Christmas 2006

Keep On Playing

This Christmas reflection has clamored for my heart’s attention ever since I first heard the story. It is the story of grand piano master Paderewski and a very young boy. Although a few others here in the monastery had heard the story, it was the first time for me. For those, to whom the story is new, here is a condensed version. The original came to us via email.

To encourage her son in piano, a mother took her boy to hear Paderewski. Before the concert, the mother spotted a friend and went to speak with her. In her absence, the boy found his way to back stage, and eventually to a piano, where he began to pick out a melody.

The curtains parted, and there was the boy at the Steinway grand piano playing “Twinkle, Twinkle, Little Star”. Paderewski made his entrance and quickly moved to the piano and the boy. With that, he whispered in the boy’s ear: “Don’t quit. Keep on playing.” Paderewski then leaned over the boy, filling in the bass part with his left hand. With his right hand, he added a running obbligato. The audience was mesmerized

This story does remind me of our Sister Mary Anne Schuman in her younger days in Carmel. Because of the Rule of Carmel in those days, the monastery had no piano. Not too long after Vatican II, a piano did find its way into the cloister. The awesome moment came. Two Sisters stood before the new piano. Sister Mary Anne had not played the piano for years, although she had played it in her heart and mind many times, even moving her fingers in full accompaniment across a flat table.

Another older Sister, who was also an accomplished musician, had not played the piano for many more years. Each Sister deferred to the other. Finally, they both sat down together and played a duet.
In the Introduction to A Tree Full of Angels , Macrina Wiederkehr writes: “Moving through the heart of every person in the universe is a silent cry that yearns for understanding. This cry is a silent ache for God, searching to be named.” Each Christmas, we believe that God comes again to soothe this ache in our hearts. We can certainly attest to the times when we do experience Emmanuel as “God with us”. It seems terribly important, then, that we keep on playing, and that we do not quit. With every step of our journey, God bends over us on the right and on the left and makes something very beautiful out of our seemingly insignificant melodies.

Sister Mary Jo Loebig, O.C.D.

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