November 22 – St. Cecilia’s feast day. I’m a church musician and I have visited the catacombs outside of Rome where Cecilia died. I pray not to die a martyr’s death, but I also know that music and singing stand a good chance of being a comfort to me whenever God calls me home.

November 22, 1963… I was in the 5th grade. I was being raised a good protestant Christian in a part of the country where a Roman Catholic president was regarded with suspicion at best, and disgust more likely. I had a friend whose parents took us to hear Kennedy speak when he came to the area. The local airport didn’t have a runway that could accomodate Air Force One, so they had to land in Huntsville about 70 miles away. He didn’t seem so strange.

Coming in from the playground (PE class?) I remember the day being gray and the flag at half mast. I’d never seen a flag at half mast — none of us had. And then the teachers had to explain that President Kennedy had been shot and killed. I remember watching the funeral mass on TV and talk about the color of the vestments (not black? did priests ever wear black? I don’t know). I remember little John Kennedy trying to comprehend what was going on.

I’ve been a practicing Catholic for more years now than I was a protestant. I’m a totally Vatican II type. I’m not sure I could have made the leap into the pre-Vatican II church. Today I was trying to read some documents on liturgy because of a comment made by one of our musicians today. And I sat and thought — these rules and guidelines are all well and good. But, I’m sure they matter much more to human beings than they do to the Creator. I can only maintain my sanity when I read through them and dig deeply into the underlying message. The message that reminds me that prayer is not just words, but action and attitude and listening. The message that reminds me to do my part to make a space for prayer not only for myself but for those I serve.

November 22 is a day to remember.