According to St. Augustine, “those who sing, pray twice.” Indeed, it is hard to imagine a liturgical celebration that does not include music, yet that is exactly what many parishes have found to be the new normal in light of the coronavirus pandemic.
Despite the challenges of COVID-19, music ministers throughout the Diocese of Palm Beach are finding creative ways to minister to God’s people. One of these individuals who has had a particularly positive response to an alternative music ministry is Mickey Maniscalco, the music director at Holy Redeemer Church in Palm City.
Maniscalco came up with the idea of utilizing his home studio to broadcast a half hour of music prior to the beginning of the 10:30 Televised Catholic Mass each Sunday morning on CW34. He livestreams from his personal Facebook page to a strong following of family, friends and parishioners.
Maniscalco typically works with a small combo of musicians at Holy Redeemer Parish to provide musical accompaniment to his parish’s liturgy. The onset of the pandemic was particularly difficult for him, however, because everyone was encouraged to stay apart due to the spread of COVID-19.
Then there were the reports that the virus could spread more effectively through airborne droplets, something that made singing even more dangerous.
“We expel so much more air when we sing than we do when we speak,” said Maniscalco. “But music is such a powerful and necessary part of the Mass that I wanted to find a way that people could experience the same sense of participation and worship at home.
“I found music that would complement the readings for that morning’s Mass,” he continued, “and I played those pieces for anyone who chose to log on to my Facebook and listen as my way of reaching out to the community of faith to help others feel less alone.”
The response was swift and overwhelmingly positive, with word of mouth and Facebook shares helping to increase the number of people from throughout the diocese who have learned of this weekly musical gift from Holy Redeemer’s music director. Surprisingly, worshipping online provided a meaningful surprise gift for Maniscalco, too.
“Because I’m always playing the music at Sunday morning Mass, I don’t think I’ve been able to hold my wife’s hand during Mass in 35 years,” said Maniscalco. “Being able to worship and share something as beautiful and meaningful as the Sunday morning Mass from the comfort of home has been very special for us, and I’m sure it’s been equally special for others experiencing it from home, too.”
Like many other parishes in the Diocese of the Palm Beach, Holy Redeemer Church resumed in-person weekend Masses at the beginning of August. Of course, Maniscalco is there every Sunday morning ready to provide the musical accompaniment. To ensure the safety of others, he said he wears a mask from the moment he arrives until just prior to the beginning of playing and then puts it back on as soon as the last notes of each song are played. Maniscalco said the in-person services are only at limited capacity, and he understands the concern many members have with returning to in-person worship when so much is still up in the air.
“God is love in spirit,” he said, “but it’s hard to show that spirit right now. It’s a really difficult time for all of us, and I have some ambivalence about the return,” he said.
Despite going to herculean efforts to install plexiglass screens and arrange for appropriate social distancing in his home studio, Maniscalco said even having a few other musicians come over to assist with the online music service didn’t feel completely safe.
But he knows how powerful music can be to both inspire and enhance spirituality, and he also knows the power of faith.
“It sounds a little strange, but because I’ve been here as part of Holy Redeemer for nearly 35 years, I’ve married and buried a lot of people, and there isn’t a moment when I haven’t felt honored and privileged to be a part of those lives or when I didn’t truly love the chance to minister through music.
“I love the flexibility I have with the music played before Mass starts,” he continued. “I know that God is in control, and I really want to encourage people not to worry because this is all part of God’s plan. I love being able to use the music to share the message that we all need to trust God more.”
To learn more about the music ministry at Hoy Redeemer Parish in Palm City, visit holyredeemercc.org. To watch the 10:30 a.m. Televised Catholic Mass, tune in each week to CW34. Priests from throughout the five-counties of the diocese, along with Bishop Barbarito, bring the Mass to the sick, homebound and all the people of God on a weekly basis.
By Wendy Dwyer, Florida Catholic Correspondent