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Music Outside Mass:

The Saint Lawrence Dinner

by Gary Penkala

Saint Lawrence of Rome "These are the treasures of the Church," said Rev. Mr. David Galvin in his homily inaugurating the Saint Lawrence Day Celebration at Saint James Catholic Church in Charles Town, West Virginia. At the evening Mass on August 10, the Feast of Saint Lawrence, the deacon reminded the congregation of the story of the third century saint:

Saint Lawrence was a deacon in Rome, under Pope Sixtus II. He held the "keys" to the treasury of the Church; his job was to distribute these alms to the poor. Pope Sixtus and six of his deacons were put to death in the persecution of the Emporer Valerian.

When Deacon Lawrence knew he would be arrested like the pope, he sought out the poor, widows and orphans of Rome and gave them all the money he had on hand, selling even the sacred vessels to increase the sum.

The prefect of Rome heard of this, and summoned the deacon, whom he thought controled massive wealth, to turn over this money to the emperor. "Your doctrine says you must render to Caesar what is his," argued the prefect. "Bring these treasures — the emperor needs them to maintain his forces."

Lawrence replied that the Church was indeed rich. "I will show you a valuable part. But give me time to set everything in order and make an inventory."

After three days he gathered a great number of widows, orphans, and the sick and put them in rows. When the prefect arrived, Lawrence simply said, "These are the treasure of the Church."

Bernini: Saint Lawrence The prefect was so angry he told Lawrence that he would indeed have his wish to die — but it would be slowly. He had a great gridiron prepared, with coals beneath it, and had Lawrence’s body placed on it. After the martyr had suffered the pain for a long time, the legend concludes, he made his famous cheerful remark, "This side is well done. Turn me over!"

This first Saint Lawrence Day Celebration, set to become an annual event, brought together many generations in the parish, working toward fellowship and holiness.

The widows and widowers of the parish were sent personal invitations to attend the evening Mass on August 10, which would be followed by a dinner for them in the parish social hall.

During the deacon's homily, he invited all the widows and widowers to stand — he made the point, as did Saint Lawrence in the year 257, that these indeed were the treasure of the Church. He thanked them for their witness, some still in the midst of intense grieving, to the love and mercy of God, to their faith, and to the courage to continue life's journey, even in the face of great suffering.

In the Universal Prayer at Mass, a poignant petition mentioned each of the deceased spouses by name — there were forty. The parish prayed for their souls and for the surviving spouses.

After Mass, the guests of honor were invited to the social hall where they began the evening with a delicious plate of appetizers already set on beautifully appointed tables. Hosts and hostesses from the parish, organized by Laura Galvin (the deacon's wife) accompanied those guests who were uncomfortable coming on their own, or who needed a ride to church. The four-course dinner was cooked by accomplished lady cooks of the parish, and was served to the tables by Deacon Dave Galvin, by two permanent diaconate candidates from the parish, by the parish sacristan and by three college men at home for the summer. While the deacon, of course, wore his Roman collar, all the others were dressed in black pants, grey shirt and black tie, colors reminiscent of the traditional diaconal grab in our diocese. I (the parish music director) played background music throughout dinner, offering Classical titles like Movement 2 of Beethoven's Pathetique Sonata as well as a compendium of popular tunes (like "Dixie") and old standards (like "Moon River").

Charlie Brown Interspersed throughout the evening were vocal selections by high school members of the parish choirs. Some pieces were sacred, others secular. I've taken to writing SAB music for the parish high school choir, dedicated to its members as they are confirmed or graduate from high school. Three of the sacred songs came from this repertoire: "Canticle of Hannah" (dedicated to Hannah Galvin, a talented singer and violinist), "Grace Was Poured Out Upon Her Lips" (for Grace Guiney, superb soprano and children's choir director) and "Orationes sanctorum" (written for Tommy McKee, a cantor and quite competent parish Master of Ceremonies and eager thurifer). They also sang some fun songs from the Broadway repertoire, including "Schroeder" and "The Doctor Is In" from You're A Good Man, Charlie Brown.

Alternately with the music, Deacon Dave Galvin and the two diaconate candidates (Marcus Pressl and James Munuhe) spoke about incidents that led them to their discernment of the diaconal life. These stories included a strong-willed and generous widow, who honored a verbal agreement by her deceased husband about a painting job for her house. And we heard from one of the candidates about his missing the birth of his second child (born four days early) because he was on a mission trip, helping the poor in the southern part of the state.

This Saint Lawrence Day Celebration is an example of one parish, which is well-known for the breadth and diversity of its Summer Camps for Children, coming together to recognize a different generation, the widows and widowers who are indeed the "treasure of the Church."

The parish musicians were happy to play a part in the evening.

Article written 12 August 2013

CanticaNOVA Publications / PO Box 1388 / Charles Town, WV 25414-7388
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