MADISON — In song and Scripture, Dr. Patrick Gorman and the Madison Diocesan Choir will celebrate the Year of St. Paul, honoring the apostle with a free spring concert this Saturday, May 2, at the Bishop O’Connor Catholic Pastoral Center.
While a commemoration of St. Paul’s birth 2,000 years ago, the concert serves more as a renewal of the apostle’s timeless message, that peace and eternal salvation are won in loving Christ and others as we love ourselves, Gorman said.
Diocesan Choir spring concerts
The Madison Diocesan Choir will present two free spring concerts:
• Saturday, May 2, 7:30 p.m. at the Bishop O’Connor Center Chapel, Madison
• Saturday, May 30, 7 p.m. at St. Henry Church, Watertown
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Unlike the choir’s usual spring concerts, the performance will include readings and hymns that the audience can join in singing between selections Gorman has chosen for the choir. The program is similar to the Lessons and Carols concerts that the choir performs before Christmas.
“It’s very participatory,” said Gorman, choir director and director of the diocesan Office of Worship. "I don’t know if it’s a concert, if it's a prayer service, if it’s both or neither. I just felt it was maybe the best way to reflect on St. Paul and his message at this time."
The event will begin at 7:30 p.m. in the O’Connor Center Chapel with a reading from the Homily of Pope Benedict XVI opening the Pauline Year. Pope Benedict delivered the homily at the tomb of St. Paul on June 28, 2008.
Year of Paul
In an interview, Gorman cited several lines from Pope Benedict’s homily: "For us Paul is not a figure of the past whom we remember with veneration. He is also our teacher, an apostle, and herald of Jesus Christ for us too . . . Let us not ask ourselves only: Who was Paul? Let us ask ourselves above all: Who is Paul? What does he say to me? . . . His faith is not a theory, an opinion about God and the world. His faith is the impact of God’s love in his heart. Thus, this same faith is love for Jesus Christ.”
Since the Pauline Year inaugural, Gorman said he has reflected often on the words of Pope Benedict and the readings of St. Paul. "The whole idea when the Church declares these years, and here we have the year of St. Paul, is to give a fresh look at this,” Gorman said. "We all know St. Paul. He’s part of our consciousness. But what was he really saying, and as Pope Benedict was saying: What does St. Paul say to us now? That’s part of it.
"I also thought it would be interesting to ask: What does St. Paul say to us, and what if we reflect on him musically?” Like the letters of St. Paul, the music Gorman has chosen will be familiar to the audience, yet presented in a new light.
Expanding on the theme
"It is a bit of a favorites concert,” Gorman said. "When I selected music for the choir this year, I took particular attention with things that were either from Pauline Scriptures or in some way expanded upon some of those themes.”
The first selection, for example, is How Lovely are the Messengers by Mendelssohn. "The text comes from Romans, but I think it’s also a very appropriate thing to say, ‘Here is St. Paul, the messenger.’ It was from an oratorio named for him by Mendelssohn.”
Next is Fight the Good Fight by Alfred Fedak. "That was one of Paul’s things where he said, ‘I have fought the fight, I have run the race’,” Gorman said.
The choir then sings, All My Trials, a spiritual by Norman Luboff. "Paul had his trials, especially his imprisonments, and yet he always had this faith in God,” Gorman said.
More selections follow a reading from Romans, then a reading from Philippians, and finally, the Homily of St. John Chrysostom. With each reading and musical selection, Gorman and the choir offer a revelation and deeper understanding of St. Paul as a teacher, apostle, and herald of Christ today.
"Hopefully the listener and the singer, everyone, will be able to kind of let that work in our hearts a little bit,” Gorman said. "Maybe one or two things will just catch people, ‘Yeah, this does really speak to me today’.”
Love of Christ
St. Pau's love of Christ is the predominant theme. Although he is not regarded as first among the great theologians, he has given Christians two great commandments that embody Church law, according to Gorman.
"Paul is known for his zeal and his love for Christ,” Gorman said. "He didn’t set out to write a systematic theology like St. Thomas Aquinas. He wrote these letters that exist in time, letters often responding to certain issues in communities. But in their totality, we do see he was a great theologian addressing these issues, and it always came out of this love, an intense love that he had for Christ and for others. He wanted them to know this love and share this love.”
In his letter to the Corinthians, St. Paul urges charity towards all. During the concert, Gorman will direct the choir in singing Not for Tongues of Heaven’s Angels, based on 1 Corinthians 13. Gorman keeps the passage on his desk.
"‘Love is patient, love is kind, not jealous, not pompous, not inflated, not rude’,” Gorman said. "So there are concrete ways to examine our love. It’s not necessarily a feeling, but it’s this commitment, that I’m going to love this person, be patient with this person, be kind to this person, that every person deserves my attention, deserves my love . . .
"I’ve often said in workshops that Jesus went on to say all of the law and the prophets are summed up by these two laws, that the whole of our faith is about love and that everything flows from that, the law of loving God with your whole heart, mind, and soul, and loving your neighbor as yourself.”
St. Paul speaks today to people who are unemployed, to those in poor health, and to others also struggling and suffering.
"One of the things that Paul reminds us of is that our treasure isn’t here on earth,” Gorman said. "He reminds us that Jesus Christ died and rose for us, the strife is over, and we are able to live in that surety and knowledge, even when financial difficulties come, or health difficulties come, even if we don’t understand why or how, we know that God loves us, and we know that he is with us.”
Come and hear
While the Saturday evening concert is free, the choir appreciates a free will offering to support its music ministry. The Bishop O’Connor Center, located at 702 S. High Point Rd., is wheelchair accessible.
The choir will give a repeat performance of the concert in honor of St. Paul on Saturday, May 30, at 7 p.m. at St. Henry Church, 412 N. 4th St. in Watertown.
Plans for next year
As the choir ends the year, Gorman said he has begun plans for next year. If parishes would like the choir to sing for a Saturday Vigil Mass, or if individuals are interested in joining the choir, they can contact him by phone at 608-821-3081 or by e-mail at