Could this be an opportunity for spiritual renewal and revival within the Catholic Church? All Christians should enjoy this story about Fr. Ray Kelly, the singing priest, who sometimes adds an extra blessing to his wedding services with song.
Bocht an Eaglais bhíos gan cheol – Poor is the Church without music Irish Gaelic proverb
After months of political commentary mostly about, but not limited to the shenanigans of Barack Obama, I thought that it would be nice to take a break and offer a story to cheer the heart and chase away the blues.
Father Ray Kelly – The Singing Priest
From Oldcastle, County Meath, Ireland, a priest who sings at weddings.
In April 2014, Fr. Ray Kelly the parish priest for Oldcastle, not only conducted a wedding ceremony for Leah and Chris O’Kane, he made the occasion extra special with a wedding appropriate version of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah,” then delivered it in beautiful melody. Fr. Kelly gave credit for the lyrics to a 14 year old girl named Lucy O’Connor.
As reported in the BBC News For Northern Ireland, Fr. Kelly surprised the newlyweds with a personalized version of Leonard Cohen’s classic “Hallelujah”, then received a standing ovation before returning to the pulpit to deliver the final prayer. The couple now have this lovely moment to look back on and call their own. What a wonderful idea!
Normally local people know I sing at weddings, funerals or when I’m asked, but they didn’t know – the bride Leah is from Dublin and the groom Chris is from Cookstown in County Tyrone. They were having their reception at a hotel about 10 miles away and chose our church. We had the rehearsal on Thursday evening and at the end I said, ‘sure maybe I’ll sing an aul song for you myself’ – Leah grinned and said ‘OK sure’ but I don’t think she was taking it too seriously. Fr. Ray Kelly, 9 April 2014, BBC – Northern Ireland News
The original video was posted on YouTube in early April 2014 and quickly gained 34 million hits before it was removed by Sony for copyright issues, but Fr. Kelly’s popularity has been noted. A trained singer, Fr. Kelly has served 25 years as a priest and sings regularly for Sunday Mass, other then that, he sings, …well, whenever he can.
I do it to make a few bob for local charities. I enjoy singing but I wouldn’t want to do it full time. I love what I’m doing as a priest. The way I look at it is, it’s a gift one has, and if you have a gift you use it.
Let us hope that Fr. Kelly means it when he says “I love what I’m doing as a priest,” because in the past few weeks he has been inundated with requests to perform from around the world and is now scheduled to do so in New York, on 13 May 2014, at The Town Hall on 123 West 43rd Street.
I was also up in a studio on Tuesday night at quarter past eleven for a piece that was going out on breakfast time radio in Australia. Fr.Kelly, D’Arcy Show on Today FM.
Just how quickly opportunity is falling at the feet of Fr. Kelly is best illustrated by the fact that this very day, 5 May 2014, The Irish Times reports that he is in separate negotiations with both Sony and Universal.
It looks like it is going to happen (the record deal). Ninety per cent of people don’t get a break and now, at this stage of my life, it is happening for me. Dreams do come true. Fr. Ray Kelly, 5 May 2014, Irish Times
Though general response has been overwhelmingly positive, not everyone is pleased about Fr. Kelly’s performance at the O’Kane wedding. Often when I write an article, I search out opposing viewpoints about an issue, in doing so, I finally found one in Louie Verrecchio’s blog:
Harvesting The Fruit of Vatican II, Separating the fruits from the nuts by the light of tradition with Louie Verrecchio
In an article posted on 12 April 2014, Verrecchio was heavily critical of those “conservative” Catholics who call for more “sappy sentimentalism” during “sacred” liturgical services.
The Rites of Holy Mass and Holy Matrimony are, of course, sacred, but so too is the space in which they take place; the same that we occupy before and after the actual rite. In any event, one thing should be clear to all, the sanctuary isn’t Fr. Kelly’s or anyone’s personal stage. The altar isn’t his music stand. The assembly isn’t his audience.
It would be sacrilegious to have any kind of a performance in a Church before the Blessed Sacrament. Most people seem to know that even if just intuitively.
Fr. Kelly’s little moment in the spotlight only managed to solidify that erroneous view. He turned the sacred mystery of sacramental union among spouses in Christ in the Rite of Holy Matrimony by grace into an earthbound stage act fueled by fleeting emotions. Louie Verrecchio, Harvesting The Fruit of Vatican II,
Did Fr. Kelly turn the Rite of Holy Matrimony into an earthbound stage act fueled by fleeting emotions? What about the two young ladies who sang before Fr. Kelly? Why is a solo performance irreverent and song raised by others not subject to criticism? Though all lyrics presented were appropriate for the occasion, none were written spcifically for the Church. Moreover, it is not as if Fr. Kelly stepped into the spot light of ‘Ireland’s Got Talent’ it was a wedding ceremony, one of many in his career. How could he have known that a YouTube post would open the door to fame?
