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  • Reverend James Squire

Seeing When Blind

Updated: Feb 14, 2021

Andrea Bocelli live streamed a concert called “Believe in Christmas”. Bocelli is the blind singer who has merged opera and pop music since his discovery by Luciano Pavarotti. Bocelli was born almost blind from birth and then became totally blind after a soccer accident when he was 12. His mother was encouraged to perform an abortion since the doctors knew the infant would be blind. His mother refused. This is one of the pro-life arguments against abortion as the point is that you risk killing a Beethoven or a Bocelli.

The life of Bocelli can tell us a great deal. He started out singing in bars until he was discovered by Pavarotti for the once in a lifetime talent that he possesses to become one of the greatest vocalists of all time. He is a devout Catholic and views a high point of his career singing for Pope Francis. He was reminded of St. Augustine’s words that, “singing is an extraordinary form of prayer.” Celine Dion commented, “That if God has a voice, it must be that of Bocelli.” He has sung for millions across the world. His foundation has raised funds most recently to combat Covid-19 in his beloved country of Italy.

Hearing him sing in his “Believe in Christmas” concert sent chills down my spine. It was a spiritual experience for me, and I am sure, for those millions across the world who heard it.

One of my personal beliefs is that all of life is to be enjoyed or learned from. What can we learn from this extraordinary life and voice? As I mentioned he is a devout Catholic. I am sure that the title of the concert is one that came straight from his heart. He was addressing the Christian community and all who watched with three little words that go to the heart of our faith. He didn’t name it “Sorta Believe”, “Kinda Believe”, “If You Get Around to It, Believe”. It is “Believe in Christmas”. His voice and song were as prayerful as any prayers one would ever hear. He proves St. Augustine right.

Some of the concert was in Italian. Although I couldn’t understand the words, that didn’t seem to matter. They transcended the moment. I was very moved when he sang “Amazing Grace” and got to that phrase “once I was blind, but now I can see” because of the new meaning that it brought to me.”

The concert begins with his eight-year-old daughter, Virginia, leading him by the hand to his place on the empty opera house stage. It was not a reach for me to think of those words from Isaiah that “a little child shall lead them” (Isaiah 11:6). Strangely it didn’t seem as though he was totally relying on her as he made his way forward. He walked with confidence. As noted in an article by Ciara Dwyer in The Independent i.e. (July 15, 2001), “His other senses have developed as a result of his blindness. He can click his fingers and can tell where a wall is. There was a movie made of his life, The Music of Silence “where he didn’t want the person playing him trying to act like he was blind because I spend so much of my life trying to pretend that I can see.”

How does he see? He told a reporter his attitude toward life. “One morning raising my eyes to the sky towards the sun whose warmth I felt on my face, I realized I could no longer see it. From that moment on I tried to get use to the idea, as one learns to live with sadness and pain.” That is an important lesson for us all.

Bocelli doesn’t move around the world or the stage that he is on with his eyes open and does not like his blindness mentioned in interviews. As Ciara Dwyer mentioned in her article, “As I was about to get up and go, he opened his eyes and gave me a look with his beautiful light blue misted eyes. He was making fun of the taboo subject. It was a beautifully bizarre moment.”

In the Gospel of Mark, we hear the words from Jesus, “Do you have eyes but fail to see and ears and fail to hear, and don’t you remember (what I have done)?” (Mark 8:18) Bocelli remembers!

“Once I was blind, but now I see”. “Believe in Christmas”.

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