Catholics Create All-American Music

Music feature from our July 1 issue.

Catholic musician Sean Forrest
Catholic musician Sean Forrest (photo: Sean Forrest)

The New Evangelization has inspired Catholic musicians to create music and lyrics that lift one’s mind to something more beautiful than the cultural landscape, one’s heart to worship God, and one’s soul to reflect on the true teachings of the Catholic Church.

“I feel called to have solid Catholic music that teaches, inspires and reminds Catholics of the teachings of our own faith,” says Brian Flynn (, music director and director of religious education and youth ministry at St. Mary’s Church in Westphalia, Mich.

Flynn is interested in creating music that is authentically Catholic, with a special focus on the Eucharist.

“I think there’s a desperate need for that,” says Flynn. “Statistics show that less than 50% of people who call themselves Catholic believe in the true presence of the Eucharist, and those are the people who are in the pews on Sunday, so they need songs that will reflect that truth.”

He has released four albums and is currently signed with World Library Publications. Many of his lyrics are direct quotes from the saints, including St. Thomas Aquinas, who inspired his song Panis Vere (True Bread).

His latest album, Born Again, is a collection of liturgical songs, including a first Communion song. Besides liturgical settings, Flynn’s music is inspiring youth and adults at parish missions and conferences. He has appeared on EWTN, the Register’s parent company, several times, including a recent performance on Life on the Rock. He is performing this month at St. Stephen’s Catholic Church in Lake City, Mich., and will perform in October at a Marian conference at Boyne Mountain Resort in Boyne Falls, Mich.

Inspiring Beauty
Catholic composer and pianist Eric Genuis ( is interested in providing a connection to beauty for the greater glory of God through his classical/contemporary music. The Kentucky father of four has performed in hundreds of public and private venues and is often invited to prisons and drug-rehabilitation centers, where classical music is generally unknown. He has seen firsthand its powerful impact on the people there.

“There’s something in the music that, maybe for the first time in their lives, touches them. It’s very moving. This is what beauty is. Beauty is the language of God, and the human soul is meant to create beauty,” says Genuis. “I look at a lot of the music written today, and it’s concerning. It may have a lot of rhythm and catchiness, but it doesn’t reach into the soul. It doesn’t communicate what great music is to people. What I’m trying to respond to is what we’re seeing in our culture: You have a whole culture that no longer identifies with real beauty. I want to broaden people’s experience and communicate to the audience that perhaps they can identify with music that they never thought they would.”

Genuis has released five albums, three of which were recorded with the Slovac National Symphony Orchestra and internationally known British maestro Allan Wilson. He performed in June at a fundraiser for the people of Liberia, and later this summer he will give a concert at the Gallo Center for the Arts in Modesto, Calif.

Soulful Jazz
Marie Smith ( is inspired to promote the Catholic culture through the arts. Her CD, Love Alone Remains, is a smooth-jazz set with a Spirit-filled message. The title song is based on the writings of Blessed Elizabeth of the Trinity, a Carmelite nun from the late 1800s. It was written after she heard about a tragedy. Her music is also inspired by St. Faustina’s Divine Mercy in My Soul. Other songs are about Blessed Mother Teresa and the Psalms.

Smith has received feedback on the CD from people who are searching for God amid their sufferings.

“The whole notion of suffering is what makes it Catholic. People can be confused about how God answers our prayers and how he allows suffering to be for good,” she says. “I wanted people to know that life is precious. There’s a deeper meaning to suffering, and the clouds will clear.”

“You want your art to uplift people and give them hope that God is there; he is with us,” she says.

Family Life
Nashville-based singer/songwriter Marie Bellet ( has struggled with the culture that doesn’t value the importance of home life. As a mother of nine children, her songs focus mainly on the ordinary things of marriage and family life. Her acoustic, Americana-style songs are very lyrics-driven.

“I’m a coffee-house kind of musician because I really want people to hear the words,” she says. “My lyrics try to describe everyday life, but with a supernatural context that helps people make sense of what it is they’re doing and to see the nobility of sacrificial love.”

Her latest album, Everything Changes, reflects on the later years of marriage, when kids go off to college and everything is changing — your looks, your perspective, your role.

“The older you get, the more you realize how important your faith is. You say, ‘Thy will be done,’” notes Bellet.

Bellet performs with her three college-age sons at Nashville venues and will be appearing nationally at retreats and conferences throughout the summer.

Infusing Pop Culture
Sean Forrest ( is no stranger to the culture at large. He worked with celebrities in the secular music world before converting to Catholicism 16 years ago. Today, he evangelizes and performs at more than 100 confirmation retreats and men’s conferences each year. He believes there is a growing trend of new Catholic music that is starting to blossom in the youth culture, but it is a slow and difficult road for musicians.

“The Catholic musician of today has to make it like the old musicians of the ’70s — work; play; tour; get out there and spread (your music) by word of mouth. It’s the Bruce Springsteen era for Catholic musicians,” he says.

He believes youth in particular need Christ-centered music. “Through music we can go on the offensive, proclaiming the Gospel in a way that can reach many people who may have been closed to the message.”

Americana-style, John Mellencamp-like music, with a faith base, is how Forrest describes his music. His latest and eighth album, Live, Love, Lead, was recorded in Nashville with an award-winning producer and the Christian rock band Jars of Clay. He will be the opening act for the popular group Casting Crowns at SoulFest 2012 in New Hampshire this August (see concert information below). SoulFest has adopted as a ministry partner Forrest’s Movin’ With The Spirit Mission Haiti (, which he founded to support the poor in several Haitian villages. His song Kay Mari (Hey Yo) features Haitian children singing.

Forrest hopes Catholics will support Catholic musicians more and more. “There’s some great stuff out there today,” he says, “and I hope it will grow.”

Barb Ernster writes from
Fridley, Minnesota.

Catholics in Concert
Catholic artists are performing at concerts, festivals and conferences this summer.

Throughout the Summer

Steubenville Youth Conferences
Various locations across the country

July 7-14
Michael W. Smith & Friends Canada/New England Cruise
Featuring Audrey Assad

July 11-15
Sunnyview Expo Center
Oshkosh, WI

July 22
Ignite Festival
Schaumburg, IL
Featuring Matt Maher

Aug. 1-3
SoulFest ’12
Gilford, NH
Featuring Matt Maher and Sean Forrest

Aug. 6
Kingdom Bound 2012
Darien Center, NY
Featuring Matt Maher

Aug. 10
Unity Festival
Muskegon, MI
Featuring Matt Maher

Aug. 11
Virginia Highlands Festival
Abingdon, VA
Featuring Matt Maher

Aug. 18
Fish Fest
Mt. Hood Community College
Gresham, OR
Featuring Matt Maher

Aug. 25
Love Come Alive Festival, Fall Tour Kick-Off
All Saints Catholic Church
Featuring Kevin Heider