My name is Betty Murphy from Carlow, in Ireland. I’m married to my husband Diarmuid, for 55 years. We have four Daughters and 11 Grandchildren. I’m a member of the Catholic Grandparents Assoc since 2012.
My faith was nurtured by my Mother who had a very strong faith. She encouraged me to go to 8am Mass in our Cathedral which was just around the corner from us, before going to school which was just across the Street. I loved going to Stations of the Cross during Lent and then the Easter Ceremonies and all the beautiful Music. I was blessed that it was all on my doorstep.
In thinking back over the years to what music meant to me, in the context of faith, I realise that right through my life, music and my faith have always been entwined. One of my earliest memories is singing the Christmas Hymns with the school choir at the 7.30 Mass on Christmas Morning with our Bishop Thomas Kehoe. I was about 11 years old. We sang at Mass on Sundays as well. Our choir teacher once said to us ‘remember when you sing a hymn you pray twice’. I always remember that. Being at Mass and singing gave me a love of the Mass and deepened my awareness of the Presence of Jesus in the Eucharist.
The building next to our Cathedral, back then was St. Patrick’s Seminary, where young men studied for the Priesthood. They would sing at the High Mass on Sunday at 12.15, and I loved the chanting of the Psalms and the harmony of the hymns. The Brilliant Organist Dr. Karl Seeldrayers would play beautiful Church music before Mass started, and also at the end. I have to say ‘It raised me up’.
The Christmas Carols Service was also a beautiful uplifting occasion, when we could sing with the congregation, and when a young Soprano would sing Ave Maria and O! Holy Night, the tears would roll down my cheeks, as it touched my very soul.
At this stage my own grandchildren would be taking part playing in the orchestra, at the Carol Service, my granddaughter Kate playing the Clarinet and my grandson Darragh playing the French horn. I was a very proud Grandmother, these grandchildren would come in to me with their little brother Cillian before school in the mornings and we all prayed together.
The Grandparents Pilgrimage to Our Lady’s Shrine at Knock, was very special, bringing with us all their intentions. The Mass was the High Point, and the Sacrament of the Sick. Then Catherine encouraging us as Grandparents . When after Mass, Dana would sing ‘Golden Rose Queen of Ireland’ and the entire congregation of maybe 7 or 8.000 pilgrims, would sing the chorus with her, I’m sure Our Lady smiled down on us. I felt so close to Her.
I thank God for John Michael Talbot and his gift of music. I would have heard his hymns being sung at Masses and at the Holy Hours in our Cathedral, when the Blessed Sacrament would be exposed on the Altar. It was a very Special Hour. Actually I spent 2 hours last Saturday listening to his music and hymns. It was a most beautiful Spiritual experience.
Now we go back to 2008. I’m a Secular Franciscan, (Third Order of St. Francis), and I organised a Holy Hour for our local Fraternity in the Capuchin Friary. I had a theme for each month. In May it would be all about Our Lady and Marian Hymns. In June it would be The Sacred Heart and ‘Sweet Heart of Jesus’. October would be the month of the Rosary, but I couldn’t find a Hymn for Our Lady of the Rosary. So I had to compose one myself, and think how would I go about this?
I decided to write down what I asked of Our Lady when I would say my daily Rosary. I prayed for my Family, my friends, those who were sick, those who were dying and those who had died. I wrote all this in a Poem for Our Lady and then prayed that a lovely air would come into my mind for this hymn. Which it did, and I was very happy with it. My husband contacted a man, Brian O’Reilly who was a musician and he said he would record me singing it.
My daughter Aoife drove me about 2 hour drive away in the middle of winter, on flooded roads. I prayed to Our Lady to keep us safe. We recorded my Hymn ‘Our Lady of the Rosary. He gave me 4 Master CDs and Aoife put it on my Laptop and I was able to burn off about 600 CDs. I printed a leaflet of the Rosary and enclosed it with the CD and posted it to Franciscans around Ireland and those on the missions. I gave it to all my friends and everyone I came in contact with. I was happy to do this, to thank Our Blessed Lady for her intercession to her Son, for me and my family and all I prayed for, and I asked her to bring me closer to her Beloved Son, Jesus, So though it may be a small contribution to music and my faith, I hope Our Lady was happy with it. I felt I had come closer to her.
So then in looking back I have to say that music and my faith have always been precious to me. I can’t imagine a life without music and I can’t even contemplate a life without my Faith.
This reflection was written and shared by Betty Murphy at the August 2021 Grandparents’ Faith Café.