“Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.” (Romans 12:14)
Guest Blogger ~ Marie Sheahan Brown
4:08 pm near San Francisco, California
“Love and blessings, Susan Boyle”
I saw her autograph on two different fans’ memorabilia. She writes the person’s name and then, “Love and blessings, Susan Boyle.”
Words are living things. Once uttered or written or even communicated nonverbally, they discharge energy, create waves of effect, and cannot be taken back. Consider the power of the Word made flesh. Consider the malevolence of a curse, the damage wrought by an internet troll, a schoolyard bully, an undermining gossip, a cruel tabloid reporter. Consider then – please – the magnanimous transforming energy of a multitude of small blessings. We each carry such power and responsibility.
I don’t know the reasons Susan Boyle chose as her standard closing, “Love and blessings, Susan Boyle.” I would like to think she knows or intuits exactly what she is doing.
The priests of her cherished religion carry a special power to bless all kinds of things: marriages, houses, babies, pets, large crowds. Non-ordained people do not diminish or usurp this priestly role by their everyday actions and words of blessing. Sacred Scripture testifies that the Creator and Lord of the universe has granted each citizen a share of power and expects us to use it for good. St. Paul in Romans 12:14 urges, “Bless those who persecute (you), bless and do not curse them.”
In the heart of New York City this past weekend, some 100 identified Susan Boyle fans congregated from around America and other countries to support and appreciate Susan’s first solo appearance on the world stage. At Rockefeller Plaza early Monday morning, thousands of unidentified fans showed up from the highways and byways. Millions of world citizens tuned in on television or internet. The vast majority of these have already experienced “love and blessings” from Susan Boyle. Wow. And there’s more to come.
On Monday morning, for the first time since she unwittingly unleashed the worldwide Susan Boyle Phenomenon, the Scottish songbird wasn’t just one performer among many. She wasn’t pre-taped with the comforting fudge factor of editors able to choose and tailor the best performance. Monday morning at Rockefeller Plaza, Miss Susan Boyle was the performer. She had to stand and deliver live before the world. Imagine the pressure on this wee lassie from Blackburn, Scotland, who is much more petite than I had imagined, just a little over five feet tall.
The NBC Today Show’s official videos capture the love radiating from the sea of faces Susan beheld. As a member of that audience, I know – I hope – she felt our unabashed love. She interacted playfully with us before and after each song, her charmingly childlike spirit free to express itself with no fear of judgment. She seemed relaxed yet exuberant. She was among friends, was she not?
Like fire, love and blessings gain warmth with mutuality. The Susan Boyle Phenomenon isn’t only Susan loving and blessing us with her gorgeous voice and sweet autographs. We love and bless her, too, and one another. The delightful gathering of fans in New York City, just seven months after we first came to know each other’s avatars and handles on the internet, testifies to the truth that genuine love and blessings are not only possible but powerfully real even in a world wracked by malice, violence, and fear.
One of my favorite quotes from Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Ph.D., describes what Susan Boyle started when she took that bus to Glasgow on January 21, 2009, and declared, “I’m going to sing for you on Britain’s Got Talent today”:
One of the most calming and powerful actions you can do to intervene in a stormy world is to stand up and show your soul. Soul on deck shines like gold in dark times. The light of the soul throws sparks, can send up flares, builds signal fires ... causes proper matters to catch fire. To display the lantern of soul in shadowy times like these — to be fierce and to show mercy toward others, both — are acts of immense bravery and greatest necessity. Struggling souls catch light from other souls who are fully lit and willing to show it. If you would help to calm the tumult, this is one of the strongest things you can do.
Susan carries her power of “love and blessings” humbly. She knows their source in the kindly mighty God she worships. She understands what it means to be an instrument, to be “Who I Was Born to Be.” She experiences the world’s thirst as sometimes “surreal,” sometimes “overwhelming.” We have witnessed, felt, and stood with her in tears and elation. I, personally, have sensed a mature, nurturing solitude in her life alongside her obvious devotion to family and friends. Her spare, direct words in interviews and the handwritten comments on her album demonstrate intelligence and the keen perception born of contemplation.
A very good spiritual director I know says of Susan Boyle, “She is self-authorizing.” She knows her gift – honed, honed, honed to perfection over decades of world obscurity. She kept on going through the defeats wrought by people of shallow judgment. She kept listening to the loving, encouraging voices of her mother and her God. She kept listening to her own voice. She developed courage and strength to go on. She kept singing for free to “make people happy.” She kept giving “love and blessings.”
Susan is who she is, and she has many sides.
In person, I experienced the unedited Susan. I fell in love again with a new tenderness, a renewed desire to shield her from insensitive cads of any gender or profession. This determined, resilient woman who “just kept going” has the spirit and unfettered candor of a child.
The kingdom of heaven belongs to such as these.
Her demonstrative comical humor can startle and puzzle people who aren’t paying attention to its subtle brilliance. She lays her head tenderly on the shoulder of one she senses is kind. She looks directly into the eyes of a stranger who says, “thank you,” and draws the stranger’s face to her cheek. Cor ad cor loquitur. Heart speaks to heart. She cries easily when vexed or heart-touched. She play-acts dialogues with her sweet wee Pebbles. Those of superficial judgment who rate and berate her according to boring rules of social propriety miss the gift altogether. Larger hearts notice that, despite everything, never have we heard the once-bullied Susan speak unkindly of another, although she has learned to “defend her corner.”
A friend of mine observes, “She has set up no superstructure of image.” Susan is uniquely and completely Susan. She is the very “love and blessings” of God to us.
What return shall we make?
I suggest the simple hospitality of unconditional love, understanding, and acceptance.
With unbearable poignancy, Susan sings her own answer in her first-ever professional album:
Why can’t you say you love me as I
Say you want me as I am
Say I’m someone in your eyes….
I’m on my knees so help me please
Please don’t shoot me down
Though you can’t see it now,
Someday I’ll make you proud.
This morning near San Francisco, we opened our Thanksgiving prayer at SVdP’s Catherine’s Center with Susan’s rendition of “Up to the Mountain.” Each of us then shared three things for which we are grateful. Many tears spilled in this room full of women seeking to change their lives after sometimes decades of the revolving doors of jail and prison.
Some days I look down
Afraid, afraid I will fall…
But I hear your, your sweet voice
Come and then go
Come and then go
Lord, telling me softly
You love me so.
Yesterday, I played this same song for two of our alumnae visiting briefly. I then showed them Susan’s 500-million-YouTube-viewed audition and the Today Show performance.
Diana exclaimed, “The world needs Susan Boyle!”
And Tiffany, “God chose the weak of this world to confound the strong.”
Diana: “It was for such a time as this that she was called….”
These women’s lives testify to the knee-bending reality of suffering, grace, and redemption that imbue Susan’s voice with its power.
Susan, your music reaches our depths and heights. Your “love and blessings” do profoundly more than “make people happy.”