— 1 —
This week I’m going to start with something completely different: a rapping priest. Fr. Pontifex is someone I’ve seen on YouTube before, most notably offering a rebuttal to the viral video “Why I Hate Religion, But Love Jesus” around a year ago.
Actually Fr. Claude Burns (a.k.a. Fr. Pontifex) prefers the term “spoken-word” due to the stigma attached to rap and hip-hop. Having grown up in an urban environment and then living and working the streets as a priest has given him the inspiration to use the medium to reach out to those who need to hear the uplifting power of the Gospels. Catholic Online recently sat down with Fr. Pontifex for an interview to discuss the genesis of his new album (available on iTunes), the subject matter of the songs, and what’s next.
COL: Who did you work with to make this album?
Fr. Pontifex: I worked with some amazingly talented people on this album. I teamed up with Nikolai Medow (Yung PK) as he is known and we created some incredible tracks together. There are certain people that just bring out the best in you creatively and PK is one of those people for me. We share similar visions for music and expressions of faith. He has an amazing ability to arrange vocals and that comes through in the album. The first time I heard the chorus that he wrote for “In My Shoes” I was out in California. I put on headset and was walking in beautiful San Rafael and I was blown away. The lyrics began to flow immediately. “I’m waking up to that grand view. It’s morning time I feel brand new.” That track turned out better than I could have imagined and I have Yung PK to thank for that.
I also worked with Lindsay Mann out of Nashville, Tennessee. She is like a little sister to me and we are from the same city. Her vocals were crucial to the development of three tracks she is featured on. “Believe In Yourself” a very personal song for me about being bullied as a kid and overcoming those wounds to become a priest, needed some uplifting, encouraging singing vocals and Lindsay provided that beautifully. The same could be said for the last track of the album “Own the Night”, which is the exclamation point on the whole issue of the symphony and the static. It basically says, “Yes, there is a struggle between hope and suffering but in the end Jesus has conquered death. He owns the night and is the light in the darkness.” Lindsay’s vocals added a powerful boost to the final message.
COL: What is your hope for the work you have done here?
Fr. Pontifex: My hope is that people of all walks of life will give this album a listen. The challenge will be getting passed the stigma that comes with the album being labeled hip-hop or rap. It is that on some levels but there is an automatic cliche that comes to mind that puts people off when they know that. The album is filled with a lot of thought provoking poetry that is heartfelt. Each song is constructed with a lot of thought and passion. I hope that it touches the hearts of many people on deep levels.
I am by no means someone who appreciates hip-hop, but I may be willing to give “The Symphony and The Static” a listen. After all, I need to hear that message too.
Like Christ and those He commissioned, Fr. P is simply taking the message out to the people where they are at…where they live. Pretty cool if you ask me. (You didn’t.)
Actually, the more I’ve listened to this the more I like it. A much better earworm than that “What Does the Fox Say?” stinkerooski that my kiddos keep planting in my brain.
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From CNN’s Belief Blog:
Riva, whose head and neck are covered with tumors due to a rare disease, said his unusual appearance has led to a lifetime of living on the margins.
That is, until he showed up at St. Peter’s Square on November 6.
Riva went to Rome on the advice of a friend with whom he travels to Lourdes, the Catholic shrine in France visited by thousands of ailing and infirm pilgrims each year.
After meeting Francis, Riva said he kissed the Pope’s hand. Then the Pope pulled Riva toward him, hugging the 53-year-old Italian and kissing his face.
Riva continued, “I tried to speak, to tell him something, but I couldn’t: The emotion was too strong. It all lasted not more than a minute, but it seemed an eternity.” …
The first signs of the disease began when he was 15, Riva said, and since then, he has often felt ostracized because of his unusual appearance.
But the Pope showed no sign of discomfort as he approached, said Riva. Instead, the pontiff’s face broke into a calm smile.
“But what most astonished me is that he didn’t think twice on embracing me,” Riva said.
“I’m not contagious, but he didn’t know. He just did it; he caressed all my face, and while he was doing that, I felt only love.”
I totally am digging Papa Francesco. I was thinking about him this week while driving to work and know there’s more I want to say at some point. But for now it’s suffice to say that I totally dig the man.
— 3 —
A little fun with No-Shave November from Melissa Keating of FOCUS:
The rest of the world is buzzing about no-shave November right now. However, as Catholics, we belong to a long history of beards so magnificent they could never hope to be confined to single month. The face furniture of our early Fathers alone is resplendent enough to make Gandalf weep with envy (looking at you, First Council of Nicea).
I’m not saying that God gives the best beards to Catholics. I just want to point out the long standing correlation between Christianity and luxurious lip locks. In fact, if you pay attention to hagiography, you can’t help but come to the conclusion that the Church Triumphant strongly resembles an NHL team during playoffs.
The day after the World Series was over I ordered world championship t-shirts for all five members of my family. The boys both wanted to #GETBEARD shirt naturally.
I wonder if there’s a t-shirt available with St. Max Kolbe on the front sporting his beard.
Update: There is!!!
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Let’s do a little myth busting and take on one of the biggest of them all.
While there’s no denying that campaigns such as the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War foundationally rested on religious ideology, it is simply incorrect to assert that religion has been the primary cause of war. Moreover, although there’s also no disagreement that radical Islam was the spirit behind 9/11, it is a fallacy to say that all faiths contribute equally where religiously-motivated violence and warfare are concerned.
An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.
That means that all faiths combined – minus Islam – have caused less than 4% of all of humanity’s wars and violent conflicts. Further, they played no motivating role in the major wars that have resulted in the most loss of life.
So if religion can’t be blamed for the most wars and violence, what is the primary cause? The article’s author, Robin Schumacher, provides an answer in the last paragraph. It’s an answer that while coming as no surprise to the honest and aware among us, and when combined with the simplicity of it all is one that will continue to be scoffed at and rejected at our own peril.
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I began this week with the hip-hop stylings of a Catholic priest ($20 to anyone who ever thought I’d type out that sentence) and am going to wrap up with something a bit more traditional.
And achingly achingly beautiful.
As “The Idler” wrote at Ascending Mount Carmel:
Divna Ljubojevic, one of the most reknowned and famous singers within Orthodox Christianity, simply has a voice that is as near to divine as one can get, right on par with my favorite renditions of St. Hildegard von Bingen’s chant sung by Jocelyn Montgomery. The opening song alone is otherworldly. Break the headphones out, and indulge in the sound of another time and place.
I wish I knew what she was singing or if there was a translation available. I’ve listened to all 43 minutes a few times and was able to recognize a hallelujah, a Christe and the Kyrie about twenty or so minutes in, but little else. Ms. Ljobojevic, who was born in Belgrade in 1970) does have other videos available on YouTube. You may want to check them out, or be content to just let this one play in the background. At least listen to the first nine minutes. But fair warning: once you start listening you really don’t want it to stop.
Have a Happy Thanksgiving! Advent is just around the corner (December 1).