Singers who lost their songs

Dear Friends,

The story of the last days of Jesus on earth tell of the very worst forms of agony any person can endure.

The story also shows, in a very painful way, the most noble way to suffer.

Later, the story happily reveals the glory that awaits those who have been baptized in the fires of life, and have not been found wanting.

Those of you who who are still grieving a childwhose life ended at the hand of another

Those of you still grieving someone you loved dearly whose life ended by their own hand,

Those of you still grieving for someone torn from your life, swiftly or slowly, in such an unbelievable awful and unfair way,

for sure you understand, with your heart, the first five, of the seven high holy days.

Maybe you also (hopefully) grieve deeply for the stranger, for the children who were just killed by sarin gas in the Bombing of the Innocents, in Syria. 

About six months ago, a popular young Haitian singer, on leaving the stage after midnight, and getting into his car on Delmas road, was hit, and run over, by a wreckless driver, who then fled the scene.

That Evans is a completely broken young man, in every conceivable sense, is the understatement of the year.

As I looked at him again today, and again tried to speak with him, in our St Luke hospital, my legs got rubbery, as I think how I could easily have become like him a year ago right now, after I flew through the air and crashed onto the road, when the motorcycle taxi I was on hit a vehicle whose steering wheel had failed.

Life is so very fragile. How easily, at any moment, you could become like Evans, too.

The singer now is silent, the singer seems unaware of any music at all.

The singer cannot move any single part of his body of his own power.

Today we sent Evans to a specialty hospital  for a better way to get food into him, than through a tube in his nose, and to have his deep and gangrenous wounds debrided and dressed with bandages that include constant vacuum drainage, to keep the wounds dry as they heal.

As his ever present father lifted him up to place him in the ambulance, his father cried once again, for the full brokenness of his son.

And the son, who seems to understand nothing, in fact understands the deep melody of his fathers tears and he cried, for the tears of his father.

Although sad, it is a tender symphony of love and longing. The scriptures warn us that we live in tombs. and that the mighty voice of God calls us out these tombs

Tombs of our falseness, our pride, our pretenses our use of other people to get ahead, our surrender to a valueless world that heaps indignity upon indignity, and causes poverty and death, in apocalyptic proportions.

I think of little Eve, three years old in our emergency room having been severely beaten by her father.

(I have proclaimed myself now to be her godfather, and I have warned her dad I am now in the family, and my presence in the family will not be benevolent I ASSURE HIM if he touches her again.)

I think of Claudy, under the surgeons knife as I write these words, for the three bullets into his belly, planted there this morning, just down the street, by the 5 thieves who robbed him.

Tombs, tombs and tombs.

Will you come out of yours? Will I come out of mine?

Our tears will be valuable, to water the devastated soul-lands we have created.

If Evans is in a tomb, of broken body and dreadful silence, then like the angel below, we will grace his tomb with heartfelt solidarity 

and also, realistically, we will grace his tomb with gel and egg crate mattresses, wheelchair strolls under the palm trees the gifted physical therapy of Norma's blessed hands.

If he is in a tomb, we will make it a tomb like no other and call on God to do the rest.

The place of the burial of Jesus is exactly the place of his resurrection.

So we start there, when we must.

At the tomb.

(Alonso Cano)

(Alonso Cano)

Speaking of songs, I remember the story of one of our Passionist missionaries in China in solitary confinement in damp underground prisons for many years after the communist takeover.

He told me himself, as a very old missionary (and me an upcoming young priest) that he would sing the latin Magnificat, before exhaustion overtook him each day and he would collapse into sleep (as if in the constant darkness he ever knew what a day was).

Finally, his voice fell silent. He had no more song to sing, no sacred aria to grace his disgrace.

Depression, discouragement, loss of the will to live, his tomb finally won out over him, and he could not sing.

After days of never even standing up again and to his great surprise, (and entering his heart like a bright flash of light) the prison guards who watched over him seemed distraught that this old priest, who confused them and yet whom they admired was giving up in desperation, and would not sing any more and wanted just to die.

So they did their best to sing to him only from hearing him sing it many times the Magnificat, in latin.

Thanks to their human bond and real concern, Fr Justin felt the light of hope rekindle again in his heart from near dead embers

and he sang again

and again and again an again,

until rescued by the Red Cross some years later when he returned to New York, emaciated and sickly, but with bright lively eyes.

Amazingly when he was restored to health although he longed to return to China which was impossible, Fr Justin volunteered for the mission in the Philippines.

So, these are my thoughts on how real in our world today are the first five High Holy days.

The sixth Holy day is the descent of Jesus to the place of the dead.

(This is fascinating and full of mystical understanding. This deserves a separate reflection, at another time)

Finally, the seventh Holy Day, the day of triumph and glory, seems to get treated as an unrealistic myth by modern world.

But I am convinced, that we see the first light of Ressurection glory (the same way we see the beautiful first light of the sun before it rises) shining in the faith and love of people like Evan's dad, in the long life of service of people like Fr Justin, in the love from the sidelines shown by his prison guards, in the lives many similar people that you know yourselves.

Do you doubt it?

Look at this painting below this text, of the triumph of glory.

To steal a phrase of the newest book about Abraham Lincoln called "Lincoln in the Bardo" (Lincoln at the tomb of his dead son, Willie) this is what happens when we are faithfully at the tomb:

God transforms our simple words and simple acts of kindness (which seem so useless to us before the immensity of the sorrow) God transforms them into great and holy deeds.

It is here that the resurrection begins.

So, be true to your song.

Sing it with all your heart.

Someone's life depends on it.

Someone not far from you at all.

Many blessing be yours, especially during these most Holy Days of Easter. God bless you and thank you for your constant prayers and support.


Fr Rick Frechette CP

Port au Prince, Haiti

April 7, 2017


(Gustave Doré)

(Gustave Doré)