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Solving the Problem

October 17, 2008
How do you solve a problem like Maria?
How do you catch a cloud and pin it down?
How do you find a word that means Maria?
A flibbtijibbet! A will-o'-the-wisp! A clown!
Singing yet?
I would guess that 92% of this country (random calculation and not scientific) have some concept of The Sound of Music, have caught some glimpse of the movie on television, have gotten at least one of the songs stuck in their heads at some point in their lifetime, or can perhaps conjure up some image of Julie Andrews spinning around and around in the moutains in her portrayal of Maria Rainer. The von Trapps have become a household name through the generations.
And, recently, their songs have been stuck in my head because of the opening of the stage performance of The Sound of Music at The Princess of Wales Theatre in Toronto.  I had the opportunity to attend the dress rehearsal in early October (with some of the Sisters of St. Joseph and Loretto Sisters) and the Opening Night performance just this past Wednesday. The reason for the tickets and these wonderful opportunities? Well, The Sound of Music tells a very Catholic story. It's not just about nuns rushing around trying to figure out "how to solve a problem like Maria" but one woman in search of God's will for her life. This is the telling of a vocation story.soundofmusiclogo.jpg
The movie may run 140 minutes, and the stage show be close to three hours. But Johannes von Trapp sums up the story of his mother's vocation quite efficiently. The youngest of the three children born to Captain von Trapp and Maria Augusta Trapp (that's in addition to the seven children of the Captain portrayed on stage and onscreen) was in Toronto to attend the Opening Night performance, and met with Salt + Light to talk about his mother's faith.
"My mother did everything in excess. When she found religion, she immediately wanted to become a nun," Johannes said. But, he adds, with a shake of the head, "My mother was not suited to be a nun."
(And that, apparently, is the short version of the movie.)
So the question then is not how to solve a problem like Maria, but what to do with this passion and spirit that she desired to throw into life? The answer was to sing, and with seven... then evenutally 10... children, harmony resonated through the walls of their home and the Trapp Family Singers was born. With passion and excess, Maria took up her vocation as wife and mother and lived a remarkable life... that would eventually become her book, The Story of the Trapp Family Singers... that would become a musical play and movie... that would influence millions of people around the world... that would make us sing of joy and hope.
Yes, it seems Maria did everything in excess. But in the name of her Catholic faith, how could that possibly be a problem?
(Watch for an upcoming episode of Catholic Focus on the von Trapp Family, featuring our interview with Johannes von Trapp, scheduled to air in November.)
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