Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams
Today’s guest(s): Miriam Marston
Links from today’s show:
Today’s topics: Catholic musician Miriam Marston
Summary of today’s show: Miriam Marston has been singing and playing music since she was a young girl and now uses her gift along with what she has learned in her theological studies to express the beauty of the Catholic faith through beautiful music. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams listen to the music and discuss with Miriam the meaning of her music and how she was inspired to write it.
1st segment: Scot and Fr. Matt talked about how Fr. Matt and his colleague Steve Colella made a presentation to a committee at the US Bishops’ Conference on the topic of the New Evangelization and the bishops’ document on the topic.
2nd segment: Scot welcomed Miriam Marston to the show. He said he’s worked with her in her capacity in her job at the Theological Institute for the New Evangelization. Miriam said she assists with the day to day administrative duties for the Master of Arts in Theology and non-degree certificate programs.
Miriam grew up in Alexandria, Virginia, and attended the College of William and Mary. She ended up in Boston by way of England. She had moved there after college for a couple of years and her sister asked her to move near her in Boston. She arrived in Boston on St. Patrick’s Day. Her sister was temping for Fr. Mark O’Connell and that’s how she ended up working at the Archdiocese. It was Boston’s weather that initially had worried her about moving here, but the charms of the city overcame that. she worked for two years in the Office of Canonical Affairs and then left to study for her Master’s degree at Boston College.
Miriam’s parents met in a choir in France. Her mother was a professional singer of Renaissance music. She learned to play the piano as a girl and wrote her first song when she was 10. The second song she ever wrote was called Nostalgia, but at 10 years old she’s not sure what she was nostalgic about. She went to Catholic school until going to college and her music gave her a way to ask deeper questions. Music allowed her a way to unpack these questions that connected to her faith.
When she was 19, Miriam recorded an all-piano CD and then recorded a second CD about 18 months ago, “The Luggage of an Optimist”. She’s also released a new song in January called “Juliette.” It was the quickest she’d ever written a song, at all once in one sitting at the piano. The name of the song came first. It refers to an unborn child. It’s written from the perspective of the child in the womb and then at the end switches to the perspective of a womb who’s had an abortion wondering how to fill the void in her life. The storm of the song is meant to convey the pain of abortion.
The sound of water always lulled her to sleep,
like the gentlest waves you could imagine.
And she dreamed all of the purest dreams
untouched by the madness outside her.
And one day when the storm broke,
the ocean spoke no more.
And all the dreams ended there,
alas there was
a dreamer alive there.
The sound of conversation stirred her awake,
with all the comfort of a long awaited embrace.
But they were only words deciding her fate
without her thoughts and her perspective.
And one day when the storm broke
the ocean spoke no more.
And all the dreams ended there
alas there was
a dreamer alive there.
And one day when the storm ends
our knees will bend for the unnamed.
And is it freedom on display
as some say,
or gone astray,
replacing the day with evening.
“With all the emptiness locked inside
maybe this thing will satisfy.
With all the unwritten lullabies,
maybe this love will sanctify.”
Scot, Fr. Matt, and Miriam discussed the lyrics. Miriam said she loves the ocean as a calming, beautiful place. The storm breaking over the ocean represents something going wrong. The dreamer points to the potential of the unborn child who never had a chance. Miriam said the image of the baby sleeping in the mother’s womb conveys the sweetness and security of being able to sleep there in a safe place. Then it turns to the daydreams of the child’s potential future.
Then she is awakened with the hope of comfort, but instead hearing words deciding her fate. Miriam said this is the most tragic line. The baby can’t understand what is said, so these words about killing her were comfort for her because she didn’t know. Fr. Matt recalled Cardinal Seán’s words that the womb is the most dangerous place in America today.
Miriam said she doesn’t use the word abortion, in part because the child has no category to process it. They would only have images, the word would be unthinkable.
Then the third verse switches to the mother’s perspective. The mother says the baby is unnamed, but Juliette is named in eternity. “Our knees bend” is also a call to all of us that we have a responsibility as well.
