Remembering Mike Stanley ~ A Legacy of Music and Faith

This beautiful obituary was featured in the 2014 Birmingham Diocesan Lourdes Pilgrimage booklets. On the first anniversary of his homegoing, we remember Mike with much love and deep gratitidue.

Many of us have fond memories of Mike going as far back to his days with Drowsy Maggie; his time at the Diocesan Youth Centre, Soli House; Charismatic Renewal gatherings; and on stage with his wife, Yvonne in Shenanigans; and many other settings besides.

It was in 1998 that Mike joined our pilgrimage to Lourdes travelling on the overnight Train Section armed with guitar and tin whistle. This was a return visit having been taken there as a youngster by his grandfather, Joe Stanley KSG who served the pilgrimage for many years, including a term as Chief Brancardier resplendent with eye patch and leather bretelles!

Mike’s gifts of music and voice transformed not only the liturgy but also our social scene in Lourdes. Wherever he was – requests were made for songs both religious and secular. As exhausting as it was – he never disappointed.

Jo Boyce, Mike’s partner in CJM, joined her fellow troubadour to establish what was to become the spiritual heart of our pilgrimage experience: prayerful and creative Music and Liturgy.

The early days in Lourdes

In their early days, Mike and Jo journeyed by train, and even then there was little respite with requests for prayers and songs from the Ambulance Cars to be relayed on the train’s P.A. System. Some may recall ‘Pilgrim Radio’ with its jingle set to the tune of Ave Maria? Songs, sketches and prayers were played and recited to entertain and comfort pilgrims as we journeyed in the darkness.

Boyce & Stanley, already well known across the dioceses and schools in the U.K., soon became familiar artistes in Lourdes engaging many passing pilgrims, regardless of language, to stop and listen at a Mass or Concert.

At the time of Mike joining our Music & Liturgy planning team, the Bishop of Lourdes introduced the idea of using a particular pastoral theme for each year to nourish pilgrims visiting the Shrine. This more than suited Mike’s approach to Liturgy (which is not simply a matter of choosing our favourite hymns!). His starting point was always a prayerful consideration of the scriptural texts and a careful reflection of how, through word and music, this would help illuminate in each one of us a greater awareness of the constant presence of God’s Spirit of Grace in all that we encounter – embracing both our joys and sorrows.

This interaction between life and faith resulted in an abundance of songs written by Mike and Jo, and, more recently, hymns and Mass settings composed by Mike and Andy Ross. A number of these were aimed specifically for our pilgrimage creating many of what we have come to call ‘Lourdes Moments’.

Mike’s prolific song writing

Following his diagnosis with cancer Mike’s song writing became prolific and more poignant. One song in particular: ‘Sing over us’ expressed his connection with sick pilgrims seeking healing and comfort which he dedicated to the sick pilgrims on our pilgrimage. This wasn’t written out of despair but from a firm belief in the Lord’s mercy…. ‘Do not be afraid’ A recognition of God’s Grace in all things!

 

Although Mike wasn’t well enough to join us in Lourdes for the last three years, he continued to help prepare the liturgy. This year is no exception as much of the liturgy and music which will guide us this week bears his imprint.

Rememberng Mike Stanley - one year one
Endless songs of Gladness ~ Psalm 5:11

A more precious imprint this year is the presence of Mike’s wife, Yvonne, and the fourth generation of Stanleys in Lourdes, their sons: Adam, Joseph and Luke, with of course granddad Tony, Mike’s dad.

We are delighted that they have allowed us to launch Mike’s latest CD, ‘Grace’ during the pilgrimage.

During an interview in 1993 Mike mused about what his epitaph might read, and he settled for: ‘He communicated the love of God and touched people’s hearts.’

Well Mike, you’ve exceeded yourself yet again!

With love, joy and endless songs of gladness!

We’d love to hear about your own precious memories of Mike and his music – please comment below

One thought on “Remembering Mike Stanley ~ A Legacy of Music and Faith

  1. We miss Mike every day. Our thoughts and love are with Yvonne and the boys at this time.

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