When I was midway through my high school years at Our Lady of Grace Academy, the mandate came down: all the boarders must be in the school orchestra. Some of the girls were thrilled. I wasn’t. Perhaps based on their parents’ advice, some of my classmates chose to learn the hardest instruments. The violin. The cello. The flutes and trombones.
Not me. I remember going to see Sister Harriet, the music teacher, and telling her that I would like to be in the percussion section. That meant I would be playing the big bass drum which was almost half my size, the large and small cymbals and the large and small triangles.
The students learning to play the strings, the reeds and the brass instruments spent hours practicing. It was almost painful at times, listening to them searching to perfect their notes.
Not me. When it was time for the orchestra to practice, I went to the music closet and hauled out that huge drum and all the percussion instruments, and then I waited.
I can’t say our performances were sublime, but I did learn a lot of non-musical life lessons from that experience.
For example, I learned that when we worked together as a group beautiful music happened. I learned to intently watch Sister Harriet because her direction was integral to our success, and I learned that each instrument mattered.
One year, we gave a Christmas concert for our parents. We played a variety of carols, but the one that I still remember was the “Little Drummer Boy.” That’s because my instrument, the tiny triangle, was the featured instrument. As the violins and the cellos carried the melody, the delicate dings of the triangle provided the color.
I’ve been out of high school 50 years now, and lately I’ve been giving those times a lot of thought. I realized one morning that the experience of being in a school orchestra is very similar to being a member of the Body of Christ.
St. Paul explains it this way: There is one body, but many parts.
Each part, while different to the other parts, is essential to the whole. The hand. The foot. The ear. The eye.
In fact, he explains, the parts of the body that seem to be weaker are the ones we can’t do without. The parts that we think are less important we treat with special honor.
God our Divine Creator, St. Paul said, put together all the parts of the body. If one part suffers, every part suffers. If one part is honored, every part shares in its joy.
As we go through our days, it’s important to remember that we are each in the body of Christ.
That means the violinists. The cellists. The flutists. Even the musicians who play the tiny triangles.