The next line discusses the so-called freedom of choice, but is it a true freedom to kill someone? It is a freedom gone astray.
Miriam said the reaction to the song has been overwhelming positive. The song made the rounds on Facebook and people have had very thoughtful responses, sometimes very unexpected.
3rd segment: It’s time to announce this week’s winner of the WQOM Benefactor Raffle.
Our prizes this week are the books, “Priest: Portraits of Ten Good Men Serving the Church Today and Striving to Serve Him Faithfully” by Michael S. Rose, and “The Leadership of Jesus”, by MSGT Michael M. Cutone, US Army Special Forces.
This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is Fr. James DiPerri, from Waltham, MA. Congratulations, Fr. DiPerri!
If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.
4th segment: Scot asked Miriam about her last album’s title, “Luggage of an Optimist”. It’s the second chapter title of G.K. Chesterton’s book “Man Alive”. It’s more about hope than it is pie-eyed optimism.
See how every notion takes on new life under the moon,
And the silence stands at my shoulder, keeps me frozen in this room.
And lifted up from deeper thoughts,
I am waiting for His move.
But on the other side He smiles, as He waits for me to choose.
Because I haven’t learned His name, or maybe haven’t learned it right,
But I hear He’s got a thing or two
To say about this fight.
Because I haven’t felt the same, and I think I would have liked
All the things He said I could have had
If I’d let Him in my life.
See how everyone points to all the sad times they never choose.
What their memory doesn’t tell them,
They make up to fit their mood.
And woken up from bitter ways, I am calm but still unsure.
And focused on those better days,
I am standing at this door.
Because there’s no one left to blame,
And I’m pushing past the lies,
And I see that this is far beyond anything that just sounds nice.
And the truth is never tame, and I really think it’s time
That I turned to face the Word I ran away from at the first sign.
And He said He so loved the world,
And He said He so loved the world…
That He came to stay here.
And I believed what He said when He said that He’d descend
In my life, in my mess, as my best friend.
And I believed what He said when He said that He would send
All His love like a postcard from my best friend.
Miriam said she doesn’t want to trivialize the love of Christ by connecting it to a postcard, but she’s trying to show that it is so very personal for each of us. She was inspired to write the song while meditating on John 3:16.
Scot asked Miriam how she writes songs. She said it’s almost always at the piano with a notebook. She scribbles furiously as the inspiration comes quickly and she tries to capture the ideas. She does it by ear, not writing the music.
Another song off the album is about the prophet Simeon who saw Jesus at a few weeks old as he was brought to the temple by Mary and Joseph.
There was a man in the city and everyone thought him just a little odd.
They passed him on his knees, his arms outstretched,
As if waiting for a consolation.
But on the edge of something new, he sensed that he had things to do
And so lived a life of anticipation.
Here is the moment he’s been waiting for
All of his life;
Rushing and wishing and racing towards
A graceful moment when he’d finally see what faith becomes.
He saw them enter by the front door, and he didn’t need any more proof that it was time
To take the child in his arms, and looking up to heaven,
Thanked his God for this chance.
He told the mother of the days that would come and any other
Would have turned away to run.
But she kept in her heart all the words that she’d heard
Because she had hope and all those good things in her son.
So he was free to go,
To go in peace with what he’d seen there.
And with his last breath he thought
How we were in the best of hands, and at that he smiled.
Miriam sees Simeon as a model of faith and that’s why she brings us into it at the end. He’s been waiting all his life and we’ve been waiting all our lives. We have the responsibility of testifying to Jesus the way Simeon did. She said Simeon also had a sense of gratitude for this gift. We cant take the gift of faith for granted. Scot said he pictures Simeon having the grace of a happy death, knowing that all that he’d believed was true and could now see the Father’s face.
Fr. Matt said Simeon is a man who trusts in God’s unconditional fidelity. Simeon is a man of hope and a beautiful testimony. Miriam said it’s also not passive, living in the spirit of hope.