Verrecchio sees Fr. Kelly’s recital as “new church,”
wherein practically every aspect of our faith has taken on a decidedly humanist slant at the hands of those who chose to make the comfort level of protestants a “pastoral priority.”
Oh dear, a Catholic service that chooses to make the comfort level of Protestants a “priority?” I must have missed that part of the video, but I understand what Louie Verrecchio is saying. My upbringing was within the diversity of the Protestant arena, but over the years I have on occasion attended Catholic Church services. When I do I conduct myself as a visitor, I jump up and down with the congregation and follow along in the missle, but I refrain from genuflecting since it is a little alien to me, nor do I participate in celebrating the Eucharist, only because I am not Catholic. Though I so respect the traditions of the Catholic Church, I am grateful for the Reformation and my own “new church” Protestant background, even if it has been quite awhile since I last engaged with it.
Just as with the Catholic Church, Protestant denominations can slide on a scale from most steadfast conservative where women wear no make-up and hymns have not changed since the Pilgrims landed at Plymouth Rock, to liberal where theater skits are used to illustrate and introduce the pastor’s sermon with hula used as a form of worship. New ideas and innovative ways of “new church” have been the leading cause for explosive growth among the non denominational elements of Protestantism in the last 50 years.
Christian Hula – Church worship as an artistic delight! – even better when also in the Hawaiian language!
Please take a look at what is going on in many Protestant “New Church” services today. Young people enjoy delivering God’s message through the power of artistic expression and many of the Korean churches are on fire with enthusiasm!
For those who find this kind of service irreverent I will add a helpful historical reminder,
And it came to pass, [as] the ark of the covenant of the LORD came to the city of David, that Michal the daughter of Saul looking out at a window saw king David dancing and playing: and she despised him in her heart. 1 Chronicles 15:29, (KJV)
Take note – Michal had no children by David because of her rebuke for what she considered as undignified behavior on his part. However, it was for the joy of the Lord that David danced and so no complaint is registered from the Lord Almighty in scripture; Therefore, what shall we conclude?
Though some Catholics still feel more at home with the Tridentine or Latin Mass, others experience a greater spiritual connection through the addition of guitar playing priests and nuns, rather than the great choral chants of the 10th, 11th, and 12th centuries. The enduring sense of tradition expressed through “old church,” provides comfort for some within it’s mystery of sacred beauty. Others thrive better within a program of greater participation, a “Protestant” concept. Yet, as long as the Eucharist is still celebrated in the traditional way, these Catholic Christians suffer no spiritual loss by introducing tambourines, drums, guitars and bells to worship. Perhaps even the saxophone, with it’s low and earthy sensual tones is a delight to the ear of God and quakes Heaven, when applied to the lips of an angel?
Though I can defend differing perspectives when it comes to ideas of “new church” verses “old church,” on Verrecchio’s observation that marriage is becoming a “human construct,” I totally agree.
We live in an age wherein marriage is viewed as a purely human construct; a contract between two individuals who are motivated, be it by what one might reasonably call love all the way to what is more properly considered mutual lust, to validate their relationship in the eyes of others. “Marriage” as popularly conceived is all about us, in other words, so much so that the abominable concept of “gay marriage” is considered by many, including self-identified Catholics, as possible and even laudable. Louie Verrecchio, Harvesting The Fruit of Vatican II
On the issue of lust, even the Apostle Paul admonished people that.
I say therefore to the unmarried and widows, It is good for them if they abide even as I. But if they cannot contain, let them marry: for it is better to marry than to burn” (1 Corinthians 7:8,9). (KJV)
The concept of Christian marriage has always been identified as similar to that between Christ and the Church, not just the Catholic branch, but the Church as a whole.
For this cause shall a man leave his father and mother, and shall be joined unto his wife, and they two shall be one flesh. This is a great mystery: but I speak concerning Christ and the Church. (Ephesians 5:31,32). (KJV)
As such, Verrecchio rightly points out that marriage is a spiritual institution established on scriptural terms and sanctified by the blood of Christ. Therefore, to redefine it’s meaning for the sake of evolving political and social convenience or “construct” discards God’s place as the seat of identity and authority. With God’s blessing denied, marriage is then cast down to the secular realm. I know that many will disagree with me and that is fine. I am not anti gay marriage, but I am pro Christian marriage. On this issue, the state is moving aggressively to establish it’s own authority of recognition where Church is no longer welcome. Unfortunately, some of the more liberally progressive elements of the Church are now bowing down to state.
