One of the great gifts of the Internet is the ability to see little miracles from around the world. And they’re not always Marian apparitions or amazing healings or people rescued from near-certain death or even a puppy fished from a drainpipe (although it’s hard to beat that one). No, sometimes they’re reality-TV auditions, and they can make your very heart explode with joy.
(Get hankies now.)
Remember the first time you heard Catholic Susan Boyle’s audition on “Britain’s Got Talent”?
Watch this homeless teen on “Korea’s Got Talent,” who ran away from abuse at an orphanage and lived on the streets since he was five…
Or this shy young man and his friend who sing “The Prayer” (and insist on loyalty) on “Britain’s Got Talent” …
Or this international trio called Forte who made its live-singing debut with “Pie Jesu” on “America’s Got Talent” …
What all these have in common is the power to remind us that beauty is all around, every day, and that it doesn’t always come in shiny, pretty packages. It has often languished in obscurity for years or decades, hidden beneath the grime of the world, until an opportunity lifts the bushel basket and lets the light shine out.
And it’s happened again, on “The Voice of Italy” on March 19 (a k a the Solemnity of St. Joseph). Watch …
Sister Cristina Scuccia of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family, from Milan, Italy, threw her whole body and soul – black habit, wimple, sensible shoes and all – into performing Alicia Keys’ “No One,” and no one on the panel had a more emotional reaction than Italian rapper J-Ax (he’s the one with the wings-and-skull neck tattoo).
He’s teary-eyed, and in one translation, says to Sister Cristina, “If I had found you at Mass, I would always be in church,” and, “We, together, are like the Devil and Holy Water.”
On “The Voice,” the competitor gets to choose his or her mentor from among the judges that hit their buzzers and turned around to see who was singing, and Sister Cristina – who’s trending on Twitter as #suorcristina – picked J-Ax.
The sheer exuberance of his reaction is a delight to see.
On the 21st, Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, president of the Pontifical Council for Culture, tweeted congratulations to #suorcristina, saying “Each of you should use whatever gift you have received to serve others (1 Peter 4:10).”
Now, not everybody’s happy. Although Sister Cristina’s fellow nuns were enthusiastically supporting her backstage, dour NovusOrdoWatch.org disapproved of the performance, calling it “profane and indecent,” and “utterly scandalous, indecent, immodest and sacrilegious.”
We’ll have to see what music Sister Cristina performs in the future, and what impact she can have on J-Ax, but just looking at the lyrics of “No One,” it’s hard to argue the sister was being profane. She is a Bride of Christ, and the words could be interpreted as a love song to her Spouse.
“I just want you close,
Where you can stay forever
You can be sure,
That it will only get better.
You and me together
Through the days and nights
I don’t worry ‘cause
Everything’s going to be all right
People keep talking, they can say what they like
But all I know is everything’s going to be all right
No one, no one, no one
Can get in the way of what I’m feeling
No one, no one, no one,
Can get in the way of what I feel for you, you, you,
Can get in the way of what I feel for you.
When the rain is pouring down
And my heart is hurting
You will always be around
This I know for certain
I know some people search the world
To find something like what we have
I know people will try, try to divide, something so real
So till the end of time, I’m telling you there ain’t no one
No one, no one …
Asked what the Vatican might think of her performance, Sister Cristina replied, “I don’t know. I’m expecting a telephone call from Pope Francis, certainly, because he exhorts us to go out, to evangelize, to say that God does not take from us but rather gives us more.”
This is not Sister Cristina’s first brush with musical success (and she already has a Facebook fan club). She placed first in the Good News Festival, held in Rome during the Year of Faith. In an interview with Italian publication Credere at the time of the festival, Sister Cristina revealed she once was a working woman, engaged to be married and away from the Church.
But when she was cast in 2008 as Sister Rosa, the foundress of her current order, in a new musical celebrating the centenary of the Ursulines, that experience reawakened her faith. She broke off the engagement and pursued the path of becoming an Ursuline sister.
But it was not immediate. First, Sister Cristina studied the arts at the Star Rose Academy in Rome, founded by actress Claudia Koll.
“I was stuck,” she says (from a Google Translate version of the Credere Italian original), “I could not decide, and I was fighting; follow the Academy or become a nun? After four months, I said, ‘Here I am,’ as Samuel.”
As a novice in Brazil, Sister Cristina discovered the power of music in dealing with street children and teens.
“The music,” she says to Credere, “helped me get in touch with them, and I rediscovered the song as a way to praise the Lord, as a requirement of my soul and a tool to touch hearts.”
Asked what faith means to her, the sister tells Credere: “It’s like a tunnel; we come in, and it all seems dark, confused. But in the end, you expect a beautiful light, a living presence that embraces, which is the hands, voice and breath, as I wrote in my song.
“Just (to be) available to listen, to accept this gift, without being distracted by so many ‘noises’ in the background – (to) answer the call of Jesus is liberating; it does not disappoint.”
From the Church’s earliest days, human voices have been raised in song to praise God, and few things have more power than a beautiful voice, especially if it comes when and where you least expect it.
Oh, and Susan Boyle? She sang for the pope.