For many years before he married, Michael John Poirier traveled the country solo to sing in hospitals, bus stations, soup kitchens and homeless shelters.
Today when the singer, songwriter and storyteller hits the road he’s accompanied by his wife Mary and their three children. When their RV rolls into town, you can bet the local folks will be hearing about God’s mercy by way of parish missions, prayer concerts and Catholic devotions such as Eucharistic adoration.
Their efforts, through Holy Family Apostolate Corp. (holyfamilynow.com), have the blessing of their bishop in the Oklahoma City Archdiocese, Archbishop Eusebius Beltran. Before heading to Texas for the Fullness of Truth Conference in July, Poirier spoke with Register staff writer Joseph Pronechen about his music and the Holy Family Apostolate.
Tell me about taking your apostolate on the road.
From our home base near Guthrie, Okla., we’ve been on the road now for almost 10 months. It’s been quite an adventure traveling with three small children. I cannot be away from my family to speak with others about the importance of family.
To me, music is part of a calling; it’s not a career. I remember in 1963 traveling with my family from Mississippi to Texas for Christmas. As a 3-year-old, I began singing “Come Let Us Adore Him” when I became aware of what sounded like hundreds of voices singing along. I sang myself to sleep that night. Now 40 years later I travel state to state with my family offering songs of adoration.
How did the Holy Family Apostolate come about?
We got married in 1994, the Year of the Family, knowing our married life would be spent helping families. Our travels began in the following Year of the Eucharist. My wife Mary came up with the name.
Back then I didn’t even know what the word apostolate meant. But every family is called to the work of holiness. The crisis in vocations will be remedied as our families decide to live out the faith we claim to believe in.
During my years working in youth ministry, I noticed half the children’s parents were divorced. One girl was sad because she was given no discipline, another because her dad used drugs, and one boy’s parents actually ridiculed him for attending church.
It seemed like every week I’d patch the children’s flag of faith, but the following week some family crisis would tear a hole in it again. So instead of working exclusively with teens now, we invite the whole family to gather when we visit a parish.
We encourage married couples to remember their call to holy matrimony. It’s not just a word on some document. The difference between just being married and holy matrimony can mean life or death for a marriage.
The Eucharist appears paramount in your work. Were you always so devoted?
At 25, I was still only culturally Catholic; I didn’t believe in the Eucharist.
I went through the motions, which is not bad, like a child learning to walk. But eventually it should take you somewhere. In 1985, I began opening my heart to the possibility that Jesus was truly present in the Eucharist. This ongoing conversion changed everything.
Our goal is for people to pray the Mass so their hearts begin this process of conversion. If the music helps one person encounter the Lord, we have succeeded.
What’s your favorite song for converting hearts?
“Most Sacred Heart of Jesus.” It’s based on the prayer of St. Margaret Mary Alacoque. I put a melody to her prayer one night at a hotel in Winslow, Ariz., while Mary and I were offering a mission at St. Joseph Parish there. The newest version of this song is on the CD “Be With Us Today.”
I witness this simple prayer draws people deeper into the mystery of the Sacred Heart. That refrain, with spontaneous verses during adoration, sets an atmosphere of intimacy where miraculous conversions begin.
I love what I do. I get to witness souls learning to breathe again. Lack of intimacy turns the hearts of family members away from each other. Intimacy with the Sacred Heart fosters intimacy in my family. But I still fail and my heart can turn to stone, so my conversion must be ongoing. When my conversion stops, something inside dies.
So I’m not holy when I want to be. Even holy families fight in the car on the way to Mass. The devil wants to put us in bad moods — especially when we’re going to Mass. He doesn’t want us disposed to receive the graces that can make our family strong. By the time we get there, hearts can be hard as rocks. So we sing the Sacred Heart song on the way to Mass. It really helps.
You were recently diagnosed and treated for malignant melanoma in the eye. How has that experience affected your faith or your apostolate work?
One priest called after hearing about the cancer and said the most profound thing: “Michael, God is smiling on your family right now. He is singing over you and you must be still. Listen to what he is singing, and your response will be the songs you write.”
God brings good out of everything. The cancer is a cross and an opportunity. I can stay home with cancer or have cancer in an RV. We both said, “Let’s hit the road!”
These next months, the focus will be songs for those battling serious illness, loss, uncertainty. If I’m cancer-free in a year, that means this is the best time to write such prayers. We are also in touch with many kind people through our “Along the Way” blog (blog2.holyfamilynow.com). God really is smiling on us right now.
Staff writer Joseph Pronechen
writes from Trumbull, Connecticut.