The Word — Can You Still Sing?

Published 10:09 am Friday, August 19, 2022

Little can compare with traditional Irish folk music for down-to-earth, heel-kicking fun. Some friends of mine had discovered it in their search for wholesome music for their children, a rather difficult task in today’s pop culture. However, when their six-year-old daughter (without a clue what she was saying) was heard singing snatches of “I always drink whiskey and I’m seldom sober,” they began to re-think their choice of music!

I would like to share with you the lyrics of another Irish tune, more elevating than the one quoted above! The song is called “Who Will Be a Cheerful Man?” and its best line poses the question, “Who can carry his cross and still sing?”

Jesus has told us, “If any man will come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow Me” [Luke 9:23]. Since we have all sinned, the way back to God is through suffering, suffering in which Christ has come to lead the way by His crucifixion.

After a chorus of “Too-rah-ligh-laddie” in the lilting Irish way that has no equal, the song continues: “I can still sing, and I can still laugh, and I can still dance on a thorn-ridden path.” Life is our path. We come to our own resurrection only through the version of crucifixion that God allows to come our way in all the little (or big) annoyances and inconveniences of everyday life – these are the thorns in our path, these are the cross we must carry. Christ, our Head, has already blazed the trail. The only way to get to the same end as Him is to follow. He has clearly told us so.

But perhaps following Christ seems a rather gloomy prospect. How can we carry our cross and still find a melody in our heart to sing? How can we find the strength to kick up our weary heals and dance where the thorns grow the thickest?

St. Paul tells us that, “God loves a cheerful giver” [2 Corinthians 9:7]. Giver of what? The giver not only of money, help, compassion, but the complete gift of self; the one who gives himself to the cross for the Glory of the Father, in union with Jesus.

God loves those who rise above their sufferings and still sing from the top of their dung heap like Job, “The Lord giveth and the Lord taketh away, blessed be the name of the Lord.” For this Jesus waits. He is looking for the man who will carry his Cross and still sing.

The only way in which we can do this is to have a true friendship with Jesus. We laugh because we carry the cross behind Him, using His almighty strength. We dance because we know that we shall reach the same goal if we continue to follow the same path. We give our voice to praise because, as St. Augustine once said, “Only the lover sings.”

Br. Maximilian Watner is on the the staff at St. Thomas Aquinas Seminary in Buckingham County. He can be reached at