Olivia Newton-John and Sister Wendy
I first became a fan of
Olivia Newton-John when I was 10. That was 30 years ago in 1977 when I
first saw her perform on a television special and was mesmerized as a
child would be by such a beautiful singer with the loveliest voice. She
was then enjoying a blossoming musical career. The next year saw the
release of the hit movie Grease which made her a household name the
Her personality extends
to her music. Her penultimate CD Stronger Than Before (2005)
features affirming songs of inspiration, courage and hope for those facing
cancer or any difficult journey. It includes a rendition of the well-loved
“Prayer of Serenity” and a portion of its proceeds benefit cancer
Olivia’s latest CD, Grace
and Gratitude is her most spiritual music album thus far. It is an
ideal album for inter-religious prayer sessions as it combines music and
religious chants from Tibetan and Japanese Buddhism to Islamic and Hebrew
prayers to a Latin Benediction and a song based on a prayer of St.
Meeting Olivia in person
recently and fulfilling a lifelong dream to attend her concert was truly a
wondrous blessing and an experience of God’s abundant love for me. It
was also a celebration of the gift of a truly wonderful and phenomenal
woman with not only a voice of gold but a heart of gold as well. I can
only echo the lyrics to one of her songs, Stronger Than Before: “I
believe in miracles, I believe in dreams!” It was indeed a marvellous
gift of grace for me welcomed with much gratitude.
Born September 26, 1948,
in Cambridge, England, the youngest child of Professor Brin Newton-John
(Welsh) and Irene (German), daughter of Nobel Prize-winning physicist, Max
Born. Her family moved to Australia when she was five.
Winner of four Grammy
awards, nine American Music awards, numerous other music awards and
accolades for environmental, humanitarian, breast cancer awareness and
Presently, helping to
raise funds to build a cancer support centre in her hometown,
Melbourne, Australia. The centre will provide a comprehensive range of
services and facilities for cancer treatment, education, training and
Is an animal lover.
Her first ambition was to be a veterinarian. ·Considers her daughter
Chloe (21) as her greatest achievement.
accepting a gift from the late Pope John Paul II during a private audience
in the Vatican.
2000 you performed at the Jubilee Celebration for the Sick and Healthcare
Workers at the Vatican and had a private audience with Pope John Paul
II. What was that experience like?
It was an amazing
experience to meet the pope! I had been invited to fly to Rome to sing and
did not know what to expect and unfortunately on the night of the concert
the pope was sick and he wasn’t there but I got to sing – I’ve never
had an experience like that – it was in the Vatican hall but there were
people lying on stretchers with IVs in their arms and people in
wheelchairs all around the stage and it was a really emotional experience.
We were due to leave a
couple of days later and I said, “I can’t come to Rome and not meet
You have to arrange this
meeting somehow. Please!” I begged.
And so two days later we
got a call to say that he was feeling better and we were invited. I just
remembered being led through these beautiful halls with all those amazing
artwork and we were waiting in a room and I remember seeing this head and
the little white cap, that’s all I saw at first because he was stooped
– I saw his head come round the corner and it was just one of those
magical moments! My daughter was with me and he presented each of us with
a rosary and gave us a blessing and he was very sweet.
My daughter, who is half
Italian, half Polish (on her father’s side) and so she has Catholic
grandparents, burst into tears. She was a teenager at that time and didn’t
think she would be so impressed, but when she actually met him it was a
very emotional feeling, as it was for me. He was a very special man. It
was a very wonderful moment in my life. (Olivia sang “Somewhere Over the
Rainbow” at the Vatican, a track found in her 1989 album of lullabies,
“Warm and Tender”.)
survived so many battles. What helped you get through them all to end up
becoming “stronger than before”? What accounts for your resilience and
positive outlook in life that might perhaps inspire those who are in some
form of loss or tragedy right now?
I think I realize that we’re
all the same. When I got breast cancer, I never thought “Why me?” I
was never a victim because I thought, “Why not? It happens to so many
people and so why not me?” Maybe in the future there’ll be some reason
why I’ve gone through this.
I’m pretty grounded and
have very strong parents. My mother was a very strong woman who went
through a lot in her life and you pick up from your parents even though
they may not say anything to you. She was a great role model for me.
And I think I’m so
fortunate in so many ways that I see that as an opportunity for me to move
forward and help others if I go through these things. My life is a fish
I try to accept things in
life because I know they happen to everybody. I’m not being singled out.
This is what happens to people. It’s not what happens to you, it’s how
you deal with it because a lot of people deal with loss and pain and it’s
how you cope and get through it. And I have a child to set an example for
I have my private
moments. I am human and I get down like everybody does, but I think I have
a strong resilience and I love life and I feel very grateful. I think
gratitude maybe is the key to it. Being thankful for what you do have,
whether it is big or small, because it really boils down in the end to the
people you love, that’s what pulls you through. If you’re able to be
thankful for something, it helps you get through to the next day.
Could you put in
a nutshell what the title words Grace and Gratitude mean for you?
