Perhaps the last thing you expected to hear from one of the five main stages of the Shenandoah Valley’s second annual roots music festival, were the Divine Praises. It was the morning of the canonization of beloved Mother Teresa of Calcutta, and weary campers who had been up far too late into the night reached into their suitcases for their Sunday best, and climbed the hill to the Ranch Stage.
It was a sight to behold as the same stage, which had come alive with music and festivities the night before was now occupied by Fr. Jerome Fasano, pastor of St. John the Baptist Roman Catholic Church in Front Royal, Virginia. The solemn peace as the music ensemble played disseminated to create a sacredness of the space that could be enjoyed even by those still cozy in their sleeping bags. Fr. Fasano laid a first class relic of Mother Teresa’s hair upon the altar and prepared for Mass.
As I took my seat in a fold-out chair under the gorgeously open Shenandoah sky, I was in awe of the amount of people continuing to fill the chairs, lay out blankets, and crowd the field around us for standing room. Next to me sat one of the bands’ incredibly talented violinists, and this trend continued as musicians from a great many of the bands interspersed among the crowd of our outdoor congregation, for the Lord’s Supper.
These musicians had been up far later than I, and still they made it to Mass to use their beautiful talents for the Lord. I was captivated as our voices rose up those blue ridge mountains, and realized this moment was what made the Appaloosa festival different from any ordinary music festival I had ever attended. The witness of the importance of the sacrifice of the Mass, held right there on site, on one of the premier stages, attended by many of the musicians themselves, outdid all talent and skill.
This was the pinnacle and crowning glory of the labor day festival. This was why people came in numbers from far and wide and stayed for the weekend. These people knew they would be spiritually fed as well as entertained, engaged, and encountered. This joy permeated our interactions and experiences throughout the weekend, and its contagious nature was evident throughout that beautiful Sunday.
The family-dominated atmosphere of the festival, with strong support from both Christendom and Franciscan University alumni, certainly helped to cultivate the undertones of inclusive joy and mutual respect for all who attended. Truly becoming childlike at heart, many of all ages joined in festivities from Irish dancing, bluegrass performances, songwriting workshops, children’s shows, and the wildly fun Scythian, fulfilling each evening!
The Appaloosa festival was far more than music. It offered a great opportunity for community, spanning generations, and creating the opportunity for lasting friendships and unforgettable examples. For as St. Teresa of Calcutta taught us, “Joy is a net of love by which you can catch souls.”