I was a bit surprised when she first showed up in my prayer.
You see, God reveals himself to each person individually in a way that person can understand. St. Ignatius of Loyola firmly believed that. Musically inclined, he experienced the Trinity as three notes making one chord. For the Irish, the same reality revealed itself through St. Patrick and the clover leaf. It’s a rather Confucian looking Jesus that reveals Christ to the Chinese. And it’s Mavis Staples that reveals God to me.
Mavis is the youngest of the famed Staple Singers. She grew up singing gospel music and you can tell. Very little assures me of the loving and caring work of God in the world more than the video of an impromptu performance with Nick Lowe and Wilco.
When Mavis begs Annie to ‘put the load on me’, she assures me that I need not go it alone. More eloquently than words, the four-part harmony proves how we can share each other’s burdens—how you and I and God suffer and sacrifice and survive together. She, who sang fearless through the civil rights movement, proclaims the power of self-giving love with a potent earnestness. She’s like Jesus with a silky baritone.
When Mavis’s voice echoes in my prayer, I know God is with me. A surprisingly good way to pray.