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Olivia Newton-John

By Sister Wendy Ooi

Olivia Newton-John and Sister Wendy

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 world over.

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 research.

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. Francis.

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.

Bits of Olivia

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.

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Winner of four Grammy awards, nine American Music awards, numerous other music awards and accolades for environmental, humanitarian, breast cancer awareness and charity works.

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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 research.

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Is an animal lover. Her first ambition was to be a veterinarian. ·Considers her daughter Chloe (21) as her greatest achievement.

Pope John Paul II gives Olivia Newton-John a blessed rosary.

Olivia Newton-John accepting a gift from the late Pope John Paul II during a private audience in the Vatican.

Sister Wendy interviews
 Olivia Newton-John

In 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 the pope!

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”.)

You’ve 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 bowl.

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 also.

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 basically.

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.”

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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.

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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.

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Unfortunately you do not grow without some pain in your life.

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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.

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I rarely go to the anger place because it doesn't prove or heal anything. Trying to make the best of everything.

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Nature is the most beautiful thing we have. It's better than art because it's from the Creator.

Olivia Newton-John  CD Grace and Gratitude

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.

Guide to the tracks

Suggested biblical 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 5:20)

• 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 14:6)

• 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

 

 

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