Saturday, July 22, 2006

Papa Music

This afternoon, at the Sisters of Life's Upper East Side convent, fellow volunteer Bob and I were trying to figure out how to get a 12,000 BTU air conditioner up two flights of stairs to the chapel while Sister Mary Karen looked on (and would have helped had we let her). Meanwhile, Sister Mary Loretta insisted she would find us a "St. Joseph" out on East 66th Street. This seemed unlikely, as the men who passed by were either walking dogs, or with dates, or just the brand of Upper East Sider who couldn't be bothered to lift anything heavier than a Starbucks venti skim mochaccino.

We had hauled the giant box to the first landing when Sister Loretta returned with a gray-haired, athletic-looking gentleman. He jumped right into the task and in practically no time the air conditioner box was through the chapel door.

As Bob proceeded to open the box, Sisters Mary Karen, John Joseph (named for the order's founder), Mary Loretta, and I thanked the kind stranger. Sister Mary Loretta asked him a question about himself — I forget what it was, but he responded that his name was Michael Valenti and he played the piano. The sister asked a follow-up, and the man answered that
he had composed the processional played by the Philharmonic
when Pope John Paul II entered Central Park to celebrate Mass there in 1995.

As it happened, the nuns had a piano in the next room. Graciously, Valenti obliged their request to play his "Processional for a Pontiff."

It was truly majestic and beautiful. We all clapped loudly and cheered at the end. Valenti gave his phone number to one of the sisters so they could call him another time they needed help.

Moments of grace like that could be called coincidences — but they're uncannily frequent when one spends any time around such faith-filled people as the Sisters of Life. They are doing such very important work that I think the Almighty can't help but dish out unexpected treats to them now and again. I'm thankful I was there to witness that one.

Oh, I forgot: About Sister Mary Loretta's insistence that she would find a St. Joseph — Valenti went to a school called St. Joseph's, and his middle name is, sure enough, Joseph.