Melvin Alvarado Flores grew up in a musical household in Honduras. He wrote ballads from an early age, and was 10 when his father began to bring him to their church’s choir practices to accompany the group with his guitar.
“Growing up there were always instruments around,” he said. “Playing music was a family thing.”
At one point, Alvardo Flores thought music would be his American dream. When a friend recruited him for a band in the United States, he made the journey north while in his mid-20s. Though the group never worked out, music and faith continue to give his life meaning.
Alvardo Flores is a parishioner of St. Joseph in Cockeysville, where over the last decade he has directed one of its choirs, serving his faith community with the talents his family helped him forge.
“The first Mass I went to there, they gave me a guitar,” Alvarado Flores said.
Pope Francis’ apostolic letter and announcement of the Year of St. Joseph inspired Alvarado Flores, who wanted to create a song to venerate a saint for whom he holds special admiration.
“Whenever I see the image of St. Joseph, I feel at peace,” Alvardo Flores said. “Thinking about his life with the Blessed Virgin, with Jesus, that from the beginning he said yes to God’s plan – it has always made me reflect and inspires me greatly.”
The inspiration has taken him to a full-band composition, a professional recording, even a video. Alongside members of Alma Joven (Young Spirit), his parish’s Spanish-language choir, Alvarado Flores put to music a “Prayer to St. Joseph” – in Spanish “Oración a San José” – using Pope Francis’ apostolic letter from last December.
Alvarado Flores hopes the song, recorded and engineered by producer Ricardo Vela, can help others create more of a prayerful relationship with the patron of the Universal Church.
“He’s (Alvarado Flores) a dedicated person. He does the best he can to use his talents to serve the community,” said Father John Martinez, associate pastor of St. Joseph, who said that the Alma Joven choir does more than just play music at St. Joseph. “Alma Joven’s impact is amazing – they see themselves as apostles doing a mission they feel called to.”
Father Martinez believes the musicians have helped foster a growing sense of connectivity between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking parishioners in the diverse parish, where Monsignor Richard Hilgartner is pastor.
At Palm Sunday Masses, Alma Joven worked in tandem with the parish’s other choirs to provide both music and spoken narration in English and Spanish.
Pope Francis called special attention to St. Joseph’s “creative courage,” referring to him as a “support and guide in times of trouble.” For Father Martinez, these words take on a special emphasis amidst the COVID-19 crisis.
“We all have collectively now experienced planning something for how you want it to go in your life, and then have it all be changed due to the pandemic, and asking the question of how to respond as a person of faith,” Father Martinez said. “St. Joseph was a quiet man, but a man of action.”
Finding inspiration in that action has been easy for Alvarado Flores, and he hopes that Pope Francis’ words can strike the same chord within others through his group’s new song.
And guide us on this journey of life;
Give us grace, compassion, and fortitude.
“The song isn’t mine, it does not belong to me or to our choir – it’s for anyone who hears it, for St. Joseph,” Alvarado Flores said.
For more information about the Year of St. Joseph in the Archdiocese of Baltimore, click here.
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