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Musica Universalis

Musica Universalis

St. Rose de Lima Feast Day, August 23

She’s the patron saint of embroidery, gardening and the indigenous peoples of Latin America, as well as the primary patroness of Peru. Having been born in 1586 in Lima, Peru, and dying there just 31 years later (in 1617), Rose of Lima lived the life of a hermit, caring and praying for the poor of Peru, through her ecstatic love for God and her people. I love her name and everything she stands for.

I particularly love the historically African American and ethnically diverse Catholic church named after her, in Bay St. Louis, Mississippi. This church, on a bit of a hill in the shade of ancient live oaks, and just a mile from the Bay St. Louis, is renowned for its beautiful gospel choirs and music. I live near that Bay as well.

I suppose my own lifelong love of singing in choirs as well as gospel music, has made a special place in my heart for Rose, as well as for this lovely church near where I live, with its beautiful a capella choirs. Today, as I considered both this parish and St. Rose, the words dancing in my thoughts are these: “and to my listening ears, all nature sings and round me rings, the music of the spheres”. I’ve sung this verse many times, and yet have never known what it means. 

As it turns out, “music of the spheres” comes from the phrase Musica universalis, and is a philosophical concept that regards proportions in the movements of celestial bodies – the sun, moon and planets – as a form of music. This concept is derived from ancient Greece as a tenet of Pythagoreanism. In the 17th century, the astronomer Kepler believed it important, also, though he did not think celestial music to be audible. Instead, he believed it could be heard by the soul. I do too.

St. Rose heard the music, as does St. Rose de Lima church, which sings it. Aren’t we all invited to listen with our souls to the music of the spheres? Musica Universalis.

The Rev. Liz Goodyear Jones and her husband Dave live on the Mississippi Sound, just east of Bay St. Louis, where they dine regularly on Bay shrimp and fish, gumbo and jazz.

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