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BY Matthew Warner
Jackie Francois' latest album hit #3 on the Christian iTunes charts last week. A significant and (unfortunately) rare accomplishment for a Catholic artist.
You can support her, too, by picking it up (here) and getting some great, spiritually inspiring tunes in the process!
Jackie is not only a great, Catholic musician, but she's an entertaining speaker with a heart for helping young people experience God's Love. She was nice enough to give me a quick interview (with some great answers):
MW: Why'd you create your latest album, Divine Comedy? What's the meaning and purpose behind it?
JF: The Divine Comedy Album is a mix of worship, radio, and liturgical/hymn-like songs. Divine Comedy is named for the fact that this life is full of ups and downs. Just as Dante goes through Hell, Purgatory, and Heaven in his classic book, I realized that in this life we go through ebbs and flows of pain, suffering and joy. Ultimately, though, just as every Shakespearean comedy ends with a wedding, this life is a Divine Comedy because it ends with the eternal wedding feast in Heaven, where Jesus Christ is the Bridegroom and we, the Church, are the Bride. Through it all, God calls us and woos us into this union with Him here on this Earth, to know His love that satisfies!
MW: You do a lot of work as both a speaker and a musician. Do you consider yourself one more than the other? How do you find the mixing of the two?
JF: When I was in college, I always wondered what I would do for a living. I knew I loved youth ministry, but I also loved being part of music ministry. When God called me to be a full-time traveling worship leader and speaker, it finally made sense. I felt like I was using my full potential, giving all my gifts for His glory. People ask which I would rather do--lead worship or speak--but the truth is, I love doing both. I love that I can lead a talk and interweave music within it and lead people in prayer with music at the beginning or end. Sometimes I would rather give a talk first, since I feel like--especially with confirmation students--you can open their hearts up a lot by using humor and then proclaiming the Gospel, providing a wonderful openness to authentic prayer.
MW: Taking our faith seriously doesn't mean we can't have a sense of humor. You're a funny gal. How important is comedy to evangelization?
JF: Humor is so important! People in this world think that if you are passionately Catholic you lack all passion, humor, and joy. When I meet people on planes (which is all the time, since I travel every week), they are absolutely shocked that I am Catholic, because I have a huge smile on my face (almost all the time) and crack jokes. Our hearts, which can be guarded and afraid, are put at ease with humor. We feel more open to a person when they give us joy and laughter, and ultimately we are led to God, because He is the source of joy. One of my favorite quotes is from Blessed Mother Teresa who said, "Joy is the net of love by which we catch souls." People won't always remember what you say, but they'll remember your presence, and people are drawn to those with joy. Like St. Teresa of Avila said, "I am more afraid of one unhappy sister than a crowd of evil spirits... What would happen if we hid what little sense of humor we had? Let each of us humbly use this to cheer others." I try to use humor because 1. I am a big goofball, and 2. it opens up people to the message of the Gospel. St. Katharine Drexel said, "We must attract them by joy in order to lead them to its source, the Heart of Christ." Amen!
MW: If I gave you an elephant, what would you name him and could I trust you to take good care of him?
JF: I would name him George, and you definitely wouldn't want him to be in my care. I've had goldfish keel over and die one day in and plants that are supposed to last in desertous climates wilt before me. Poor George would be left alone 21-25 days of the month (because he most definitely exceeds my 70-pound airline baggage limit), and I'm sure I'd come home to a few half-eaten guitars. George deserves better. I can admit that. (And admitting it is the first step, right?)
MW: What's the most worn out record on your iPod?
JF: Ooh, that's difficult! I would say it's between Christian artists Audrey Assad and Switchfoot, and secular artists Coldplay and Adele. (Don't worry, I can count, but I have difficultly narrowing!)
MW: You are a closet ______ fan.
JF: Pop music. Oh man, that's embarrassing. My high school days were filled with Backstreet Boys, 'NSync, Britney, Christina, Hanson and now I definitely can't say I don't have a few Justin Bieber, Selena Gomez, and One Direction tunes on my iPod. So sue me :)
MW: In each moment of your life, how do you know if you're doing what God wants you to be doing?
JF: So, I've heard that this is not the same for everyone, but God is very clear with me when He wants me to do something. I've had a few times in my life when God shouted at me through anxiety in the pit of my stomach. I really believe that we are supposed to experience peace and joy when we're in the right vocation, job, relationship, etc. Of course there are struggles, times of sacrifice, and trials, but peace and joy are fruits of the Spirit that are extremely apparent when doing God's will. When i knew I had to take that leap from being a youth minister to a full-time traveling musician/speaker, I had this unsettledness that made me know I was supposed to have peace and joy in what He made me to do. With nothing ahead of me, I quit my job, and started the ministry I am in now. God, surely, provided, and I have had so much peace and joy in this ministry! I felt the same way when a boyfriend of mine was a about to propose. I had extreme anxiety in my belly, knowing for some reason that this guy was not "the One." Turns out, he was called to the Seminary. So, you're welcome, Church! Just kidding--it was all God's idea.
You can find out more about what Jackie's up to on her newly (and nicely!) designed website (and follow her via email, Twitter, Instagram and more there). Thanks, Jackie!
(Also be sure to read her "Single Life" column in the current issue of the Register.)
I'll leave you with a video of her speaking and performing on Life on the Rock (skip to about the 9:00 minute mark).