On Grace and Gratitude the chorus
is "Thank you for life, thank you for everything. I stand here in
grace and gratitude, and I thank you …" I think we are all
trying to be accepted and get to the same place of love and acceptance. We
need to respect each other's beliefs and not kill each other over them
How have you've evolved from singing pop
songs to more spiritual ones?
I think it's just the evolution of life,
getting older, and going through things and needing to find more meaning.
And because I'm writing more of my music, it's coming through my music.
Could you kindly leave a message of
inspiration to our CatholicNews readers?
I think everyone has to find that within
themselves, something that touches them and makes them feel good. In Asia
I find that you have beauty in simplicity – just one flower in the vase
or one candle. I find beauty is a wonderful inspiration and just gratitude
that you have that is a good way to start.
Other inspiring quotes from Olivia:
“If you are able to
be thankful for something, it helps you get through to the next day.”
Try and keep a positive attitude
because it makes a big difference in your life to see the good in
people and being accepting of others and try not to judge people too
harshly because everyone is trying to do their best in their journey.
I think if we share compassion to one another and forgiveness and
kindness to one another we can make it work.
All the obstacles I've been through
have led me to this place of total gratitude, of being alive and
healthy. I've gone through so much that has enriched my life.
Unfortunately you do not grow
without some pain in your life.
I say thank you all the time, if
you're feeling down, look around and say thank you. The sense of
gratitude makes you feel better about everything.
I rarely go to the anger place
because it doesn't prove or heal anything. Trying to make the best of
Nature is the most beautiful thing
we have. It's better than art because it's from the Creator.
GRACE AND GRATITUDE,
Olivia’s album of healing and inspirational music, is based on a variety
of faith traditions and resonates with the church’s advocacy on
interfaith prayer and dialogue for peace.
Interwoven between the
songs in the album are instrumental interludes and chants which correspond
to the Jewish Kabbalah or Tree of Life plus an Islamic prayer.
Olivia believes in
the power of music to heal the body, calm the mind, lift the spirit and
above all, connect us to our hearts.
The songs correspond to
the Hindu chakras (the seven energy centres of the body) which can be
linked to seven universal sacred truths and the Sacraments of the Church.
Each song explores the emotions that accompany different levels of
relationships – with family or community, with self, and with God.
Olivia wrote most of the
songs (with producer Amy Sky) as a healing process and she hopes others
too will be helped to obtain spiritual balance, and physical and emotional
healing through the album.
“I hope these songs
will help you to take time out of your busy life for relaxation or
meditation,” Olivia states in the album sleeve. “I believe that all
human beings are connected, like pearls on a chain. We have in common the
search for peace, love and compassion. It is my hope that we can accept
and respect each other’s (faith) traditions, no matter what our personal
beliefs. This is my intention – to make music that helps to heal the
heart and connect us to each other. On my own journey, I have been helped
most by an attitude of appreciation. Life, with all its ups and downs, is
a gift of grace that I accept with gratitude.”
The CD offers seamless,
uninterrupted music for about an hour and is an ideal accompaniment to
meditation, reflection and prayer (or even a relaxing massage). With
Tibetan and Japanese shinobue flutes and Irish whistles among conventional
stringed instruments to complement Olivia’s exquisite voice, the tracks
provide beautiful and relaxing music to calm one’s spirit, heal one’s
emotions and ease one’s physical weariness. Peace and tranquillity exude
from the melodious album.
Having obtained inner
peace from the music, the concluding track, based on a beloved prayer of
St. Francis, inspires one to pray to be an Instrument of Peace.
to the tracks
application to the songs with their corresponding Universal Spiritual
Truth and Church Sacrament are shown below.
• Pearls On a Chain:
All is One – Baptism – “Because there is one bread, we who are many
are one body.” (1 Cor 10:17)
• To be Wanted: Honour
One Another – Communion/Eucharist – “Love one another.” (Jn 13:34)
• Learn to Love
Yourself: Honour Oneself – Reconciliation – “Love your neighbour as
yourself.” (Mk 12:31)
• Grace and Gratitude:
Honour Oneself – Reconciliation - “Give thanks to God the Father at
all times and for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (Eph
• Love is Letting Go of
Fear: Love is Divine Power – Matrimony – “Fear not, I am with you.”
(Is 43:5); “Courage. It is I. Do not be afraid.” (Mt 14:27); “Do not
be afraid, only have faith.” (Mk 5:36)
• Gaté Gaté: Love is
Divine Power – (a Buddhist chant to obtain enlightenment)
• Let Go Let God:
Surrender Personal Will to Divine Will – Confession – “Let your will
be done, not mine.” (Lk 22:42)
• I will Lift Up My
Eyes: Seek Only the Truth – Holy Orders – “You will know the truth
and the truth will set you free.” (Jn 8:32); “I am the Truth.” (Jn
• The Power of Now:
Live in the Present Moment – Extreme Unction / Anointing of the Sick –
“Do not worry about tomorrow, tomorrow will take care of itself. Each
day has enough trouble of its own.” (Mt 6:32)
• Instrument of Peace:
It is based on the beloved prayer of St. Francis – “Peace I leave with
you; my peace I give to you.” (Jn 14:27)
Reprinted with permission
Singapore Catholic News