Anyone that knows me will know that the Goretti Girls (www.facebook.com/GorettiGirls) that is, Méabh Carlin and Hannah McCauley hold a very special place in my heart. They are two young women I admire greatly and found their music to be profoundly moving and helpful in times when I find it difficult to pray. The music has been a powerful force in giving me something or someone on which to focus and my prayer generally tends to stem from this. I have written about their album I Will Wait on another occasion and it can be found on this blog (https://dominicoreilly25.wordpress.com/2016/06/04/lesson-learnt-from-the-goretti-girls/). I owe a great deal to Hannah and Méabh: they were kind enough to provide music for my own book launch back in October.
Tonight as I was driving home from Belfast I don’t know what compelled me to, however I decided to remove Elvis from the cd player for the evening and return to the Goretti Girls. One of the reasons I enjoy their music so much is because every time I return to it I take something different away from it. For me that is a sign of truly great music; it seems ever new. Everything was fine and I was enjoying the music and then I came to the track Lady of Sorrows…
Lady of Sorrows
This song is concerned with Jesus’ mother Mary and is sang as though from Mary’s point of view after her son has been taken down from the cross. In it Mary reflects on key moments from Jesus’ in which she was present. She sings of him as a baby, as a child with Joseph, at the wedding at Cana, various miracles and his crucifixion. It is a remarkably touching and affecting song…no, not song; it is a prayer. My experience of it is that it has compelled me to prayer as well.
I listened to this prayer in particular once, and then again and over and over again. There are three elements to it to which I think we need to pay particular attention to really appreciate it and understand Mary’s role and what we can learn from her the better.
1 – The Guitar
Hannah McCauley plays the guitar on every track of the album; she also plays the fiddle for parts of it as well…and she does so magnificently. If you can adjust your hearing when listening to Lady of Sorrows, I encourage you to spend a few times focussed solely on the guitar. Block out everything but the music. As this track begins it is the guitar which draws us in. The track begins with a motion as though we are hearing Christ being brought down from the cross and into the arms of his mother. If we continue with using the music as though it were a motion the scene it sets for me is the following:
Mary has spent some thirty years with Jesus her son. Jesus came into the world for the salvation of the world and so Mary has spent her time with Jesus constantly sharing him with other people. The moment he was born she shared him with the shepherds. Even as a child she shared him with other people. Then throughout his ministry his life was never his own. Yet in this moment when his life has come to an end Mary – who has never really left his side – is finally given a few precious moments to be alone with her son. That is part of the beauty of this song in that it gives us a glimpse into that beautifully still moment.
The music of the guitar almost repeats itself as Mary is brought back to those moments throughout his life. It brings to mind the repetition involved when we pray the Rosary…the repetition draws us ever closer into the mysteries upon which we are reflecting and praying. The music here is no exception. As Hannah lovingly and softly plays it conjures images in my mind of Mary lovingly and softly holding her son in this moment. The music of this song is a reminder to me that I too must lovingly and softly hold my Lord. I must cherish Him. The reason for his life was for your and my salvation…I must stay close to Him as Mary did.
A welcome addition on this track is the inclusion of the cello as played by Fr Conor McCarthy. The cello is a magnificent instrument. I once remember seeing a film in which the music of the oboe was compared to a lonely desolate bird. If this is so then the music of the cello is filled with feeling and an absolute outpouring of emotion. During Lady of Sorrows we hear the cello brought in slowly and carefully just after Méabh has sang, “how is it my son was nailed to a tree?” I don’t know why but I can’t help but think as the cello comes in with this wonderful outpouring of emotion it is almost as though it represents the tears Mary cries over her son. Perhaps it is reading too much into it all but the cello’s inclusion here is part of the reason why I find Lady of Sorrows to be such an affecting piece.
I am blessed to be able to count Méabh as a great friend. Over the years she has been a trusted friend and confidante. One of Méabh’s greatest strengths is that she has nothing but love in her heart for those she encounters. She makes time for all those she meets whether they be family, friend or stranger. I am forever grateful for having her in my life. The way in which she sings this prayer complements Hannah’s playing of the music so beautifully. The two complement each other. It is so simple and so profound.
The words speak words of love that a mother has for her child. We know Mary is the mother of God but I don’t believe I will ever fully appreciate what this means. To be a mother is something obviously I shall never experience and so to understand her role better I have to look towards the women in my life who I love and care for. I look towards my own mother first of all, I look to my sisters, to my cousins, aunts, I remember my Grannies and I look to my female friends to see the qualities they have which I believe are those which Mary lived out. It is a constant caring and desire to see their beloved at peace. This is expressed most beautifully in this prayer.
Towards the end of the song Méabh allows Mary to let out one last lament. It is reminiscent of the tradition here in Ireland of keening in which women would let out a wail of sorrow for the one who had died. But after the sorrow comes Mary’s reminder that God is so merciful and kind and she has so much to be thankful for. What a powerful example she sets for us.
All in all I absolutely love this prayer and it made quite impression on me tonight. The message it drove home the hardest for me is the reminder that what I need is not so much devotion to Mary, but rather more imitation of Mary. Hannah and Méabh are wonderful examples that this can be achieved. I remain truly grateful to these women for how they continue to lead this most useless being to prayer…in those moments of prayer I encounter my Lord. My thanks to the Goretti Girls.