Joseph Pronechen is staff writer with the National Catholic Register since 2005. His articles have appeared in a number of national publications including Columbia magazine, Soul, Faith and Family, Catholic Digest, and Marian Helper. His religion features have also appeared in Fairfield County Catholic and in one of Connecticut’s largest news dailies. He holds an MS degree and formerly taught English and courses in film study that he developed at a Catholic high school in Connecticut. Joseph and his wife Mary reside on the East Coast.
A new song called The Story of My Soul, beautifully melodic, came out recently in honor of Mother Angelica. It joins the ways she is being honored by those whose lives she has touch and changed.
The Story of My Soul by Catholic singer/songwriter Russ Rentler captures the amazing “catches” Mother made among the countless number of channel surfers who happened on her show in a divinely-inspired moment.
Couldn't sleep last night,
Troubles — they were on my mind
Turned on the TV
Channel surfin' for a dream.
The singer finds “an angel dressed in brown” who, he says, “turned my whole world upside down.”
And how did she do that? In the Chorus he lets us in on the major way:
And everything she said
Went right through my heart and head
Every word she spoke told the story of my soul.
But like so many others Mother caught this way, the channel surfer tells us it “wasn't love at first sight” but somehow knew he had “to try to let her in my heart…”
The Personal Touch
“Without Mother starting EWTN, I probably wouldn't be telling this to you now,” Rentler revealed.
“EWTN was instrumental in my return to the faith,” he explained, “particularly seeing Protestants return to the faith.” His wife Deborah would tune into the station, but, Rentler pointed out, “I wouldn't like it — but would sit in the other room listening, because I was a stubborn, prideful person who didn't want her to know I was being drawn in.”
But listen he did. Listen both did. “I feel like EWTN let me see and hear something I didn't want to believe — evangelical Protestants who loved Jesus just like me were being drawn to the Church. It had always been the other way around, so I thought!”
Listening led to the road many others have taken too. After over 30 years of evangelical Protestantism, Russ and Deborah came back to the faith and had the opportunity to tell their story of reversion to the faith to millions on The Journey Home with Marcus Grodi. Rentler was the subject of a Register story.
“Mother was no longer there in 2007,” Rentler added, “but her spirit and her ‘Mark’ was deeply imbued throughout.”
The Latest Tribute
Russ Rentler is not only a Catholic singer/songwriter focusing on faith and family, but he’s expert on a large variety of regular acoustic instruments plus unusual ones like the hammer and mountain dulcimer, fiddle, ukulele, guitar, and mandolin — and he’s also a geriatrics physician in eastern Pennsylvania.
And after he and Deborah were received into the Church in April 2004, they also started sharing their faith on their website Crossed the Tiber (CrosseedTheTiber.com).
In 2005, when Pope Benedict XVI retired from the papacy, Rentler wrote a song for him in tribute called Room of Tears. Now here he was again writing a song for another major Catholic figure. But it didn’t happen overnight.
“About two years ago it was her [Mother Angelica’s] birthday, and I wanted to write a song as a tribute. I thought of how many stories I heard whose lives were changed upon hearing this little nun ‘dressed in brown,’” he explained.
“The song started as that but my wife suggested that I somehow bring Saint Therese into it as we are both devoted to her — hence, [the lyric] from heaven she moved…I had since heard that Therese was a definite influence in Mother’s journey of faith, so the song seemed to fit perfectly. I wrote and performed it on ukulele because I'm convinced if St. Theresa of Lisieux played an instrument, it would be a humble, simple uke.”
Rentler adds: “Now it will be Mother Angelica who moved us from heaven and continues to shower us with love and prayers!”
Hopes for the song
What are his hopes for this new song?
“I hope others will discover the richness of our Catholic faith,” Rentler emphasized. “I realize that the small things we do can have major impact on others and their path to heaven.”
It was one of the many “small” things he heard that stuck with him. He shared, “Recently a quote Mother said about faith has really resonated with me: ‘Faith is one foot in the air, the other on the ground, and a queasy feeling in the stomach.’ I loved that. It’s so true in so many ways.”
Rentler will include The Story of My Soul in his next album which he hopes will be coming out this summer.