PARAGUAY/VATICAN, Joaquín Santiviago •
We could not imagine that an avalanche of almost one hundred people would appear, when we invited Alejandra Almada, the current conductor, Giani Klein, Guada Alvarez, Piru Abente, Mariano Abente and Prof. Carlos Cazal to auditions in February and March 2017. They were all filled with the desire to praise the Lord with the gift of their voice. This awakened the ambition to make a choir as professional as possible without being music professionals, with the exception of Alejandra, who is now a professional choir director. You can’t dream big enough.—
Five months later, for this year’s presentation of the Sion Vestment to the novices of the Schoenstatt Fathers in Tuparendá, the choir sang along with an orchestra of almost 30 professional musicians. Beginning in August, at the initiative of the Fundación José Kentenich in Paraguay, the choir recorded the sung rosary, the CD “Alégrate Conmigo” (Rejoice with me), Mt. 25,21.
Great Yearning: Pope Francis should receive the first edition
On December 29, 2018, the CD was released with the desire to cultivate the prayer of the Rosary through songs and the ambitious mission to offer our musical gift as art so that people can unite their hearts with the Heart of God and Mary. It represented a milestone for the choir.
I currently live in Barcelona because of my studies and in March 2019 I was able to attend the choir. On this occasion, I expressed the wish in front of the entire Alegria Choir to be able to present the CD to Pope Francis as a gift. I felt that the choir was embarking on a spiritual campaign to achieve this and with the knowledge that it is not easy to give something personally to the Pope. Several people thought about some means of doing so, and in June, on a trip to Rome, I was able to give the CD to Monsignor Guido Marini, the Pope’s Master of Ceremonies. There was also a letter with the gift explaining what we had done as a choir. Monsignor Guido told me that he would like to do this.
Then came the International Congress of Church Music in Rome
I don’t know if the Pope received the CD on that occasion, but I remained with the hope that someone close to him could give it to him. Then, on November 7, 8 and 9, the International Congress of Sacred Music was held in Rome: “CHURCH, MUSIC, INTERPRETE: A NECESSARY DIALOGUE”, attended by two hundred people from many countries of the world, including five other Paraguayans. This Congress culminated in a special audience with all the participants in the Congress with the Holy Father in the Sala Clementina, where Benedict XVI announced his historic resignation. While we waited in the hall there was a certain atmosphere of tension, we knew that the Pope would be among us out of the blue and would give us a message from which I will save this paragraph:
The artist, the performer and, in the case of music, and the listener have all the same desire: to understand what beauty, music and art allow us to know about the reality of God. And perhaps men and women have never needed it as much as in our time. The interpretation of this reality is essential for today’s world.
The contemplation of the mysteries of Jesus’ life in the recitation of the Rosary with the help of the music of the Alegria choir wanted and wants to make known precisely this divine reality of God, this reality in which God invites us, as the parable of talents says, with multiple and multiplied gifts, to the fullest joy, that of the heart when it says to us: “Come and rejoice with me” (Mt 25:21).
A brief moment with the Pope – now or never!
After his message, each participant was able to greet the Holy Father personally, I sat at the end of everyone, I saw him from a distance and, guided by the Pope’s guardians, we formed a line to greet him, a courageous man sang the hymn of the Year of Mercy: Misericordes sicut Father. We advanced as if it was the line at Holy Communion, quite agilely. It did not seem real, but I said to myself: Joaquin, this is not the time to shed tears, now you must give the CD to the Pope!
And suddenly there he was, with a smile. The man who preceded me was also a Paraguayan, and when he greeted him, he said, “What a lot of Paraguayans!” Then I said: “Here comes another Paraguayan”, a sentence that ended with a handshake. Then I could say to him: Pope Francis, this CD is a gift from the Alegría Choir of Paraguay, for you, in the letter I explain a little more, the gift comes with much love. While I was explaining, he looked at the CD attentively, and with a smile he took it and twice said to me: “Thank you, thank you so much”.
For the Pope and the whole world
As I walked on, I saw Mons. Georg Gänswein, Prefect of the Pontifical House and personal secretary of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI, and I also gave him a CD, for both of them, with a smile he accepted it. As Miguel Blasco, a member of the choir, later said: “What a privilege, two Popes have the CD “Alégrate conmigo”!
This encounter was like a flash, in which I could hand over the CD to the Pope in a few seconds. After meditating a little, I am aware that this moment came from such a real and incredible spiritual impulse from a whole choir that dedicates a considerable amount of time during the week to apostolate, offering this as a musical gift for everyone, which makes us so happy because it comes from God: our song that makes us one. Therefore, this presentation symbolizes that if our gift can reach the Pope, it can also reach the whole world, every person, every community, that it touches hearts and is prayed every day by thousands of Spanish-speaking people around the world. On that day we gave it to the Pope and since that day it is also available to everyone on the music platforms.
As a member of the choir, I am sure that the Pope’s loving look at the CD as it is presented and his few words, but at the same time very sincere words, are not directed at me, but at each individual in the choir, a loving and double: THANK YOU, THANK YOU VERY MUCH! Words of gratitude from the one who speaks as Christ’s representative on earth.
And Mary was there
In the end, the Blessed Mother Mary was behind this gift; she wanted this gift, which is basically for her, to be possible so that more people pray the Rosary; it is she who inspires us to raise our voice and sing our song! We have begged Mary very, very much, and I am absolutely convinced that this encounter with the Pope is due to all of us, as I have already said, to the strong impulse of the choir and all our petitions to Mary. She has done it!
Photos: Osservatore Romano with permission
Original: Spanish 07.12.2019 Translation: Lindsay Burger, Ohio, USA