Southwestern Indiana's Catholic Community Newspaper

Making Beautiful Music

By Mary Ann Hughes

My four-year-old grandson, Isaac, spent a few weeks with me recently. He’s smart and active, so my daughter and I tried to find fun things for him to do.

One day he asked to play the piano. I lifted its lid and showed him the inner workings, explaining why he needed to be gentle with the keys. Then I taught him a couple of easy tunes. One had three notes, and once he had conquered it I taught him a simple ditty with four notes including a sharp.

For a while, he seemed content to just use his index finger to play the two songs. But one day he put both of his hands on the keyboard, and he began hitting bass and treble keys rapidly and randomly. When he was done, he looked at me and he said, “When can I play like that?”

Isn’t that the way we are?

We want to master everything we try. Immediately.

I think of all the things I’ve tried to conquer during my lifetime. Gardening. Sewing. Cooking. Knitting.

My prayer life.

That afternoon as I sat there smiling at him, I thought of the Rule of 10,000 Hours.

When it became popular, people accepted it as truth, although today there are many detractors. Still, I think there is some validity in it. The idea is that to develop world-class expertise in something takes about 10,000 hours. You know the old question, “How do you get to Carnegie Hall?” And the answer: “Practice. Practice. Practice.”

In Matthew 6, Jesus reminds us that “where your treasure is, there also will your heart be.”

Time is often our treasure, and how we spend it says a lot about us.

It’s really a daily decision. How much time do we spend at the computer? How much TV do we watch? How many minutes a day do we fritter away?

By “we” I mean me.

I’ve noticed that on the days when I give value to my prayer life, things are better. Life evens out a bit. There is better perspective, especially about the difficult things. I can let them go a little more easily than on the days when prayer slips to the bottom of my list. Or when it isn’t there.

Sometimes it’s tough to place prayer in high priority during the day because we get busy and because sometimes prayer is just not fun.

When that happens, I guess we need to pray to be filled with the self-discipline to prioritize things a little better.

I’m not sure that we will ever understand how prayer changes us. It’s not as simple as the inner workings of a piano, but I believe prayer transforms us in many ways. And it steadies us as we do it. I believe that prayer deepens our faith. Best of all, it connects us with the Divine.

And when that happens, our souls can make beautiful music.