Posted by: fvbcdm | November 22, 2013

Feast of Saint Cecilia (22 November 2013)

Can you remember where you were and what you were doing [fifty] years ago today?  It was November 22, 1963, and on that day, President John F. Kennedy was killed in Dallas.  I was in the seminary, having been ordained earlier that year but finishing our last year of theology with my classmates.  We were in Dubuque, Iowa, when the news came over the radio and television.  I remember very well that I went to the chapel and, to my surprise, began to cry as I prayed for his repose and for the consolation of Jackie, his wife, and their children.

My crying surprised me because I am not particularly a political animal, I had no particular admiration for Kennedy’s policies or outlook, but the very horror of the act of murder of the president was so shocking and so unexpected that it plunged me and most of the nation into grief.  In the entire history of the world, I don’t think that anyone has been mourned more than John Kennedy, apart from Our Lord Jesus Christ himself.

The following year, 1964, I finished my seminary training and was sent to Dallas to teach in the high school where we Dominican priests and brothers and the Dominican Sisters of Sinsinawa, Wisconsin, taught nearly a thousand students in the eastern part of the city.  That fall, the mayor who was acutely aware of the terrible reputation that Dallas had undeservingly earned because the assassination took place there, wrote a letter to all clergymen.  He asked that on the first anniversary of the tragedy, in every church and synagogue something be said about the fact that the death of Kennedy was not to be blamed on the people of Dallas.  That Sunday I celebrated Mass at the nearby parish where we teaching priests often helped on the weekends, and I talked about the topic that the mayor had requested of us.   It was amazing how many people came up to me after Mass to thank me for what I had said.  They evidently felt the need to hear those words and to be somehow exonerated by them.  I’m sure that every clergyman in the city had that same experience.

November 22nd is also, on a much happier note, the commemoration day of Saint Cecilia, an early Roman martyr who is the patroness of musicians.  The world of music is enormously wide and varied, and its different styles appeal to different people.  It has certainly added beauty to my own life.  Hearing my family singing “Happy Birthday to You” on my birthday when I was three or four years old; singing popular songs with the radio during the 30s and 40s, learning the hymns that we sang at Mass and Benediction in church, and then coming to know operas, symphonies, and ballet music—all of this has been enriching and sometimes very moving.  Let us be grateful to God for the gift of music, and use it to praise him as the Scriptures tell us: Cantate Domino: Sing to the Lord! Thank you for seeking God’s truth.  God bless you.  Father Victor Brown, O.P.

Note:  This is a CDM composed by Father Brown in the past.


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