Scott Richert writes that while there was once a common understanding of Christian language that…
A concert under the stars: All will be well
“Heard a voice flowing like a river through my mind / Taking me back to when we used to climb trees to get closer to the sky / Bare hands pulling ourselves up onto the highest branch / Catching our breath as we looked out at the promised land.”
That’s the first stanza to a song called “All Will Be Well,” performed on an August summer night at a “Concert Under the Stars” at the Sisters of Life Visitation Mission in Manhattan, where pregnant women come for help. Frequently, the women are scared and extremely abortion-minded.
I began that particular summer day with two Sisters of Life at a Witness to Life, which turned out to be a brutal prayer vigil, complete with protesters accusing us of harassment while flashing a Franciscan friar and accusing another one of only refraining from molesting children because he spends time “harassing women” instead. Their idea of harassment is praying in front of an abortion clinic, or offering women roses in the clinic lobbies, as an act of love, as he prays they might protect the lives of their unborn children. Both took it with serenity. They exuded “All Will Be Well.”
Featured at the Assumption eve concert, which was an extension of their ministry, was a group of sisters calling themselves the Saplings, with four original songs and some Marian splendor. The name “Saplings” is the fruit of the novitiate of sisters just in first vows this summer. They entered the community during the painful summer of revelations about Theodore McCarrick and the Pennsylvania grand jury report. “There were a lot of big trees falling,” Sister Eden Marie remembers. Her novice mistress, Sister Grace Dominic, assured them that, during these headlines, what wasn’t being heard were “1,000 saplings rising.”
The name is worth reflecting on. We grow like saplings do, for good or ill. “We take in all of the elements around us, and if we bring them to him through an inner dialogue in our hearts, God can transform them into new life, new growth within us, Sister Eden notes. “That’s what these songs are about … staying close to him and witnessing to the transformation that occurs.” And isn’t that, frankly, the healthiest, most sane way to live?
The Saplings’ songs are “about the journey with God.” The “Upper Room Song” was written for the Pentecost feast day of Sister Anima Christi, a reflection on the prayer of the apostles in the Upper Room. They had encountered God through Jesus, and they knew they needed the Holy Spirit to live the life he had shown them.
“So with arms stretched out I’m lifting up my heart. / Oh, I’ll praise You in the waiting, in the dark.” The chorus pleads: “Settle on me. … I won’t move, no / Till You settle on me.”
“My sister’s entire life is about the Holy Spirit coming to turn us into Jesus,” Sister Eden says. She shares that she now often finds herself entering into all prayer times with those words. A third song, “Old Wooden Chapel,” is a meditation on the work God did with her and her sisters during their postulant time — right at the tabernacle: “Who I am, who I was, oh nothing’s lost to you.” And “Wide Open,” inspired by a sister who loves St. John Paul II. All the words he was able to speak were possible because he heard them from Jesus.
The Saplings are just a window into the charism of the Sisters of Life. “We always need to be in conversation with God,” Sister Eden notes, “and to allow him to actually be God.” And the concert was another manifestation of how you build a culture of life: By beauty and creativity that all points back to God and the Blessed Mother. It heals. During a brutal August day, it certainly ministered to me, amid death and all its noise.
Kathryn Jean Lopez is a senior fellow at the National Review Institute and editor-at-large of National Review.