Busy and rejoicing

It’s been several weeks since I’ve posted an entry to this journal. I can’t believe that my last time I visited this journal was in Munich last month. Since then, we completed the performances at Munich of “Salome”. I then spent time at Yale teaching the wonderful students at Yale Opera. Since then, I’ve been spending a lot of time working on “The Cunning Little Vixen” which I’ll sing for the first time with the Cleveland Orchestra in May. I’ll have a few performances of “Salome” with the Philadelphia Orchestra/Opera just before that. And, on top of all this, we have been going through the never fun exercise of trying to sell our house as we prepare for our big move to the midwest later this year.

But, I’m thankful that, amidst all this, we’ve celebrated the joyous season of Easter. I was thrilled to be able to be in my home parish and to cantor the Masses on Holy Thursday and at The Easter Vigil. I think singing for these Masses is one of my favorite experiences. It’s been 3 years since my schedule allowed me to do this and to be home for the holidays. This year brought special rejoicing and thanksgiving. Christ is Risen, Alleluia!

As I write this, much of the Catholic world awaits the canonizations of John XXIII and Pope John Paul II. I’m very excited and looking forward to seeing the ceremonies from Rome tomorrow. Near us, here in Bucks County, PA, is a great shrine in honor of Our Lady of Czestechowa. This shrine, so important to the Polish people here in the United States, is a wonderful place to visit--perhaps never more exciting to visit than during these days of great celebration.

My wife and I were able to attend a public audience at the Vatican in 1989 when I was making my European debut at The Festival of Two Worlds in Spoleto, Italy. We spent several days in Rome but none were more important to our hearts than the days spent at St. Peter’s and in Vatican City. Seeing Pope John Paul II at the audience was a highlight of my life--the memory is greatly cherished. We were actually very close to him as he walked up and down the aisle of the great audience hall. I remember taking lots of pictures and then being horrified when I feared that I accidentally exposed the film to sunlight (thankfully, that wasn’t the case). We took a tour of the catacombs under St. Peter’s, to the grave of St. Peter---wow, what an experience. We toured the Vatican Museums and visited The Sistine Chapel (it was under renovation--it was fascinating to see the difference between the great frescos that had been already restored and those that were awaiting their brightening).

And now, 9 years after Pope John Paul left us, we rejoice at his canonization (along, of course, with Pope John XXIII who was Pope when I was born). Pope John Paul’s ministry had a huge effect upon me. He was the Pope when Nancy and I joined the Catholic Church back in 1986. His stewardship of the Church and his influence of the world will forever be felt. He had so much to do with the collapse of the Iron Curtain and restoring freedom for much of Europe.

It seems like yesterday (rather than 9 years ago) that he left us. Those were very sad days even though we were relieved that his suffering was over--and what a battle he had fought. Those days were hard to witness. I was honored to be asked to sing at a memorial service for him in Chicago. I never thought at the time, despite the calls for “Santo Subito”, that he would be canonized so soon. But I rejoice at his Sainthood and plan on calling upon his intercession. His love for his flock, his wisdom, intellect, humor, and calls for peace will long ring in my heart and mind. Thank you, Lord, for both of these great men and for the time to reflect upon the lives they lived. They are shining examples for us and Saints for eternity.