Our Latin Mass was starved for sacred polyphony and Gregorian chant for longer than I care to remember, but now we are experiencing a richness that we never could have anticipated.

I would like to share a link to our latest video. This is a live recording from Passion Sunday.

The video is excellent. The sound rich, the echo of the parish a perfect acoustic accouterment to the practiced voices of the schola. In the background, small children can be heard babbling or crying, a door squeaks as a parent makes a hasty exit, the noises of the lived experience of Catholic worship reminding us that this is something we can experience at Mass — no professional choir required — if only we love Our Lord enough to give the gifts he has given us back to Him in service to His glory.

As the first video wound down, YouTube queued up a second – this time of the St. Mary’s Schola performing Casciolini’s Panis Angelicus. It doesn’t disappoint:

The work being done by this schola of just 12 voices is one of many examples of the Catholic renaissance that is quitely blossoming in parishes around the world — a restoration of the beauty of classical Christianity unfolding one altar rail, one sanctuary, one schola at a time.

If you’re blessed with a parish where the sacred is flourishing anew, please share whatever you can with us. We may report on news of the crisis, but our mission will always be to rebuild Catholic Culture and restore Catholic Tradition. We want to continue that most important work one story at a time.

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