Susan Boyle Moment

Parish Diary

Fr. Peter Daly

December 7, 2010


Fr. Daly talks about a moment at mass when everyone heard a woman in a different way.


            We had a “Susan Boyle” moment at mass recently.

            You remember Susan Boyle. She was the contestant on “Britain’s Got Talent” who became an international sensation.   She stunned the judges and audience with her voice.

            The same thing happened at Sunday mass a few weeks ago in our parish.

            Two women sang a duet. They sang Pie Jesu, a yearning melody in Latin asking Jesus to have pity on our dead and grant them peace.  It was made popular years ago by a Charlotte Church, a Welsh singer.

It was sung at mass to mark the end of our commemoration of All Souls in November.

            One of the women singing was Mila, our pianist and organist.

Mila is a beautiful young woman. An immigrant from Poland, Mila has all the difficulties and loneliness that being an immigrant entails. She lives with her young Sophie.

The other singer was Theresa.  She has only recently come to our parish and started singing for us. Theresa has numerous physical ailments. She has great difficulty walking.

Her problems with her knees and hips are made worse by a serious weight problem.

Until recently she was the “greeter” at our local Wal-Mart. It is not the kind of job that makes you a star. People often just brushed past Theresa and ignored her.  But she was not deterred. She is always cheerful.  I used to go to Wal-Mart just to see her.

Theresa and Mila sang Pie Jesu as a mediation hymn after communion.

The people in the congregation could not see them. They were sitting in a front corner of the church, hidden behind the piano and the organ. They each had a microphone, so they could be heard clearly. They were pure spirit, two beautiful, disembodied voices.

Theresa stated singing first, just a solo voice.

Pie Jesu, qui tollis peccata mundi, dona eis requiem.”  Have pity Jesus, who takes away the sin of the world, grant them rest.

Theresa’s voice was strong and clear. She hit her notes dead on. No wavering. She invited you into the melody. Then Mila joined her. Her voice was slightly higher, but equally strong. The two sopranos intertwined and lifted each other up.

Suddenly, the church was at complete attention. The usually post communion shuffling stopped. The ushers sat down. Everyone was transfixed. Even the little children quieted down and stopped squirming.

“Dona eis requiem”, they sang.

Our hearts and minds were lifted to God. We thought of the 24 deceased of our parish in the past year. We also thought of all the dead of our families and friends.

People started tearing up. They closed their eyes. The beauty of music touched us at a deep spiritual level that we could not explain. 

            When they were done, there was total silence.

I stood and said, “Wasn’t that beautiful?” Immediately the whole church burst into applause. Some people cheered. Some people started craning their necks, trying to see who it had been singing.

            Two women sat still at the piano. Theresa and Mila remained hidden because they were not singing for themselves, but for the praise of God. But for a moment they were stars.

Suddenly we saw both Theresa and Mila in a new light. Their voices made them the two most beautiful people in the church.

It was our own version of a “Susan Boyle” moment.

It was a moment of grace.