As I’ve said elsewhere, I am a Catholic by upbringing and – eventually – by choice.
For me, as for a good many thinking Catholics, that simple statement masks a rather more complicated reality.
To be a ‘good’ Catholic it’s necessary to believe in miracles. Most especially, of course, in the Resurrection.
Well – yes, I do believe in miracles. I don’t have a choice. Allegedly I am a miracle.
The story is well known and often told. How my mother, after months of investigation (and months of treatment) was told, categorically, by a Harley Street specialist, that she could never have a child.
How one day, just after receiving Holy Communion, she knew – with a palpable certainty – that she was pregnant.
And how that same Harley Street specialist, with an indulgent if slightly worried smile, agreed to give her a pregnancy test. And came back with the result, humbled and astonished.
Then there’s prayer. What my late, great friend Mike Scott Rohan always described as ‘God-bothering’.
Does it work? Well… yes.
Witness my 33-year relationship with my wonderful wife and partner, Rosemary Muntus.
Because we found each other – by a curious chance – at a time when both of us were drifting back into the church. And both of us were praying to find a partner. Though in reality both of us had pretty much given up on the idea.
Not to mention our wedding day – which I still describe as the ‘miracle in East Molesey‘. When the simple sight of Rosemary bustling up the aisle to meet a bridegroom who had literally collapsed the evening before was enough to bring me back to full energy and full alertness.
The trouble is that I’m a bit of a Graham Greene – who described himself as a ‘sort of Catholic’. I’m more than a little wary of the whole ecclesiastical edifice that is The Catholic Church, but I can still manage to be a full and active participant in the Mass. Especially when I can sing. Because that is when – and how – I pray.
Thirty-one years ago, when Rosemary and I had finally found and settled into our Suffolk home after a tumultuous first year of marriage, we joined the community at Our Lady’s in Stowmarket. Noticed that the choir could use a little help. And offered our services.
Now – after all those years – my ‘OK’ singing voice is regarded as very acceptable. (Amazing what years of regular use can do). We’ve taken part in any number of Summer Schools run by the Society of St Gregory. Honed our skills and our knowledge. And used those skills in the service of our congregation.
Now, when I stand up to sing a psalm, I don’t ‘perform’ it. I deliver it. I encourage people to join me in the refrain with voice, expression and gesture. I look for the meaning in every phrase, and do my level best to put that meaning across with every tool at my disposal. Because it’s not about me. It’s about using a gift I’ve been given.
And my faith? If I’m honest, it’s a little threadbare. But it’s there. Still. And in the last few months that fragile chain has become my sheet anchor.
Maybe it’s getting stronger. I pray that it does.