As I proclaimed on my About page,
We must not be afraid of new ideas. However, not all ideas are really new, nor are they virtuous and beneficial for our political, cultural and spiritual well-being. New ideas should always be scrutinized and challenged. In doing so we can reevaluate who and where we are, as well as where we want to be.
Having said that, the subject of gay marriage will remain controversial. Those who are resolute about Christian marriage as a “sacred mystery of sacramental union” similar to that between Christ and the Church, which identifies Jesus as the bridegroom and the Church as feminine – his bride, will continue to defend it as such.
Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it; That he might sanctify and cleanse it with the washing of water by the word, That he might present it to himself a glorious church, not having spot, or wrinkle, or any such thing; but that it should be holy and without blemish. So ought men to love their wives as their own bodies. He that loveth his wife loveth himself. For no man ever yet hated his own flesh; but nourisheth and cherisheth it, even as the Lord the church. (Ephesians 5:25-30). (KJV)
Of course Jesus has his work cut out for him, because keeping the Church “holy and free from blemish” is no easy task, but one that only He can handle.
Some Catholics may view Fr. Kelly as a radical. After all, in one interview he thought it a good idea to allow priests to marry and that women should be considered for the priesthood, but he is not an activist. Caitlan McBride, 18 April 2014, Independent
As long as doctrines that define salvation are not attacked, such ideas may seem practical and worthy of discussion, but whether or not such changes should be set in place, is for others to decide.
In 1993, a much younger Fr. Kelly brought down the house at a local talent show. Usually sung by a woman, his rendition of “Summertime” from the musical “Porgy and Bess” is one of the best that I have ever heard. What do you think?
(Appreciation to Francis Dunne.)
That so many find joy in this story about an Irish Priest who sings, reveals a hunger for good news about the Church and priests in particular. People want to find the Church safe and holy again. As to the proceeds of a record deal, Fr. Kelly said he would look after himself and his family (mother, father, etc.), but would also donate money to a select few charities close to his heart. Kelly O’Brien, 6 may 2014, Irish Examiner
Father Kelly is one of many with singing talent, check out this video of a nun at a talent show in Italy!
Sometimes nuns just want to have fun!!
Sister Cristina Scuccia 25 years old, is Sicilian but lives in Milan and is an Orsolina nun of the Holy Family. Her childhood dream was to become a singer. Her older sisters urged Christina to participate in The Voice of Italy … Did Christina choose the Devil?! Oops!!
Just a suggestion – The Catholic Church would do well to nurture and encourage modern singing talent within it’s ranks. An easy source of revenue, many parishes would again thrive with members who feel a connection through music that not only lifts their hearts, but engages their spirits with a catchy tune that rocks from Earth to Heaven!! Music with a beat is the music of our day, just take the Devil out of it!
Furthermore, if the Catholic Church is really smart it would build it’s own recording studio and hire necessary experts but seek volunteers from among those in it’s parishes to write lyrics and even help with production. Of course, royalties and name recognition should be considered for successful material, but many people would gladly give what time and talents they can to benefit the Kingdom of God. Why rely only on secular companies like Sony and Universal for production and distribution? The Christian community is huge and extends far beyond the Catholic Church. Why not contemporary Christian rock concerts with performers from Protestant, Catholic and possibly even Eastern Orthodox backgrounds? Yes, invite those pesky Protestants who can lend a bit of experience to the project! Imagine violent gang members broken and repentant on their knees at such an event! For others, a desire to dance with the Bride of Christ again! Music and proper showmanship can facilitate new possibilities, let’s think big!! Like sunflowers with their faces fixed on the Sun as it moves across the sky, the hearts of many will beat to the tempo of modern Christian music. The Catholic Church needs it’s own superstar professionals who move within the world but whose feet are solidly planted in the Church – “in” but not “of” the world.
The Singing Priest and the Singing Nun!!
Italy and Ireland, the two most historically Catholic countries in the world are showing new strength that the Church would be wise to embrace! How many more are out there?
Fr. Kelly’s rise to fame within the time span of 30 days has been record breaking, but those who have known him for years say it is long over due. Is it possible that God could be in this? Yes, but so too will temptation introduce itself. Let us hope that Fr. Kelly will remain in the Church and always keep his duties as priest a priority by resisting the temptations of Babylon.
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