persons, places and things: Above All

Barb Arland-Fye

By Barb Arland-Fye

Singer Michael W. Smith stirs my faith in “Above All,” a moving tribute to Christ’s sacrifice for all of humanity.

Four years ago, the St. Joseph Youth Group from DeWitt performed a meditative movement to the song during the Diocese of Davenport’s Eucharistic Congress. It was among the most powerful performances I witnessed that day: teenagers interpreting Jesus’ selfless actions, which saved our lives for eternity.

Pat Sheil, St. Joseph’s director of faith formation, told me that when she first heard Above All, “I felt like it was our faith in a nutshell. It says what we’re all about. Jesus gave up everything — for us.”

After convincing her parish’s youth group to perform the meditation, she encouraged the participants to listen to the words and reflect on them. Then all of the actions will come together.

“It really helped them to put their whole heart and soul into it,” Pat told me.

Also moved by their performance, Jennifer Hildebrand, youth minister at Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, organized a group of fellow parishioners to perform Above All during our church’s Good Friday service last year.

Jennifer had about 12 of us – adults and teenagers – practicing each week during Lent leading up to Good Friday.

We’re going to do it again this year, but possibly with fewer people. Some are reticent about performing in front of the congregation. But for me, it’s not so much a performance as a sung prayer with movement; it’s another way to honor God who has blessed my life so abundantly.

The melody and lyrics are uplifting and keep me focused on the message of Jesus’ saving love; performing with other members of the parish underscores an affirming sense of faith community.

I depend on these people, especially the young women performing in front of me, so I can follow and imitate their graceful movements. As part of my role, toward the end of the meditation, I lift the vertical beam of a cross; Chris Paris is behind me, literally and figuratively, holding the horizontal beam.

Two other pairs of parishioners are performing the same roles as Chris and me; our crosses rising and falling in synchronized movement to the words of the song.

It reminds me so much of life. Most days, the cross is raised in a triumph of faith and confidence that God is with me. Occasionally, I’ve asked God to take back the cross. That’s when I’ve needed God the most, failing to realize he’s with me even when I’m immersed in self-pity, doubt or fear.

“You took the fall and thought of me, above all,” Smith sings. Even as a cradle Catholic who works in the faith field, I sometimes struggle to come to terms with God’s willingness to take the fall for me.

The song speaks to Christ’s courage: “crucified … rejected and alone, like a rose trampled on the ground.” But Christ triumphed, and the lesson for me is to rise above all that causes me to feel rejected and alone. Above all, God is with me, and so is the faith community with whom he has blessed me.

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