St. John Paul II Inspires Young Musicians
Artists Share Gifts Through Song
Editor's Note: The photo information has been updated to reflect the online photo, which is different from the press-version identification.
The “John Paul II” generation of artists and musicians continue to respond to the saint’s 1999 “Letter to Artists,” in which he called them to be “passionately dedicated to the search for new epiphanies of beauty … to share their creative work and offer their gifts to the world.”
“In his letter, he explains the importance of beauty in evangelization. I want to use my music as a way to help heal and inspire the culture to live for the things that last,” said folk singer-songwriter Marie Miller (MarieMillerMusic.com).
Miller, 25 (seen at right in online photo), who comes from “a very big and artistic Catholic family” in the Shenandoah Valley of Virginia, was introduced to folk and bluegrass music at a young age by her father; she plays the mandolin and guitar.
She incorporates some of this traditional music into her own songwriting, which is now attracting a diverse audience of young and old, Christian and non-Christian fans.
Her 2013 album, You’re Not Alone, is a collection of songs written about “anything from unrequited love and Plato’s Republic to my idea of the perfect guy’s height,” she said.
Two of the songs were aired on pop and Christian radio, and both music videos were featured on CMT and VH1 music TV.
The single You’re Not Alone was written for a friend who was going through a tough time and reached No. 1 on Christian radio. The song 6’2 was featured on ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
She is currently touring and writing songs for her next studio project.
“I have learned in my musical journey the beauty of God’s plan and purpose in my life,” she said. “Delayed flights have opened up conversations with strangers, one small gig led to a huge opportunity, and a song written in my living room helped someone believe in God again. God is the great artist, and we are his little paintbrushes.”
Further south, married musical duo Greg and Lizzy Boudreaux (shown at left in online photo, GregandLizzy.com) looked inward at the dynamics of human relationships and love in their first album, To the Dust. Their latest album, Now That I Have Loved, released on Feb. 23, is an outward look at how the decision by two people to love each other affects the world.
Their music is what they call “musical gumbo,” inspired by jazz, folk and the rich musical melting pot of New Orleans, where they grew up.
Espousing John Paul II’s theology of the body is a particular mission they feel called to in their music, which they perform frequently on college campuses.
“It’s safe to say our music wouldn’t exist without the influence and inspiration of St. John Paul II, especially his theology of the body,” said Greg.
“I will say, though, we’re not writing songs about a teaching or a philosophy; we’re writing songs about our own experience of life and the experiences of friends.”
The songs on their new album are glimpses of common life experiences and how people choose to love in those situations, explained Lizzy.
“All of the experiences of love that we give and receive here on earth are foretastes of the love and union we are made for in heaven and with God alone.”
Added Greg, “This is the ache for God’s love” we all experience on earth.
The couple has been steadily touring and works in collaboration with Dumb Ox Ministries (DumbOxMinistries.com) of New Orleans, a national nonprofit that works to espouse the teachings of St. John Paul II’s theology of the body to form teens, young adults and families in authentic masculinity and femininity.
And in Minnesota, after developing a strong local following from performing at St. Mark’s Acoustic Café (Facebook.com/saintmarksacousticcafe) near the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, Catholic musician Benjamin Brekke (shown in middle of online photo, BenjaminBrekke.com) launched a successful Kickstarter campaign to produce his first album, Be Not Afraid — titled after the oft-quoted exhortation of St. John Paul II.
The album’s title also reminds people that God’s love is constant, despite all the things life can throw at us, and Scripture says to “Be not afraid” well over 300 times, explained Brekke.
The album begins by recalling a time that was one of the most difficult in his life, related Brekke, 30.
“I came to a point where I knew that I wasn’t in control and that the only way to keep moving in the right direction was to let go and give everything completely to God. This inspired the song Mercy,” he said.
The songs Valuable and Belong to You resulted from his personal struggles, including chronic depression, a topic he has become more open about. “The more I started to share my own journey with others, the more I began to realize the beauty in it. It has been difficult, but seeing God work through it has been incredibly inspiring. Often, it’s the times when we are most broken when we can see God most clearly,” said Brekke.
Other songs, such as Better Man, focus on his role as a husband, father and follower of God; Little Things and One More Day are inspired by the lives of St. Thérèse and Blessed Charles de Foucauld.
The vision for St. Mark’s Acoustic Café, an initiative he started, as well as much of his music, has come to him during his 2am Eucharistic adoration hour.
“I felt like God was presenting me a question, like he was reminding me about the gift of music and the talent that he has given me and asking what I was going to do with it to glorify his name,” he said. “St. Mark’s Acoustic Café is leading me to share my faith in an outreach environment with a community focus. The initiative gives a stage to musicians who share their values through music.”
Brekke has also been inspired by John Paul II’s “Letter to Artists,” which states (and is quoted on his website): “Not all are called to be artists in the specific sense of the term. Yet, as Genesis has it, all men and women are entrusted with the task of crafting their own life; in a certain sense, they are to make of it a work of art, a masterpiece.”
“We are called to create masterpieces of our lives,” explained Brekke. “It is a reminder to not be afraid, but, rather, to be courageous.”
Barb Ernster writes from
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- April 5-18, 2015