Late have I loved you, Sam Rocha.
But thanks…for becoming quite an unexpected gift in my Advent prayer life.
“Who’s Sam Rocha,” you ask? I had no idea myself until I came across a short meditation he’d written for a daily missalette, marking the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe (Dec. 12). His reflection revealed a thoughtful and insightful spirituality – a bit off the beaten path, not unlike the trail once trod by St. Juan Diego himself.
So taken was I by Rocha’s words that I looked up his website – and there discovered that this is a guy who pretty much defies easy categorization. He’s a college professor by training, but the thing that really caught my fancy was a mention (almost in passing) that he had released a CD of “Augustinian R&B” music in 2014.
After a quick trip to the iTunes store, I found myself thoroughly taken in by “Late to Love.” What a wonderful addition to my prayer time: Authentic themes of St. Augustine’s classic spirituality, set to tunes that had me tapping my feet and swaying my (admittedly arthritic) hips.
My fascination with Rocha only deepened as I read on in his website biography:
In contrast to [Rocha’s] formal training in academic letters, he is a folk musician, unable to read or write music. This untrained, analphabet sensibility contributes to his fascination with education, schooling, and curriculum.
This is a strange and astonishing stew, is it not? Through the work of a man I’ve never met, I am invited to contemplate Augustine, Guadalupe, and the remarkable prospect of self-taught rhythm and blues.
And as I thought about my Rocha encounter, my gratitude only deepened: Here I am, being drawn into spiritual movements that pass ever-so-gently through major markers in the 5th century…the 16th century…the 20th century and beyond. God is truly with us, in every age, I realized. God sends an unquenchable spark into the hearts of the saints – and we are blessed immeasurably whenever their gifts are revealed.
No wonder, then, that the Psalmist is moved to a song of praise in the passage from Psalm 89 we hear at Mass on the 4th Sunday of Advent:
The promises of the LORD I will sing forever;
through all generations my mouth shall proclaim your faithfulness.
For you have said, “My kindness is established forever”;
in heaven you have confirmed your faithfulness.
May this same song be on our lips as we mark these final days of Advent in 2020…and may our hearts never rest until they rest in the Holy One!
Marana tha! Come, Lord Jesus!
Let us pause now…to recall that we are in the presence of the Holy & Merciful One.