Very often during the Christmas season, my thoughts keep returning to the beautiful hymn above. It’s a setting of the Ave Maria (Hail Mary) by the English composer Robert Parsons (1535-1572). Parsons was a Gentleman of the Chapel Royal and wrote a number of different compositions in sacred and secular genres. He died tragically young when he drowned in the Trent River. He was later succeeded by the great English polyphonist William Byrd.

I first heard this setting of the Ave Maria many years ago at a choral festival in Montana. This particular work was performed by having the members of one choir stand around the gymnasium. The effect was entrancing. I had tears running down my cheeks because of the beauty of the music. Of a trip that was otherwise harrowing for me, this would be one of my brightest memories

May this piece of music bring you as much joy as it does to me every year.

Our Lady of the Angels, pray for us!

St. Augustine of Canterbury, pray for us!