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The Little School That Could View Comments
By By Maureen Pratt

At IHM Elementary School in Los Angeles, Arvi Cova sings out as the choir prepares for July's World Choir Games.

ONLY A FEW BLOCKS away from Immaculate Heart of Mary School, traffic on one of Los Angeles’ most traveled freeways stirs up a constant, metallic hum. The side streets are noisy, too, as cars dodge or hit potholes and each other in the never-ending “music” of urban life. Yet, on a crisp, winter day, another gentler neighborhood sound is taking shape, a sound that calls to mind beauty and angels, not honking and the squealing of tires.

“Luuuu ... Laaaaaa.”

The tones are crystal clear and fresh, like a gentle spring breeze through tree branches.

Tucked inside the school’s auditorium, the boys and girls of IHM Children’s Choir prepare for competition at the World Choir Games, to be held in Cincinnati from July 4 to 14. The World Choir Games, dubbed the “Olympics of choral music,” bring together amateur choirs from countries throughout the world, includ ing Europe, eastern Europe, South Africa, North America and the Caribbean. It will be on American soil this year for the first time ever (see The Unifying Power of Music).

Choirs competing at the Games often have extensive performance experience, and many are regulars at the international level. But, for the group of 35 second- through eighth-grade children at Immaculate Heart of Mary School, the Games will be a first; they have never competed at any level. In fact, they are the only U.S. Catholic elementary school choir registered for the 2012 competition. It’s an unlikely opportunity for an inner-city Catholic school in Los Angeles to take the world stage.

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Maureen Pratt writes the syndicated column “Living Well” for Catholic News Service and is the author of six books, including Peace in the Storm: Meditations on Chronic Pain & Illness. Her website is maureenpratt.com.

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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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