Father Bill Quinlivan knows his way around music. He also knows his way around The Divine Mercy.
Father Quinlivan has joined both of these in a double CD set called MercySongs / MercyPrayers. He had the set ready shortly before Divine Mercy Sunday.
This happens to be his fifth CD and part includes 10 original songs he wrote over the last few years for celebrations of Divine Mercy Sunday and reconciliation services. Many take their inspiration from St. Faustina’s Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul. Some were written talks he gives in parishes about Divine Mercy.
Father Quinlivan, who is pastor of Blessed Sacrament Church in Tonawanda, N.Y., also happens to be associated with the National Shrine of Divine Mercy in Stockbridge, Mass. For the past 15 years, he has served as an "official promoter" of the message of Mercy.
On the music side, he’s sung with Dana at World Youth Day in Toronto, played guitar for her at Our Lady of Knock Shrine in Ireland, and sung his music while appearing in 2009 on her EWTN series Dana and Friends.
“I've been involved in an inner-city mission to the poor (in Buffalo) called St. Luke's Mission of Mercy, and the spiritual and corporal works of mercy are done in conjunction with the devotion of Divine Mercy,” Father Quinlivan told me about his additional work with the Divine Mercy devotion.
At the same time, providentially, he was assigned as pastor to Blessed Sacrament because the church includes a Divine Mercy Chapel. Father Quinlivan said his bishop, knowing of his commitment to Divine Mercy, immediately thought of him to lead that parish.
“We have a perpetual novena to The Divine Mercy at the Wednesday evening Mass,” Father Quinlivan reflected about the devotion that he continues all year. The church also has a relic of St. Faustina and a hand-painted replica of the original Divine Mercy image from Vilnius, which is now in Lithuania. It’s the image he uses on the cover of the album.
“I consider my two-CD set to be like fraternal twins — alike in DNA, but not identical in style,” he told me. “One could consider MercySongs like the horizontal beam of the cross, music for life, immersed in the Lord's greatest attribute.”
He turned to a couple of examples, reflective ballads like Hidden Jesus, with lyrics inspired by sections of St. Faustina's Diary, Divine Mercy in My Soul.
“She wrote many poetic pieces that, to me, were calling out to become songs,” he explained.
With MercySongs as the horizontal beam of the cross, Father Quinlivan described MercyPrayers as the vertical beam. It has five songs in prayer and litany style.
Among them he’s written a new melody for the Chaplet of Divine Mercy more in a three-quarter, waltz-like time. It has two melodies, but he wrote them to purposely harmonize, in case people might sing the wrong one when the melodies change back and forth.
“Again, from Faustina's Diary, I found several beautiful texts as inspiration,” he explained. There are the prayers for the Divine Mercy Novena with a brief sung refrain between the paragraphs of the novena prayers, a Litany of Divine Mercy and a Eucharistic adoration litany called O Blessed Host.
He described how the songs in the CDs vary in sound and tempo. As much as he loves the meditative, he also includes some up-tempo ones “to pick up our step a little” in the joy of the Lord’s mercy, like The Prodigal Parade, “a joyful parade-procession of forgiven and redeemed sinners, heading to the Kingdom,” he explained.
Then there’s a musical version of the Conversation of the Merciful God With a Sinful Soul, which he composed as a “dramatically arranged song written like a theatrical composition.” It’s sung as a dialogue with a talented young soprano from his parish choir, Mary Beth Harper.
“St. Faustina's ‘Conversations’ are beautiful and profound as the souls are changed by the back-and-forth dialogue with the merciful God,” the composer-singer priest explained. “In this song, the ‘Sinful Soul’ approaches the ‘tribunal of Mercy’ that is the confessional and meets Mercy itself.”
Father Quinlivan’s website highlights lyrics to some of the songs from MercySongs / MercyPrayers, all meant to glorify God’s mercy.