Joseph Haydn was not a genius, Professor Robert Levin told our class. He was not born with the automatic brilliance of a Mozart or a Beethoven. He did not have a first-rate musical education or money enough to practice at leisure. He was simply a decently good, hardworking musician who was devoted to God.

Every morning, Haydn would pray for inspiration—for one good idea. At the beginning of every manuscript he would write “In Nomine Domini,” In the Name of the Lord, and then he would sit down and work the ideas that he would receive into a piece of music. At the end of every score, he wrote “Laus Deo,” Praise Be to God. At first, his music was rather good; then, it became very good; then excellent; then brilliant; then, the work of pure genius. It was not raw, untrained talent that carried Haydn to the pinnacle of glory on which he now stands, but rather a willingness to submit to hard work and a dedication to God.

joseph_haydn_by_hardyHow worthy was he! How deserving of our emulation! And how important it is, for us, to have figures like him to look up to. It is vital for us to have spiritual heroes in all walks of life, because God has made us for all sorts of different kinds of work. It is important for us to know that it is not just priests who have been called to be holy, but all of us—and to see how that has been realized in the lives of those who have gone before us. Any tendency we may have to see art as an immoral running after shadows and appearance instead of reality is shattered by Haydn’s piety in his calling to be a composer. Any tendency to see science as an unhealthy interest in the physical world rather than the spiritual is smashed by Blaise Pascal’s simultaneous scientific genius and religious zeal. Any tendency to see politics as an unavoidable descent into filthy compromise is splintered by William Wilberforce’s clear-sighted trust in God to govern his Parliamentary career. There have been Christians in every field who have used their God-given gifts to further God’s glory and to work for His coming Kingdom. We ought to remember what they have done, and in remembering them, be filled with new comfort and energy for the work which we have been given.