“Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth and subdue it…”
Most will recognize this as God’s command to Adam and Eve in Genesis after God created the world. But what exactly does this mean? To many, this means get married and produce offspring by having lots of babies. But what about the couples to whom God has not yet granted children, or who may never be able to have children? How are these couples called to be fruitful? This is the very situation I have come to find myself in.
My husband and I were married in October 2021 at our home parish where he is the Director of Music and Organist, and I am a member of the Music Ministry as the flutist. We are both devout cradle Catholics actively living out our faith, and were sure children would come easily. However, months passed of still not conceiving, and finally after a year, we were faced with a painful diagnosis: infertility due to the discovery that I had endometriosis and polycystic ovarian syndrome. We, a good Catholic couple, could not live out this command God gave Adam and Eve back in the Garden of Eden. Or so it seemed.
Throughout this journey while going through infertility, I continued to be very involved with the Music Ministry at our parish, and had regular opportunities to play at Sunday Mass and other special occasions. I began playing the flute at age nine, and started playing with a church choir the next year and immediately fell in love with the experience. I would play every Sunday for Mass, and eventually this grew to include more opportunities such as Holy Days of Obligation, Confirmations, First Holy Communion Masses, weddings, funerals, and even a baby’s baptism! This became an integral part of who I am, and I loved every minute of it. I always felt so much joy when I played, and knew I was helping to create beautiful music at Mass. Having degrees in Music Education and Flute Performance, I always looked forward to an opportunity to play at church. However, being a professional freelance musician, it can sometimes become almost expected of musicians to simply show up and play the gig. I never lost sight of the fact that what I was doing was so much more than just playing a gig; after all, Sacred Music has the ability to enhance the beauty of the Mass through reverent and prayerful music and aid the congregation in their worship. Even with this in mind, I hadn’t yet realized that what I was doing may be having an even bigger impact than I thought.
While carrying the cross of infertility, I realized that being fruitful by having babies would not be as easy as I first thought. I began to wonder if God was calling me to be fruitful in a different way, though I wasn’t yet sure what. Of course I had my flute, but that was my “career” after all. I was expected to do it. While discerning this, I began to have a change of heart and thought back to all those years playing at church. I began to think “wait a minute, yes this has become my career, but it is really so much more! This is truly a gift from God, and I have the opportunity to share this gift and give it back to God through service to His Church.” Throughout the years, congregation members would approach me after Mass to thank me for playing and enhancing the Sacred Liturgy. They would tell me how moved and uplifted they were by the music, and how it helped them to pray so much more reverently. As a church musician, hearing these words from fellow parishioners meant so much more than just receiving a simple compliment for “playing well.” I was truly enhancing their experience at Mass, and this is certainly a way of being fruitful! After all, “fruitful” is literally defined as “producing good or helpful results; productive”, and participating in the music ministry at Mass was doing just that.
However, my opportunities to play flute at Mass began to become less frequent because of the church season we had entered into, and due to switching up the instruments at Mass to let the congregation hear some variety. I knew I was being called to be more fruitful through music, but without flute, what else could I do? I have loved music my entire life, and even as a little girl I always loved to sing. I was able to sing fine in a choir, but was much too terrified to ever sing by myself, let alone cantor a Mass. I always said that was something I would surely never be able to do. After going through music school I overcame that fear slightly, but it was still very real. During Lent however, that would all change.
Our pastor made the decision with my husband, the Director of Music, to have special acapella, polyphonic pieces sung at Offertory, and a beautiful setting of the Ave Verum Corpus chant sung at Communion. As I am not a trained, professional singer, it did not occur to me to offer to sing any of the Masses, and I was still not very confident in my solo vocal abilities. Even with this in mind, I continued to feel the call that I was supposed to stay involved with the music somehow, and I definitely had the desire to see how fruitful I could be through Music Ministry. Our church did not have a full choir at this time and was in need of more cantors, and my husband and I had started talking about the possibility of me eventually learning to cantor, but this would be well into the future. We started to practice together, and he was pleasantly surprised at how I was sounding! As luck would have it, the need for additional singers to fill in some of the Lenten Masses presented itself, and I felt called to step up. I told my husband “well, have me do a Mass and see how it goes!” After all, it was just those two meditations, and my husband, as the organist, would take care of the rest, but it would give me a chance to share my love of Sacred Music and contribute to the beauty of the Mass. And to my great surprise, it went much better than I had expected, and I discovered that I actually did have what it takes to sing at Mass! I began to sing more frequently, and now am a regular cantor singing full Masses!
Through this journey, I was able to discover my gift for singing in addition to flute, and can continue to bear fruit by doing what I love and sharing the gifts God gave me. It is truly a beautiful experience leading a congregation, and hearing them inspired to sing along and lift up their voices in song and prayer. Ultimately, my voice is also a gift from God, and using this to serve Him and His Church is a beautiful way of being fruitful.