A memory of Ken

The first Good Friday following retirement from active ministry is filled with the memory of a friend named Ken.

On Good Fridays from 2006 through 2013 Ken Beaufoy was the one member of the congregation I could count on to be with me in the Chapel from noon to 3:00 p.m. There were years when there were three or four. But most Good Fridays, it was just the two of us.

The pattern for the three-hours was very simple. Each half-hour began with a reading from the passion narratives of Gospels. A five minute silence followed, ending with a movement from Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. A brief prayer was spoken aloud. Another contemplative silence ended the half-hour segment.

There were times when I looked at Ken and felt as though I knew him the way his beloved wife, Ilse, had known him. Isle had been the third person in the pews before her death in 2007. Ken and Ilse were like no other couple I’d ever known and not only because theirs was the most unlikely of loves. Ken, a British soldier during the occupation of German following the end of World War II, and Ilse, a German soldier decorated with the German Silver Cross for bravery, fell in love during the occupation and made a life together against all odds. Their marriage was a sign of the power of reconciling forgiveness and love.

Two people never adored each other more than Ken and Ilse. During Ilse’s demise, when hope was scarce and hard decisions were made, I saw Ken’s faith up close and personal in his Good Friday moment of saying goodbye to his Ilse. As often happens between a pastor and a congregant, we became blood brothers until Ken died quietly in his sleep.

Today I’m remembering Ken and those six half-hour segments in the Chapel. I read the readings, listen to the movements of Faure’s Requiem – Introit et Kyrie, Offertory, Sanctus, Pie Jesu, Agnus Dei et Lux aeterna, Libera me, and In Paradisum – pray the prayers, and give thanks for a communion deeper than words. It still endures.



Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu” in a Child’s Voice

Akim Camara

Akim Camara

This child’s innocence – his eyes, his voice, his face, his courage, his trust – takes us to our deepest selves in the presence of the Sacred. Sit back and watch Akim Camara, hand-in-hand with Carla Maffioletti, singing Andrew Lloyd Webber’s “Pie Jesu”.

“Pie Jesu” means “Merciful/kind Jesus”; in its context in the Latin Requiem Mass, it calls on “the Lamb of God” to show mercy to the suffering. Kindness and mercy are at the heart of spirituality.

The text has an interesting history. The “Pie Jesu” is an ancient motet based on the last couplet of the “Dies Irae” (“Day of Wrath”) that was part of the old Latin Requiem Mass. The Vatican II liturgical reforms removed the “Dies Irae” from the Mass in order to emphasize Christian hope. A number of composers, among them Andrew Lloyd Webber – influenced by Gabriel Faure’s “Pie Jesu” – gave new musical expression to the prayer: “Kind/merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest. Kind/merciful Lord Jesus, grant them rest eternal.” BTW, Faure’s Requiem includes the “Dies Irae” which has become part of the Good Friday period of meditation at Shepherd of the Hill, not because God is wrathful, but because we so often have reason to cry out “Libera Me!” from the depths of terror and desolation.

For the Grieving Parents of Moore

In times of great tragedy and sorrow, I often turn to the “Pie Jesu” of Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. Our hearts are broken with you.

A grief expressed

How does one give expression to the depth of horror that follows the death of a son or daughter, as in the case of David’s lament for Absalom? (See sermon “Holy Tears: David, Absalom…and Us” posted here yesterday.)  Percy Bysshe Shelley expresses it in poetry.

O World! O Life! O Time!
On whose last steps I climb,
Trembling at that where I had stood before;
When will return the glory of your prime?
No more -Oh, never more!

Out of the day and night
A joy has taken flight:
Fresh spring, and summer, and winter hoar
Move my faint heart with grief, but with delight
No more -Oh, never more!

But music, the language of the soul, best expresses the cry from the depths, the prayer from the abyss for help for the helpless. In such moments of loss – and in the spiritual discipline of Good Friday reflection – I listen to “Libera Me” from Gabriel Faure’s Requiem. So soulful. So honest. Real. Vulnerable. Pleading. A primal but lovely cry, given voice from the depths by a great composer.