Jesuit Fr Manoling Francisco, who will perform in an upcoming concert at Queen of Peace church, shares how music can evangelise
On Aug 8-9, the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace will celebrate its 60th anniversary with a Meditation & Music prayer concert at 8pm.
Filipino liturgical composer Jesuit Fr Manoling Francisco will perform on both nights accompanied by a choir from the host parish and the St Francis Xavier Choir from the Church of St Ignatius.
The priest, who performed at the Church of St Mary of the Angels last December, shares with CatholicNews his musical inspirations and how music can lead listeners to a deeper experience of God.
Following are excerpts from the interview:
Q: You have been composing liturgical music since your teens. How has songwriting influenced your own faith?
A: My songs express my own faith journey, my encounters with the Lord, my incessant search for the Lord, which I hope others will resonate with. As I play my music for a congregation, my intention is to facilitate their encounter with the Lord. But often, in the end, it is the Lord who seeks me out and speaks to me through the songs I had written.
Q: Most of your lyrics echo biblical passages. Where do you draw your inspiration for your music?
A: Sometimes, I am moved to write a song and the lyrics and melody flow spontaneously. Other times, while moved to express as spiritual experience through song, nothing comes out, the well runs dry.
Still other times, and quite often, I may not be disposed to write a spiritual song or may be in the midst of work, yet the lyrics and melody flow unexpectedly. Those are the times I am humbled to realise that it is the Lord speaking and using me as an instrument.
Q: How would you describe your music to people who are not drawn to meditation?
A: I have ... purposely written songs expressing our love for the Lord that may be interpreted as love songs between two human beings, such as Tanging Yaman (My Dearest Treasure) and Sa ‘Yo Lamang (Yours Alone), which have been recorded by secular recording artists, played over the radio and used as movie titles and theme songs.
By writing music in a contemporary mode that appeals to a secular audience, I hope to subtly draw them to the Lord.
Q: How do you think the upcoming prayer concert could encourage people to think about their important role as evangelisers?
A: We are all called to evangelise, but in varying ways…
Experiences of beauty in the liturgy, a prayer concert or an outreach programme for the poor can facilitate a personal encounter with the Lord, who calls us to be ministers of the Word in ways proper to our vocation, and can evoke from deep within a desire and commitment to live out our faith more ardently and share our faith zealously with others.
Q: As a priest and composer, what do you think is the significance of music in evangelisation?
A: Prose, such as a homily, addresses the mind. But art, symbolic expressions and language, such as music and architecture and dance, speak to the entire person – her mind, heart, imagination, volition…What a carefully-prepared homily cannot do, a song can.
Music has a way of reaching out to our innermost selves. Music has a way of channelling God’s compassion and mercy, God’s personal love for each one of us.
Q: The theme of the concert is The Prodigal Son. How can we invite the audience to think of themselves as “messengers of the Good News” through this theme?
A: I hope to explain the Parable of the Prodigal Son using the insights of historical-biblical criticism and narrative criticism. Hopefully the audience will hear this most moving story of Jesus in a fresh manner…
In the end, my hope is that through our prayer concert, people will have a personal encounter with the Lord, which will hopefully overflow in sharing our experience of God’s tender mercy and compassion with others.
Tickets ($10 contribution) to the Meditation & Music Prayer Concert are available at the Church of Our Lady Queen of Peace office on weekdays and at the canteen after weekend Masses. For enquiries, call 6744-2879 or 9233-2962.