Beethoven's 9th Symphony, which premiered in Vienna on Friday, May 27, 1824, is about all men being brothers and living more transcendentally, with heaven in mind. The piece changed music forever. It influenced every composer subsequent to Beethoven. Why? Not because of the theme of the piece, but because the symphony shattered the time-honored convention of the purely instrumental genre. The 4th movement of the symphony involves voices. “O Friends, not this tone! Let us sing more pleasantly, more joyfully,” sings the baritone to start the song known as the Ode to Joy. Prior to the 9th, voices were simply not in a symphony. Additionally, a composer's intention behind his music had to be discerned implicitly through the instrumentals. But with the 9th, instrumental and vocal music were fused for all time. The meaning of the music could be conveyed explicitly, thanks to words in song. Beethoven redefined the genre.
If you're looking for an intriguing read from the Old Testament, and in particular for some insights into our Blessed Mother, take a look at the Book of Esther. Briefly, the story's setting is Persia in about 470 BC. Xerxes has been tricked into giving an order to exterminate all the Jews throughout the empire. His Queen, Esther, however, is a Jew. She summons the courage to approach the King in an attempt to reverse his decree—the King did not know she was Jewish. Esther prays and fasts for three days. When she at last gains access to Xerxes, she subtly convinces him that the Jews are his allies. It is the prime minister, Haman, who had contrived the genocide, who is in reality Xerxes' enemy, she argues. King Xerxes follows Esther. He reverses the decree of annihilation, executes Haman, and appoints a Jew named Mordechai his prime minister. Queen Esther heroically saves her people.
“It's time now for something to be done,” wrote Claus von Stauffenberg, a high ranking officer in the Wehrmacht, devout Catholic, and loyal German. “He who has the courage to act must know that he will probably go down in German history as a traitor. But if he fails to act, he will be a traitor before his own conscience.”
And so on July 20, 1944, Stauffenberg traveled to Hitler's east Prussian headquarters with a bomb to kill the Fuhrer. On the way he stopped into a chapel to pray. Before leaving, he asked the priest, “Can the Church grant absolution to a murderer who has taken the life of a tyrant?” The priest said no. Stauffenberg’s bomb exploded, but Hitler was unharmed, and the husband and father was executed the next day in Berlin.
When a linebacker in football thinks too much, or a quarterback worries about making the wrong read, he plays scared and ultimately does not play well. To be free on the sports arena–or in any other arena—we need to have confidence. A player who plays with confidence and is not afraid moves quickly and has fun. It's similar to the prayer life and, in particular, to talking about Jesus; that is, evangelizing.
Prayer and friendship are two very powerful forces. Nothing illustrates this better than the spiritual friendship between St. Thérèse of Lisieux and Maurice Bellière. Maurice was a struggling seminarian from Bayeux and Thérèse a saintly nun at the Carmelite convent in Lisieux. The two exchanged letters from October 1896 to October 1897. This is from one of Maurice's first letters to his friend. It shows the difficulties he had:
The Lord is sending me a hard trial—as He does with those He loves—and I am very weak. I have to break myself away from a number of cherished and strong attachments, as well as from some soft and expensive habits of easy living, from a whole pleasant and happy past which still strongly appeals to me. I need strength, my very dear Sister. (November 28, 1896)