Striking a Chord

August prayer Intention: That artists of our time, through their ingenuity, may help everyone discover the beauty of creation. 

A reflection by Elizabeth Schick

Maumee river landscape painting by michelle Arnold paine

This month’s prayer intention from Pope Francis (“That artists of our time, through their creativity, may help us discover the beauty of creation”) truly struck a chord with me, since music has been a part of my life since I was a small child. My musical training opened up windows into an entirely different world, as attending professional symphonies and performing in youth orchestras was a part of my everyday life. But I was always somewhat reticent to share my musical gifts with others in more personal settings: I did not wish to brag or draw undue attention to myself, and I began to see my music-making as something more private, reserved for my immediate family, my fellow music students, and my teachers at recitals, concerts, and competitions.

It was not until fairly recently that I really began to understand that my music could bring joy to other people. During a difficult period in my life, a priest recommended that I volunteer at a nursing home. As an introvert, the last thing I felt capable of doing at that point was talking with people I didn’t know, so I decided to volunteer in a way that seemed to better fit me: I brought my violin to the bimonthly Mass run by my parish’s ministry team at the nursing home. Although I was nervous the whole time I was playing, when I happened to glance up near the end of Mass, I was startled to see the faces of the residents glowing with pleasure as they listened to the music. One woman was even in tears!

I continued to play at the nursing home Mass until I left for graduate school eight months later. The heartfelt gratitude expressed by the residents and their obvious joy in getting to hear the violin showed me how much of a gift my music could be for others. It led me to agree to play for an evening at a homeless shelter, and eventually led me to become part of the music ministry at my parish and then at my graduate school as well. I discovered what a joy it is to be able to use my God-given talents to give joy to others. Through my music, I have been surprised to be able to help draw others closer to God, and, in the process, have been drawn closer to God myself.

Many of us have talents that we have “buried” which could instead be used to give joy to others and glory to God (cf. Mt 25:14-30). Perhaps it would be fruitful to reflect on the following questions: How can we creatively integrate the gifts we have been given into our daily lives so as to help others glimpse God? Do we allow the beauty we encounter in our lives lead us closer to Him? How can we incorporate art and music into our lives in ways that might help us and others encounter God?

Elizabeth Schick is a graduate student at the International Theological Institute in Trumau, Austria. She is originally from Michigan.