Not so long ago, Paul Savageau was earning extra cash playing folk-rock cover songs at Massachusetts nightclubs.
Then he “got real with God.” Shortly after, he began playing at Sunday Mass, leading youth choirs and folk groups—and writing original tunes of Catholic devotion, praise and worship. He released his first CD, Giving My Heart to You, last June. Now he's on sabbatical from his work as a finance manager in order to devote himself full time to promoting the Gospel in word and song. He described for Register correspondent Joseph Pronechen the ways he draws insights from his marriage in order to tell the world about Christ's love for his bride, the Church.
What prompted you to turn to Christian music?
I wrote “Let Me Share Your Joy” for my own wedding Mass. I sang it at my wedding for my wife, Diane. That was the first song I ever wrote that was Christian in nature. Shortly after, Father Dan Sheehan prompted me to get active in the music ministry. Maybe this song was the genesis for it. It's an easy-listening song; it's sacramental and liturgical. I have sung it on numerous occasions for weddings.
You seem to find marriage a rich mine for songs.
The sacrament of marriage mirrors God's love for the Church. The Church is Jesus' spouse. There's this great analogy between Christ and the Church and a man and a woman. He chose to make the union sacred and holy. But today's society doesn't put enough emphasis on the sacramental side of marital union. I thought putting some of my marriage songs on the CD would give people a place to go for inspiration if they were getting married or if they were at a point in their marriage where they're renewing their commitment. They can enjoy the music while being reminded that marriage is a blessed and holy union.
A number of your songs could be read as love songs to a spouse or as love songs to Christ.
The TITLE song, “Giving My Heart to You,” speaks of a couple's love for one another. I have sung it at weddings. I put a band sound to it because a young couple can use it in church, then the song could extend the Christian character from the church to the reception, where the couple could use it as their first dance. I wanted to write music people could be joyful about.
I wrote “Jesus Hear Our Prayer” for the marriage of my wife's niece. As we were getting in the van for the five-hour ride to the wedding, my wife asked if I had written a song for her. I hadn't—so I spent the trip writing this one. Only when I got to the studio to record it did I decide to make it a duet; the bride and groom talk back and forth about their commitment to one another.
Does your interest in encouraging strong marriages extend beyond music?
Yes. I got involved as a leader in pre-Cana, the Catholic marriage-preparation program, too. The challenging questions really make couples communicate. Most are young, there's infatuation going on and problems that may show up later on are put aside. What they haven't spoken about are the sacramental aspects of marriage.
You mentioned earlier that devotion to the Divine Mercy is a big part of your life. How so?
It's a big part of my life and my music, too. That's why I closed my CD with the song “Mercy O God.” It's a contemplative song based on Psalm 51.
I began to read St. Faustina's diary in the late 1980s. I found it a very inspiring work by a true mystic of the Church. I was deeply moved by its pointed references to the difference between Christ's justice and his mercy, and how it says that we're better off leaning on his mercy than waiting for his justice.
Also, rather than have my picture on the CD cover, I decided to use two different interpretations of the prophecy of Merciful Light that Jesus gave to St. Faustina. I thought this image would draw people closer to God. My wife painted the water-color of one of the images, the one showing the cross, the light and the earth. A priest at my parish painted the other. In both, the cross and the light envelop the earth and show God's mercy for mankind. I thought this song is a nice, indirect way to proclaim God's mercy.
Why did you include a song about the Eucharist, “The Elevation,” in what is largely a collection of songs about marriage?
In a way the sacrament of marriage really leads you to communal life with Jesus. The connection is easy to see when you contemplate the fact that Jesus is the spouse of the Church. And I've always had a special love for and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament. I've never, ever had a doubt in my mind that the Eucharist is the true body and blood, soul and divinity of Jesus Christ. I believe my faith in the real presence is a gift God has given me: “How kind is God to give this Gift/In the humble form of bread,/and the wine transformed reminds our hearts/of how Our Savior bled.”
What do you hope to achieve as a Catholic singer-songwriter?
What better thing to convey than the Gospel message of hope? I hope God will use me as an instrument to convey his message and my CD can be one of the instruments he will use to lead people to his mercy. I hope my music inspires people to come back to Jesus, but of course I leave it up to God's will. The fruit of my labor is in his hands.