Father Quinlivan uses his songs to reflect on Advent message in new book

Thu, Dec 1st 2016 12:50 pm
Staff Reporter
Father Bill Quinlivan has authored an Advent book. (Patrick McPartland/Managing Editor)
Father Bill Quinlivan has authored an Advent book. (Patrick McPartland/Managing Editor)

The artist in Father Bill Quinlivan cannot be silenced, nor can his love of the Advent and Christmas season. The Singing Priest of South Buffalo has released a book for the season, called "Coming Home for Christmas Through Advent," which offers reflections on themes of the season that come from his two Christmas albums. Topics span the range of holiday ups and downs from gift-wrapping and cooking baking, to nativity sets and being alone.

"I've always loved Christmas, but in the last 25 years, I've kind of learned to love Advent," said Father Quinlivan. "Whenever I record a Christmas album, I have found I was writing more Advent songs than just Christmas, and that whole unique perspective of being a priest and celebrating the liturgies of Advent being able to create some new music. Not all the music is for liturgical use, but at least personal, spiritual reflection."

The 189-page book has seven short Advent chapters, followed by prayers for the Advent season, then 20 Christmas chapters. Father Quinlivan reprints lyrics from his "Blanket of Stars" and "Back to Bethlehem" CDs, then reflects on incidents from his life, growing up in in South Buffalo with his family of five siblings, that inspired those songs.  

"Some of the things that I write about are more focused on the Incarnation. I have a song that I had on my first Christmas album called, 'Loves Incarnation.' Some of it is more based on the fact that I love snow. There's a song called 'Christmas Snow.' I tell stories about how in the yard at the house where I grew up we had blacktop. One year I went out in the yard to get something out of the car, and the blacktop was covered with about four inches of snow. So, I stepped on the blacktop and used it like as white board and spelled out 'Merry Christmas' with an exclamation point, just in case a low-flying plane was going over or the neighbors looked out their window."

The Christmas section of the book tries to cover the breadth of Christmas emotions from the most wonderful time of the year to something that must be tolerated for
the sake of the children. Included is a reflection of the unreleased song, "The Bummer Christmas."

"Some people are really sad at Christmas, so it gives them something to use in their reflection. It turns the subject back to God and asks for His help. It's not a Christmas self-pity party," Father Quinlivan said.

Through it all, Father Quinlivan's wit and humor prevail, as well as his misty-eyed view of the power of all aspects of the Christmas season. One story he recalls is performing with the Voices of Mercy in mall just before Dec. 25. He was worried that people might be offended by seeing a religious group, led by a priest no less, in a secular setting such as a mall. Instead, he saw people weeping.

"Music brings up emotions and heals the spirit of people," he wrote. "And Christmas music has a deep hold in people's souls, like old folk songs, patriotic songs and school theme songs. When I look back at that sale at the mall, I don't recall purchasing a thing. But I can still see the strangers opening up, the lay missionaries smiling at them among the marked-down winter coats."

Father Quinlivan recently took over the reins of St. Martin of Tours and St. Thomas Aquinas parishes, both in South Buffalo.  

"Coming Home to Christmas Through Advent is available at the Catholic Union Store, Fatima Shrine and Our Lady of Victory gift shops.  

Related Articles