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The Dean’s Weekly Message – 28th January 2024 Posted on Saturday 27 January 2024

Week of Prayer

In February we will be welcoming Fr Anthony Lippo who has been appointed to serve as an assistant priest here at the Cathedral. Thankfully he is not replacing any of our existing priests. As Fr Anthony is a newcomer to this Diocese, having the chance to serve at the Cathedral will provide a period of induction into pastoral ministry as a priest in this country. It will be a real blessing to have another priest here as an extra pair of hands working alongside the other Cathedral clergy.

This Sunday afternoon we have our Annual Joint Cathedrals Service at the end of the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. This is at 3pm and the guest preacher for this service is Professor Gerald Pillay, former vice chancellor of Hope University. Both Clergy and Choirs of both our Cathedrals will be taking part in the service as will many of the church leaders on Merseyside.

Recently Pope Francis gave a talk to some young choristers in Rome regarding the importance of their role singing in church and leading the people. Here is an extract of some his words…..

‘What you do is very important because your voices help communities to pray, to open their hearts to the Lord, and this is fundamental for the life of the Church. I thank you very much, and I would like to reflect with you on three key words for your service: joy, prayer and humility.

Let’s start with joy. Singing is joy, especially when it is done in choir. The joy you have in singing is a gift that you have received from those who composed the music you perform, from those who teach it to you, and from those who have handed it down to you, sometimes even through the centuries. When you put enthusiasm into your singing, you give a great gift to those who hear you. How much we need joy in our world! Today, many people, even young people, feel unhappy or bored. Singing and music can touch hearts, give beauty and restore zest and hope in their lives. This is what gives us joy!

The second word is prayer. You are not just any type of artists, you are not “performers”. You help others to pray by your prayerful singing. So it is important for each of you to keep your heart close to Jesus, not only when you sing, but always, and this is done in prayer, every day. If your heart is full of love for Jesus, it shines through in your voices; it is like an arrow that hits the mark, reaching people’s hearts. Saint Augustine once said that “singing is proper to those who love” (Sermo 336, 1: PL 38, 1472) and that those who sing pray twice. By singing and praying together, in harmony, listening to one another, waiting for one another, adding your own voice and movement to those of everyone else, you help the larger community to do the same. You teach how good it is to walk together.

Finally, humility. Singing is a school of humility, because the singer, even in solo parts, is always part of a choir, and each is at the service of all, even the director. Your singing, is all the more humble because it is at the service of God: while it helps others to encounter the Lord, it is also able to step aside at the right moment, to leave room for silence, so that everyone can listen quietly to the words that only Jesus wants to say to each one of us. Singers who try to draw attention to themselves, or to stand out from others, are not good singers; indeed, they often risk spoiling everyone’s work, and this can be heard immediately. So, do not try to stand out, seek to sing as one, with the unity that comes from humility; in this way your singing can express true friendship, with God and with one another.

Let me say one last thing. Singing together well requires effort, just as living together well requires effort. With the harmony of your performances, the light in your eyes and the beauty of your voices, you help us to understand that the effort is worth it!

Canon Anthony O’Brien
Cathedral Dean