Just some of Mike's thoughtful insights about how music can help get you into a joyful mood.

There's a verse from a song in "Fiddler on the Roof", that goes, "God would want us to be joyful even when our hearts lie panting on the floor. How much more should we be joyful when we have something to be joyful for!"

A couple weeks ago, I was scheduled to read at 8:30 Mass on Sunday. It was Gaudete Sunday.

(For those of you who are not "old school Catholics", Gaudete Sunday is the third Sunday of the Advent season. While the other three Sundays are primarily focused on preparing ourselves for the coming of Christ through increased prayer, reflection and good works, the readings on Gaudete Sunday - which is Latin for "rejoice" - offers much more joyful readings.)

The problem was that I was definitely not in a joyful mood.

The weather had been dreary and damp.

I was at the peak a long cold. My voice was raspy and nasally, and I was prone to hacking coughs.

Most importantly, it was only a few days after the tragedy of the Newton killings.

"How can I do "joyful"? I wondered as I practiced the readings?

Finally, and thankfully, about an hour before Mass, I remembered a couple stories that helped me find the inspiration I needed to give the readings the feeling of rejoicing.

One story was from my son Jeremy. As he told it, he had just pulled up to a stoplight when his 22 month-old daughter Grace called out from her seat in the back of the Jeep, "DANCE, DADDY. DANCE!"

So, having inherited the genes for silliness around children, Jer gave Gracie a short, enthusiastic, "happy daddy dance," much to Grace's delight. And also to the amusement of the passengers in the cars in the adjoining lanes!!!! He smiled at them and waved and everyone enjoyed the impromptu episode.

The other story was an episode from the 1995 movie "Babe" about a little pig that wants to be a sheepdog.

In one scene, The piglet - Babe - is listless and despondent. His owner, Farmer Hagett (Boss) tries to get Pig to drink. During this brilliant, brief but emotional scene, the farmer starts to sing to the pig while trying to get it to drink. But he puts down the bottle and launches into an impromptu jig. He steps and turns and spins and launches joyfully into the air.

All in an effort to let Pig know that he is loved.

The scene is a masterpiece of emotional display, and goes from despair to concern to joy to humor to quiet healing in the span of a few minutes, with few words spoken.

Hunting it up on YouTube and watching it again while I practiced the readings, I imagined the farmer as God, and we as the pig. And realized that God feels a deep concern - and joy - over each of us.

(I went so far as to imagine the Saints and Angels having a similar reaction of amused disbelief each time God celebrates over one of us.)

Whether my interpretation is accurate or not, it gave me the state of mind so that when I read the first reading from the prophet Zephaniah, I had no trouble feeling the sense of awe when I read "HE will rejoice over YOU with gladness....". And when I continued "....HE will sing joyfully because of YOU..." I repeated the sentence and pointed up to God and out over the congregation. I wanted to repeat it a third time and say, "HEY people, this is pretty amazing stuff". But instead, I just stuttered to the conclusion "...as one, as one, as one - SINGS at a FESTIVAL!!!!"

And when it came time for the second reading, from Paul to the Philippians , the joyfullness was still there: "REJOICE in the Lord always," I proclaimed loudly. Then I paused for almost 15 seconds, and proclaimed the next sentence: "I shall say it again: REJOICE!!!" then I paused and added another "rejoice!" on my own - this one whispered in awe. The reading continued beautifully with "...Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by prayer and petition, WITH THANKSGIVING, make your requests known to God......"

During this Advent season, I've come across some songs that have inspired me with a feeling of joyfulness: The Spanish flash mob presentation of Beethoven's "Ode to Joy". And Bach 's "Jesu, Joy of Man's Desiring" as presented on Amy Grant's Christmas CD. And this short scene from the movie "Babe".

Each one of these musical compositions helped me deal with stress and nurture a sense of joy in my heart. Made me want to move - conduct a symphony or dance a jig or hum a tune in my own poor attempt at harmony.

They made me want to imitate Jeremy, and just celebrate life and love and the meaning of God's love.