Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

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Gorecki-HenrykA concert in memory of Pope John Paul II and composer Henrick Gorecki will be presented at 8 p.m. March 11 at the Cathedral of St. Joseph.

The New Haven Symphony Orchestra, conducted by William Boughton and featuring soprano Paula Almerares, will perform "Gorecki’s Symphony No. 3" in honor of the Blessed Virgin Mary. Although the archdiocesan Sacred Sounds Music Series has brought together internationally recognized artists for this event, it has done so to realize its primary mission of offering the community a spiritual and prayerful experience.

John Paul II and Gorecki were friends who shared great mutual respect. Their biographies merge on many points – both were Poles, both lost their mothers at young ages, both resisted Communism, and both experienced deeply the sufferings of World War II and the Holocaust – but it is their profound faith and their fervent devotion to Mary, the Mother of God, that connect them at the deepest level.

It is most appropriate that Sacred Sounds is presenting Gorecki’s music for the first Friday of Lent, only four months after the composer’s death and less than two months before the beatification of Pope John Paul II.

While it may appear that the presentation was planned in response to these events, the dream of offering this music to the community began more than eight years ago and became possible with the efforts of many people who were guided by the inspiration of the Holy Spirit. It has been a huge undertaking, designed to inspire all who hear Gorecki’s profound music in the sacred setting.

The concert will begin with a short choral piece composed in 1987 for Pope John Paul on the occasion of his third visit to his homeland. The piece is titled after the Pope’s motto, Totus Tuus (Totally Yours), and is a hymn to the Virgin Mary based on chants of the Catholic Polish Church. The words of the text, from a poem by Maria Boguslawska, point to the Pope’s own fervent dedication to the Blessed Mother: "I am completely yours, Mary, Mother of our Redeemer."

"Totus Tuus Op. 60" will be sung by the Cathedral Choir, conducted by Colin Britt, assistant choir director at St. Joseph Cathedral. The concert will continue with Gorecki’s "Symphony No. 3, Opus 36."

This symphony, best known as the "Symphony of Sorrowful Songs," embodies Gorecki’s Polish and Roman Catholic heritage. The piece combines texts spanning five centuries: a 15th century liturgical work, "Lament for the Holy Cross"; a prayer inscribed on a prison wall by a young woman held by the Nazis; and a Polish folk song.

Each piece speaks of devotion, sorrow and love. In the first, the Virgin Mary pleads with Jesus to "share [his] wounds with [his] mother." In the second, the young prisoner pleads with Mary not "to weep, Most chaste Queen of Heaven, [but] Support me always." In the final movement, a mother laments the death of her son in war, trusting "God’s little song-birds" to console both her and her child.

This marvelous symphony premiered in 1977. The piece embodies the work of a composer whom Cardiff University lauded for "his profound humanity and [appreciation for] . . . the folk and religious culture of his native Poland."

In its memoriam to Gorecki, the Polish Music Newsletter wrote that "there is no doubt that, with its widely enduring spiritual appeal, Gorecki’s music will always find an audience who desire to reflect on the most fundamental questions mankind has struggled to answer."

"Symphony of Sorrowful Songs" coincides with Christians’ Lenten preparations for the holiest day of the liturgical year, Easter.

The concert will be presented at 8 p.m. March 12 in case of snow. The concert is free; free-will offerings will be accepted.

Information is available by contacting the cathedral at (860) 249-8431 or

Ezequiel Menéndez is the music director for the Cathedral of St. Joseph. Dr. James Gentile, a faculty member at Manchester Community College, contributed to this article.


alertAt the Spring Assembly of the U.S. bishops, Cardinal Joseph Tobin suggested that a delegation ofbishops go to the border to see for themselves what was happening to newly arrived immigrants, families and children. On July 1 and 2, Cardinal Daniel DiNardo, president of the U.S. bishops conference, and five other bishops conducted a pastoral visit to the diocese of Brownsville, Texas. Stops included Mass at the Shrine of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle with the community, a visit to anHHS/OBR Shelter and Mass for the families there, a visit to the Customs and Border Patrol processing center in McAllen, TX, and a press conference at the end of their visit. Catholic News Service accompanied the bishops on their border trip. 

  1. Backgrounder and analysis of the bishops’ trip to the border: Cardinal DiNardo told CNS, “You cannot look at immigration as an abstraction when you meet” the people behind the issue.
  2. At final press conference, Cardinal Daniel Dinardo said the church was willing to be part of any conversation to find humane solutions because even a policy of detaining families together in facilities caused “concern.”
  3. Bishops serve soup to immigrant families at a center run by Catholic Charities and listen to their stories. Scranton Bishop Joseph Bambera said he found hope in hearing the people in the room talk about what’s ahead. They didn’t speak of making money but of finding safety for their children, he said, driven by “the most basic instinct to protect your family.”
  4. At an opening Mass he Basilica of Our Lady of San Juan del Valle-National Shrine near McAllen, Texas, Bishop Daniel Flores of Brownsville told Massgoers, “The bishops are visiting here so they can stop and look and talk to people and understand, especially the suffering of many who are amongst us,”

A delegation of U.S. bishops goes on a fact-finding mission at the U.S.-Mexican border to learn more about Central American immigration detention.

Following their visit to an immigrant detention center, U.S. bishops said they are even more determined to call on Congress for comprehensive immigration reform.