Music Plays A Massive Role In The Conversion Of People

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I’ve been playing guitar since the age of 7. My Father had played guitar since a young boy as did his two brothers who went on to be very successful. Between them both they had supported some very big acts throughout the years such as The Who and Joe Cocker to name a few.

In the early 80’s my father had a conversion experience to his former Catholic faith. They roped him into doing the the local choir to keep him grounded and busy in the parish. He’d spent many hours away from us to pursue his newfound love of the Church. He dragged me to a few sessions and although I enjoyed the attention I got from all the ladies, I didn’t like it. I found it boring and couldn’t wait to get home.

Our family had been a very musical one. We always knew what song what make it to the No.1 on release because we had a really good ear for music. When it came to hit songs we knew a good one when we heard it.

I played guitar and toyed around with it until the age of 17 when I began to take it more seriously and write music. My first gig in the local venue had been a success and I was asked by the owner to come back again the week after. Over time we developed a relationship and I got on the bill to support some local acts which snowballed into supporting some famous names Irish and abroad.

I went to Scotland had a great band there and wrote some great songs for them. Then I returned and ended up converting back to my Catholic faith again. It’s a long story, one I’ll write for the kids. One thing I noticed over time is that when it came to the Liturgical celebrations, the Catholic Church had zero discipline. The locals tried to rope me into playing guitar at Church like my father.

I did it out of politeness. I remember sitting there strumming at Mass and the old lady coming over, “Play Leonard Cohens “Halleluiah”. Being an artist familiar with Leonard I was consciously aware that this song is not religious at all or meant for the Liturgy. It didn’t take me long to realize that the Catholic faith had a serious problem on its hands. The old people I spoke with would approach me and say, “The guitar you’re doing is great. We’ve been trying to get the youth into the Church and would love your help.”

That’s when it really hit home that these old people from Bishops to Laity really think this music is great. It’s important to know that the Pharisees in the time of Jesus were not evil, they were just incredibly ignorant and stupid. The Bishops and laity following Vatican II who thought they were being modern were not purposefully trying to destroy Catholicism. These people who behaved like this were just incredibly ignorant and stupid. Sadly, nothing has changed and they remind me of my old grandad or something the way they behave.

I couldn’t get it through to them that it’s dangerous to bring the popular culture inside the Liturgy. Do what you want at youth retreats and play all the corny Jesus rock music you like, but my goodness leave the Liturgy alone. Why? because those twangy guitars in such a massive cathedral don’t fit the scene. It’s like playing Hip hop or dance music over a Lord of the Rings movie. Doing that is like speaking an alien language. The congregation souls don’t understand what they’re hearing and there’s conflict inside them because they’re looking for peace.

Another few reasons it’s dangerous to take modern music into the liturgy is because the popular culture changes quicker than the Irish weather. Unless you’re prepared to keep up with a very fast moving taste in music among the youth throughout the decades you may forget about it all together. The Church is still playing 80’s folk hymns in Church to this day and now they sound so dated. See? But the music written in the Church and for the Church centuries ago is timeless. Seriously, if it isn’t broken don’t fix it.

Finally, as a musician I’m aware that music is very subjective. I’ve watched people in bars get drunk and beat each other up over their differences in music. I’ve seen people throw bottles on the stage because the music had been something they hated. People are very passionate about their music and you will have this at Church. An old granny listening to your hymn written in the 70s will be closing her eyes and feeling the music. Meanwhile the youth in the pews behind her are thinking, “When do we go home? Argh, can’t wait until I’m 18 and can become atheist.”

Why is this happening? Because music is subjective. One mans diamond is another’s lump of coal. Why is it then when the youth and the granny hear either Russian Choral or Gregorian chants do they suddenly both begin to feel the music? The reason behind the science of this is what I term, “The universal sound”. There is music out there that has a universal sound and by that I mean to say it appeals to everybody both young and old.

Many of the Catholic youth who are small in number and play this dire music at their retreat masses disagree with me. They posit the counter argument that their music has sparked many conversions and even vocations to the priesthood. Yes, unfortunately for us this means we’ve to put up with the pop culture priests borne of these retreats. It’s great to see conversions and yes, conversion is a mixed bag of tricks but some tricks work better than others.

The Catholic Church need to accept they’re a liturgical mess and have no discipline. Their continuous compromise with the popular culture in the false belief they’re being like Paul and sacrificing who they are to save the many is fallacious and extreme. I say extreme because they’ve literally got it wrong and drove people away from the Church by taking it too far.

The Orthodox Church has none of these problems and if they do they’re not enough to even make it on the radar. Their music has modernized over the years but it never lost its sacredness. Likewise its more ancient hymns from centuries ago have never lost their timeless feel or universal appeal. I’ve heard irreligious people who grew up in the Catholic faith in Ireland after leaving a Byzantine Liturgy say, “Wow. . . it’s very holy isn’t it? Not like our churches at all” Those words alone testify to the fact that their soul has been touched.

Whenever I do my rounds on YouTube I’m always reading comments from people stating they’re irreligious, but come here because the music touches their souls. I NEVER see those comments on Jesus rock videos, why? Because it’s cheap, tacky and incredibly empty. We wouldn’t place the precious Blood of Jesus in an ordinary cup would we? Well, that’s what you do when you put him beside cheap music that mimics the chart topping stuff that will sound dated in as little as 10 years.

I put my guitar down when I came back to the faith in 2008. I picked it back up in 2011. I signed up to write music for Film/TV and headed back to the studio. Record labels wanted music in the style of various artists. They gave me a list of popular artists and I knew none of them. Only 3 years ignoring the music scene and I hadn’t a clue who anyone was, see? That is how fast the music scene changes.

Don’t get me wrong I love rock music and this is what I continue to write to this day. If there’s anyone familiar with the Popular scene it’s absolutely 100% me. I know how the liberal secular youth of today tick. I absolutely…undoubtedly….know what it is they like. I’ve a clear vision of the scene in front of me. Yeah some of the more dorky type of middle class kids like Jesus rock music but trust me….they’re a MASSIVE minority.

Music is important and I’m happy to be attending my local Greek Orthodox church. I’m tired of hearing those backing tracks and bad guitar music at my local Catholic Church. It feels like I’m at a smelly pub in the 90’s listening to Karaoke or something. The equipment they use is terrible, the singing is average and it’s literally driving the youth away. Go into a Catholic Church today and all you’ll see is a sea of grey heads. Why? Because they’re the only generation willing to listen to such dire music.

Yes, our churches whether Catholic or Orthodox are about more than simply music but believe it or not, to the youth . . . music matters. To everyone. . . music matters. It’s a second language. In fact I always call it the first native language as it’s what our souls heard when the angels witnessed us being knitted in our mothers womb by the Lord. When I attend my local Orthodox Church it’s full of Irish catechumens that are in their teens. I asked myself, “Now why would they be interested in this ancient liturgy and music?” I know why. . . I do. . . I could easily answer my own question. The reason they love it is due to the fact that it is neither modern nor ancient, but timeless and speaks to their soul.

If you can write music right now this instant that achieves this you’re doing well. The people who wrote this music hundreds of years ago were thousands of years ahead of their time. They’ve left us with music that is ever present and fills the hearts of all people from religious to non-religious. There’s nobody who listens to it and is not touched the magnality of it all. I’ll continue to attend my Greek Orthodox parish, and you can continue to enjoy your Banjo in the Catholic one.

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