Monday, July 12, 2010

Discovering the ‘magical corners’ of our faith

Sarah Chang, world-class violinist, once remarked in an interview that she had the supreme advantage of playing on a Guaneri del Gesu, a violin made in 1717. She revealed that she had been making exquisite music with this instrument since she was 14 years old. In one of her interviews, she said that it is only now, many years later, that she is beginning to learn and understand ‘the magical corners and what it can or can’t do for her’, and ‘what we want from each other’.

Haring this interview and the way Ms Chang described her ‘journey’ with the instrument made me sit up and see that this mirrors what the Church wants us to mature into when we take pains to take our spiritual growth seriously.

Ms Chang’s virtuosity is a result of having gone through years and years of rigorous training and arduous, countless hours of drills and practice. When we see the present Sarah Chang so deep in concentration, giving her entire being to the performance in front of a full orchestra on stage, we see a mature musician, one who exudes confidence, and conveys and interprets the deep sentiments of the composer of the piece she performs.

The Christian also is one who needs to go through the rigors of training in the spiritual life. Our years of catechesis, maturing in the understanding of the fundamentals of our faith, familiarizing ourselves in the practices of the faith, steeping ourselves in the asceticism of prayer, seeing the deep link between life and the one who gives life, being people who are keen to do God’s will and being his instruments – they all have really one common aim, and that is to have us become mature children of God, confident, like the Sarah Changs, the Yo-Yo Mas and the Joshua Bells of the music world, able to stand confident and sanguine on life’s stage and convey the deep sentiments of God in our lives.

Perhaps the problem with many ‘lapsed’ Catholics is that they have arrested their ‘training’ at a very young age. Some of us have, out of choice, retarded and stunted our growth and stagnated ourselves in primary catechesis, stopped learning about God, refusing to enter into mystery, and perhaps stopped experiencing the praying community’s support at weekly Mass. This would be akin to someone who went to the first year of piano school and stopped learning after one year. They would have not been able to appreciate music at a deeper level, when they are older, and more maturely grasp the subtleties and profound beauty of music. Later, in their adult years,they may say that they are not musical when perhaps the real problem was they really didn’t allow the seed of musicianship in them to be adequately sown, sprout, develop and mature and finally bear fruit. Of course, the analog I am using here has certain shortcomings, as all analogs are wont to.

When we approach our relationship with God with hunger and zeal, marked with humility and patience, we too will be able to see life and God, like Ms Chang did with her Guaneri del Gesu violin. We will be able to discover the ‘magic corners’ of our faith, and what it can really do for us, and what great music God and us can do together. And it is then that we can say that in the end, true music happens when the musician and the instrument play each other.

PS - I will be on retreat for the next 5 days, and humbly ask for your prayers for a fruitful time with the Lord. But don't let that stop your very encouraging comments from coming. Many readers have been inspired by your comments. God love you.


  1. Dear Fr Luke,

    You certainly have an insight to what we readers need to hear! Or perhaps should I say you are inspired by the Holy Spirit indeed.

    The 'magic' we all seek from God is according to our own expectations and that's when things go awry. As a Catholic convert from charismatic Protestant churches, it took years to finally understand that faith is not about feelings. That the 'magic' that God wants to provide us is 'illogical'.

    I think for many of us, we want to feel 'holy' and that God is near. Heck, some of us even want the sound effects of a clearly held high 'A' note surrounding us, as what movies like to portray when something magical happens.

    There you go, years of being tortured at piano classes and hating my mother for putting me through it all have borne fruit. I appreciate music at a level where I couldn't when I tinkled Mary had a Little Lamb on the toy keyboard.

    You were right. :)

  2. Thank you Fr Luke, for this,"spiritually-inspiring blog".Hope you will have a wonder-filled,illuminating encounter with the Lord.
    God Bless.

  3. Sometimes we fail to find the "magical corners" of our faith because we believe ( albeit misguidedly) that any critical questioning of our faith is tantamount to disloyalty & unorthodoxy. Thus we never advance beyond a religious infantilism, we 're contented to stagnate.

    Sometimes we venture a bit further to the 'critical' or questioning stage but we may refuse to go further because of fear of what we may find....for each growth is a death, unsettling & may even be painful as there is a need to let go of things comfortable & familiar. Or we may purposely seal off faith/religion from our secular life as it interferes with our career/pursuit of it. So we anaesthetize ourselves against going deeper into the mystical. Is it any wonder then that we become truly "God's frozen people" ( Fr Gerard)-passive, docile, un-inspired ?

    It is only when we keep faith & persevere in this inner journey ( as you'd said ) that we may catch a glimpse of an assurance that we find God in and through our own human development - the search thus begins and ends with ourselves -"the treasure is within" . God bless you Fr.

  4. hello fr luke,

    i like your music analogy. it relates a lot to how i look at dance (specifically ballet) too.. like, how every movement seems so difficult 'cos there are so many restrictions to the way your body should move (which represents how coming into the catholic church we have to accept God's 10 commandments for us and all his teachings even though we don't really understand or like some of them).

    but after you're able to see how these restrictions can show the beauty of the dance (like how Jesus's teachings ultimately help us to be more Christ-like and shows God's kingdom to the people around us) we realize it was worth the perseverance.

    :) thanks for posting.

  5. What a fresh perspective to look at faith. Thank you.

  6. Hey Luke,

    Just wanted to say i thought your pieces are great !

    J. Ow Yong