Audio has become a big thing for me lately.
Maybe I’m an auditory learner — although my sister, whom I used to tune out while she read board game directions aloud, might take issue with that. Most likely, though, it’s this multitasking lifestyle that, for better or worse, pervades modern living for most of us.
News podcasts allow me to listen while I work; an audiobook lets me simultaneously read and drive; the live radio feed of the Washington Nationals enables me to both make dinner and hit my head against the wall.
On the feast of the Transfiguration Aug. 6, the Church heard a phrase from the Gospel of Luke that is particularly apropos for this aural world:
“While he was still speaking, a cloud came and cast a shadow over them ... Then from the cloud came a voice that said, ‘This is my chosen Son; listen to him’” (Lk 9:34-35).
Listening to God, naturally, can take on many forms, and almost nothing replaces sitting quietly with the Lord and letting him in. But, as I never pass up a good auditory experience, I wanted to share the spiritual audio aids that have found their way into my daily life.
The first is the “Divine Office” app that offers podcasts of the Liturgy of the Hours. The 15- to 20-minute morning and evening prayers can fit perfectly into a commute and can provide a prayerful bookend to the workday. Offering a full experience, the prayers begin with a hymn before beginning the office.
The second is simply music. One “go-to” artist is Mary Lyman Jackson, former CEO of Exodus Ministries in Washington, D.C., and a gifted pianist, who wrote and recorded a beautiful album several years ago called “The Joyful Mysteries.” It can’t have been easy to portray Mary visiting Elizabeth using only musical notation, but Jackson does it — and not only with that second mystery, but with all five.
“Angels and Saints at Ephesus,” an album by the Benedictines of Mary, Queen of the Apostles, that’s featured on Page 6, also has made my short list lately. Released in May, the music recorded by the sisters in Missouri has spent 12 consecutive weeks atop Billboard’s Traditional Classical Albums.
The appeal is easy to understand. The sisters’ chants are beautifully balanced and blended, and they give a real sense of the ethereal. The backstory of the music producers, too, is worth noting. As writer Mariann Hughes discovered, the couple who runs De Montfort Music used to be entrenched in the entertainment industry in Los Angeles before starting their own company, Aim Higher Entertainment. The couple’s mission now is to connect “uniquely heavenly art and the world.” What a mission to have!
If you love music, chances are you’ll be just as enraptured by the sisters as I. I encourage you to open up your ears and take a listen — and let me know if you like what you hear.