Catholic musician Chris Padgett might be described with many words. Lazy is not one of them. At 37, he is a successful singer and songwriter (both solo and with a band he helped to found), a sought-after speaker at diocesan events around the country, a published author and a passionate scholar. Having received a master’s degree in theology earlier this year from Franciscan University of Steubenville in Ohio, Padgett is now studying for a doctorate at the International Marian Research Institute in Dayton, Ohio.
He and his wife Linda are the co-authors of Not Ready for Marriage, Not Ready for Sex: One Couple’s Return to Chastity (Servant, 2006). They are also the parents of eight children. Chris, a convert from evangelical Protestantism, spoke from his Steubenville home with Register correspondent Barry Michaels.
Your new CD, “Impact,” was released in June. Tell us about it.
Well, I do a lot of traveling around the country, doing keynotes at various Catholic events, and I always include music in these. At the end of a keynote, I usually do a sort of prayer service, a guided meditation, which includes a lot of reflective and prayerful music. So I’m not just talking about spirituality and religion, but providing an opportunity for people to apply what I’m talking about. This CD includes a lot of that music. So it’s strongly worship-oriented, though there are some rock songs on it, too.
You’re a man of many talents and interests. Why is music such an important part of your work?
Sometimes the only way I can say something that’s inside me is through music. It’s part of who I am, part of my spirituality. Also, I want to be a very faithful steward of what God has given me. I can write songs. Making music is a challenging and amazing experience. It’s almost like childbirth, when you’re suddenly seeing a new face in the house after nine months. You’re making something out of nothing. It’s a bit miraculous, in a way.
How did you get started in performing contemporary Catholic music?
Around 1996, I’d been writing a lot of songs on my own, just for me. I’d play for friends who came over sometimes. Then I did a couple of church events, which went really well, and I thought, “Gosh, this is something I’m supposed to do.” I met a couple of guys and we started writing music together, and Scarecrow and Tinmen was born. We got some national exposure and got picked up on some radio stations.
On Easter of 1999, I became Catholic. I think it was a bit frightening to the Christian music-industry folks. They didn’t know what to do with my Catholicism. It was after that that I got into the keynote work and the solo music.
Did becoming Catholic affect your music?
It affected it a lot. I write about what I feel and think. So of course my faith experience is reflected in my music. My song “Golden” is about the Eucharist. “My Lord and My God” is a song written from Mary’s perspective.
Also, the Catholic faith is a very tangible and incarnated experience. It sees God in ordinary things and experiences. That sacramental reality enables me to find even more beauty in the realities of life. I can go a little beyond the “Jesus loves you” stuff.
How would you summarize the process by which you became Catholic?
It was the authority of the Catholic Church. I looked and thought, “There are tens of thousands of denominations, all claiming to be right. The Holy Spirit isn’t schizophrenic. There’s Jesus’ prayer for unity, “that they all may be one.” And he’s God; if any prayer is going to be answered, it’s that one.
God gave us the Church in answer to that prayer. It’s kind of a miracle I became Catholic, because I came from a somewhat anti-Catholic background. Some of my family members were scandalized by my becoming Catholic.
You’ve been doing some serious academic work recently, too. Why?
Yeah, the doctorate is a pontifical degree called a doctorate in sacred theology, or STD. I think that’s hysterical. My wife and I wrote a book about chastity and soon I’m going to have an STD at the end of my name!
I learn and grow great in an academic environment. For example, I’ve experienced a huge personal transformation by studying Our Lady from a theological perspective. If she’s good enough for Jesus, she’s definitely good enough for me.
I want to spend my life trying to love her like Jesus did. Plus, I’m a family guy and I want to support my family. As I get older, it’s good to know that teaching will be an option for me.
Tell us about that book that you and your wife wrote.
My wife and I met in high school. We fell in love. We struggled with purity for about a year. We found ourselves desperately wanting to start over with God and each other. And so we did that. We made a change. Midway through my freshman year of college, we went from promiscuity to purity.
So this book is not the typical chastity message that says, “I screwed up, so don’t you do it.” We made mistakes, but we also successfully lived in the way we’re suggesting that others do.
We’re saying the message of purity is a beautiful, do-able thing. We’re all called to be saints. That’s a hard road sometimes, but a worthy endeavor.
Barry Michaels writes from
North Syracuse, New York.