Every Friday morning, either me or Fr. Mariusz celebrates Mass for the students and faculty of the Catholic Academy of Stamford (CAS), the school located on the St. Cecilia campus. A few weeks ago, as we were getting everything prepared in the sacristy, I heard one of the servers, an eighth grader named Patrick, quietly singing a song that I instantly recognized. I said to him, “Patrick, are you singing the Regina Caeli?” “Yes,” he replied, and I noticed that he was singing along with the school choir as it rehearsed in the church.
The Regina Caeli is a 12th century hymn to the Blessed Virgin Mary that, during the 50-day period between Easter and Pentecost, Catholics traditionally pray instead of the Angelus. If you’ve been on campus at noon during these weeks following Easter, you will have heard our new bell system playing the melody in place of the Angelus bell. The Latin words of the hymn are: Regina Caeli, Laetare! Alleluia! Quia quem meruisti portare, Alleluia! Resurrexit, sicut dixit, Alleluia! Ora pro nobis Deum, Alleluia! The English translation is: “Queen of Heaven, rejoice! Alleluia! The Son you merited to bear, Alleluia! Has risen as He said, Alleluia! Pray for us to God, Alleluia!” Our director of liturgical music, Michele Schule, is also the music teacher at CAS, and she has taught this hymn to the children, which they have sung at Mass throughout the Easter Season. Patrick told me with a laugh that when the kids hear the bells play the Regina Caeli, they all sing along.
To an eighth-grade boy, it might sound like just a funny thing to do. But to me, the fact that every day at noon a school full of kids spontaneously starts singing an ancient hymn to Our Lady is kind of amazing. It says something, I think, about the nature of culture. The building up of a culture (as opposed to the destruction of one) is always a slow-moving, organic thing. It’s almost imperceptible to those who are immersed in it. But sometimes the Lord gives us a glimpse of the work He is doing through the events of daily life. Obviously, this little story in no way suggests that we’ve turned a major cultural corner and are on the verge of the restoration of Christendom. But it’s something – perhaps a sign of a budding Catholic imagination in the minds of these children, drawn to the things of our faith because of their beauty and their goodness. And the Lord can do a lot with that. As the Easter Season (and the month dedicated to Our Lady) draws to a close, culminating in the Solemnity of Pentecost next week, may the song of these schoolchildren help us to move forward with greater confidence in the attentiveness of the Queen of Heaven towards her little ones.