National Catholic Register

Arts & Entertainment

Music With a Message

Catholic Musicians Are Ablaze With the Good News

BY Celeste Behe

May 22-June 4, 2011 Issue | Posted 5/13/11 at 12:54 PM

 

“My life is a witness of what God can do when we say ‘Yes’ to him,” says Lee Roessler. “He is amazing!”

The Lee Roessler Band’s song “There He Was” was a winner in the “2009 Best of New Catholic Music” contest sponsored by the Rocking Romans (RockingRomans.com), a website dedicated to promoting and distributing Catholic music from around the world. The following year, Roessler, as a solo artist, released the album Let Love, which was chosen by Rocking Romans as one of the year’s best.

Since then, Roessler’s energetic rock/pop music has received nationwide radio play, and his single “You Know (I Need You)” is soon to be accompanied by a music video.

Roessler’s tattoo represents his way of life.

“It says: ‘Your will, o Lord; nothing more, nothing less, nothing else,’” Roessler explains. “When I heard this quote from St. Ignatius, it spoke to me. At the time, I was living by my own will, and it left me empty. I was ready to live for Someone greater than myself.”

That Someone opened doors of opportunity for Roessler, who, besides witnessing to youth through his music, gives inspirational talks on God’s unconditional love. “The lyrics that come out of me are from the Holy Spirit and draw young people closer to Christ. The way I see it, God is the fire, and he’s using me to create a spark.”

Singer/songwriter Joia Farmer likes to tell about the oddly timed spark that gave rise to “Christ Reigns,” the 2009 National Catholic Youth Conference (NCYC) theme. She explains, “We were visiting some friends in Louisiana and, literally, the chorus came to me in the shower. I jumped out and wrote most of ‘Christ Reigns’ then and there. The chorus was something I could foresee 20,000 teens singing at once, and I couldn’t wait to hear that praise with so many voices.”  

Farmer, a self-described “wife, mama and rocker-evangelist,” had performed at five NCYC events over the years before her song was selected for the 2009 conference, which was held in Kansas City, Mo. She also had the opportunity to attend World Youth Day in Toronto as a staff member with the Archdiocese of Denver’s Youth and Young Adult Office.

“It was Pope John Paul II’s last WYD,” observes Farmer. “To this convert — and a fairly new one at that — the most incredible experience was being in the presence of Blessed John Paul II. It brought tears to my eyes and a glimpse of what awaits us in the next life.”  

Farmer was also impressed by the camaraderie between the conference performers: “It amazed me to see the support Catholic musicians offer their fellow musicians. There is so much diversity in Catholic music, yet so much unity.”

Diversity within the field has produced a number of new artists with different approaches to spreading the Gospel. Catholic hip-hop artist paradox is one who believes in the power of ecumenism.

“Despite being a practicing Catholic teaching at a Catholic institution,” says paradox, “I’ve geared my music toward a wider, more ‘generically’ Christian audience. I feel it’s important to introduce people to the good news of Jesus Christ through my music before engaging in Catholic apologetics.”

A widely reviewed rapper known for his “witty wordplay and braggadocio punch lines,” paradox will release his new album, On the Mend, this summer. The father of a growing family, he is a high-school theology teacher who understands teens’ “real yearning for meaning and longing for a set of beliefs.” Paradox stresses that the importance of music in conveying truth to teens cannot be underestimated: “One of the first places toward which these young people would gravitate for answers is music. That’s where we, as Catholic musicians, can lead them to the truth manifest in the person of Jesus Christ.”

Conveying truths that are specifically Catholic is the mission of The Thirsting, an alternative/rap/rock band headed by Daniel Oberreuter. Through songs like “In This Sacrament” and “Companions of the Lamb,” the band aims to teach listeners the points of the faith.

“Our song lyrics are unabashedly Catholic,” says Oberreuter, adding that the band’s goal is to “bring Catholicism right to average people and give them everything we have to give them for Jesus.” 

The Thirsting has several projects in the works, including an album called Universal Youth, several music videos, and a recording of the Rosary set to music, with the band members reciting the prayers.

In its live performances, The Thirsting puts on a high-powered show that rivals that of most secular bands. They derive their energy, says Oberreuter, from “Jesus in the Eucharist, all the saints, and the blessings of the Holy Spirit.”

Because Catholics are rooted in the faith, Oberreuter asserts, “they should be creating the greatest music in the world.”

Indeed, creating great music with the aim of winning souls for Christ is what Catholic contemporary music is all about. Mainstream Christian music now boasts Catholic artists like Matt Maher and Audrey Assad. And others are always adding to the mix.

“I am very excited about Catholic music, which continues to grow and to minister to people everywhere,” says Jim Logue, host of the weekly 60-minute podcast The Catholic Music Express (CatholicMusicExpress.com) and editor of Grapevine (GVOnline.net). “There are new artists and bands coming on the scene all the time. Lee Roessler, Joia Farmer, paradox and The Thirsting are just a few of the rising artists who are serving the Church through their music.”

Lee Roessler is convinced of the power of Catholic contemporary music to change hearts. “Music that invites people to find hope and love is the music that will speak to the heart,” he says.

Joia Farmer agrees: “Love is a verb, not a feeling.”

Adds Daniel Oberreuter, “I pray that Catholic music stays rooted in Christ so that we can achieve our goals: to be an avenue to bring souls home to heaven; to push the envelope; to take Catholic music where it has never gone before.” 

Celeste Behe writes from Bethlehem, Pennsylvania.