Ite Ad Joseph!

“After the Mother of God, St. Joseph is, of all the saints, the one dearest to God. He has, therefore, great power with Him and can obtain graces for His devout clients…”                  St. Alphonsus Liguori

The sisters in the community of Catford have experienced the paternal assistance of St Joseph in a very special way. Every Saturday we assist the “A Day with Mary” Apostolate, and for many years pilgrims attending these days of prayer had been asking if there was a CD available with the hymns that are often sung.

Several people wanted to bring it back to their native countries, either because they were migrating and wanted to keep reliving the day or to make the Day with Mary known there with the hope of inspiring similar apostolates around the world. The “Day with Mary” team had looked into the possibility of producing a CD but the cost was too expensive for them, and at the time we also could not find enough sisters available who could help to sing. The matter was more difficult also due to the fact that the majority of the hymns would be in English.

            One Saturday, in April of 2016, a lady approached one of the Sisters and, like many others, asked if there was a CD of DWM hymns available. When the sister said there wasn’t, she pursued the matter, asking what was needed to make one. The sister explained that funds were lacking and half-jokingly, told her to pray to St. Joseph. You can imagine the sister’s surprise when, on the following Saturday, the same lady returned to speak to her at the Day with Mary, telling her, “Sister, I’ve found the money”! She proceeded to say that she and her friend, Josephine, have put together the money needed! The sum was transferred to the Day with Mary, but unfortunately the project remained stagnant, as despite various attempts, the necessary help could never be successfully organised.

            Over the years, the lady who had donated the money kept asking if we had produced the CD and, with some embarrassment, we always had to tell her we were still trying – luckily, she was understanding and, with great faith, kept praying that we would succeed. Discussions went back and forth, but nothing ever materialised. We even offered to return the money, seeing that the project was looking impossible! The lady refused, however, saying that we had to get it done no matter what. Eventually, in May 2019, the Superior decided that if we ever wanted to get this project completed, we needed to implore powerful divine help! It was decided to start a novena to St Joseph, to be recited every day until we received the desired grace. We started the novena and the weeks and months continued to go by…

            Then, unexpectedly, in early December it seemed a door began to open when permission was given for two sisters to come from Italy to help with the recording. The months leading up to Christmas are always very busy for us in Catford because the bookshop has its greatest amount of activity, so we had to work hard to try and organise the CD recording at the same time! We had two weeks before the sisters were due to arrive from Italy, on December 18th, to find music scores, a sound engineer and a recording location! Phew, talk about pressure!

            After doing some research and making various phone calls without success, we were given the contact of a friend of the DWM organist, Mr. Christopher Town, who quickly said he would be happy to help us. He checked his diary, and the only date he had available for the recording was December 23rd! It was at this point that one sister in the community recounted that, during the daily St. Joseph novena, she would pray for the realisation of the CD but also added that the request be realised “within this year”, i.e. 2019! We then understood that this really was a grace from St Joseph, who had even taken notice of this little detail, and suddenly provided us with this date for the recording just some days before the close of the year. It did mean, however, that our little choir would have to learn and practise all the songs within 4 days!

Now, what about a recording venue? Eventually we contacted a small Benedictine Abbey, located just outside London, which we knew has both an excellent organ and good acoustics, but we were unsure as to whether the monastic community would give us permission just before Christmas.

We contacted the Abbot and incredibly he said yes straight away. Amazingly, only after we suddenly realised that that very Abbey is England’s official national shrine to St. Joseph! Clearly, he had desired this recording to be done there, under his patronage. There happened to be an organ concert at the Abbey on December 14th and Mr. Town went to see what the place was like, and despite having spent the evening completely frozen (all the other people brought blankets), he was won over and agreed to the location! We sisters were absolutely delighted!

On December 18th, two sisters arrived from one of our communities in Rome, which coincidentally is dedicated to “St. Joseph, Spouse of Mary”, and the next few days were spent in virtually non-stop song practise! We also tried to enlist some extra help, it was two days before the recording and we had no idea where we could find another soprano. We tried calling various people we know, and other contacts that they passed on to us, but no one was available, so again we turned to St. Joseph for help and all of us, including the two new arrivals, knelt before an altar of St. Joseph to beg him to help us solve the problem. By the afternoon of the next day, another soprano had been found! We were overjoyed and couldn’t stop thanking St Joseph!

The 23rd of December arrived and we left London straight after a 7:00 Mass, to make our way to the Abbey. It was a very cold day, but we found that the Abbey was even colder inside than outside! Being an old building, it has no heating, and only the organist was lucky enough to have a small electric heater near him. We sisters were buried (who more and who less!) beneath scarves and mantles, and it was quite amusing to see the streams of steam coming forth from our mouths as we sang! It took longer than expected to set up all the equipment, but eventually we began and when we heard the sound produced by the acoustics we truly felt that even that was a grace of St. Joseph because the seven of us sounded like a choir of more sisters!

With the generous effort and cooperation of all involved, including the great charity of the monks who allowed us free use of the Abbey though they had all the Christmas preparations to be put in place for the next day, we persevered and finally finished the recording at 23:00. It had been a long day, and we were exhausted, but filled with gratitude and wonderment at St. Joseph. Mr. Christopher Town, the recorder, never showed any sign of impatience or made any complaint, despite having to be in that freezing temperature and constantly on his feet until so late at night – on the contrary, he showed a great appreciation for the sacred music and appeared very happy by the end of it. We later found out that he has done many recordings of a very high standard, including recordings for the Royal College of Music and several prestigious choirs, and is himself a very gifted musician and choir director. All of us were extremely struck when we met him by his great simplicity, goodness and humility!

The CD is now out and we hope that it’s songs and beautiful booklet will increase the devotion and love its listeners have for God and His Holy Mother! All the proceeds of the CD will go to charity so it is money well spent! Please enjoy listening to it and let us say in one acclaim: Ite ad Joseph!