David Haas, Lori True and young musicians challenge the faithful to live the Gospel
By Michael M. Barrick
BRIDGEPORT, W.Va. – In one of West Virginia’s most affluent Catholic parishes, in one of the state’s most prosperous cities, composers David Haas and Lori True joined with musicians from All Saints Parish here to promote discipleship and social justice as taught by the Catholic Church.
Haas, who lives in Eagan, Minn., is the founder and executive director of Music Ministry Alive (MMA), an international liturgical music formation program for high school and college-age youth. True is the campus minister and director of liturgy and music at St. Catherine University in St. Paul, Minn. She is the associate director of MMA. Together, they held a sing-along concert at All Saints on Oct. 3. The following day, they held a workshop for practicing and aspiring musicians. Joining them as leaders in the Friday evening concert were four young All Saints members who are also graduates of MMA.
The primary purpose of the gathering, explained True, was to consider the social justice teachings of the Catholic Church through music.
The “United States Catholic Catechism for Adults,” says, “Social Justice deals with the essential needs of people who are called to live together in community with respect for each other’s dignity. These include food, clothing, shelter, and an income that supports the family.” It is also consistent with the Seventh Commandment – “Do Not Steal.” As the Catechism explains, “To keep this Commandment, we need to acquire the virtues of moderation in our possessions, justice in our treatment of others, respect for their human dignity, and solidarity with all peoples.” It continues, “Moderation curbs our attachment to worldly goods and restrains our appetite for consumerism. Justice helps us respect our neighbor’s rights and be interested in their human well-being. Solidarity opens our hearts to identifying with the whole human family, reminding us of our common humanity.”
While neither True nor Haas went into this great of detail in explaining social justice, their songs do. Indeed, they opened the concert with a song Haas wrong in 1987 titled, “We are Called.” The lyrics include the lines, “We are called to act with justice, we are called to love tenderly, we are called to serve one another; to walk humbly with God!”
One member joked that these lyrics are “subversive.” That may very well be true for one of the poorest states in the nation, struggling with the rise of powerful corporations akin to the 19th century robber barons. Yet, if the testimonials of the young ladies who shared their stories of learning from MMA are any indication, MMA is effectively teaching not only music, but the importance of living the Gospel. Emily said, “As Christians, we are called to be the outcasts.”
As Haas said earlier, this means understanding the call to discipleship. “The goal of MMA is to help young people become disciples.” Added Emily later, “Love triumphs over hate…that is the spirit of MMA.”
That spirit has been part of All Saints for some time now. Haas and True regularly team up with Stephen Pishner, who is responsible for music and liturgy at the parish. As Haas said, “When we come here, it is like coming home.” Indeed, the concert did have the feel of a family gathering, albeit a rather large one. That was demonstrated by the large number of folks that lingered in the parish fellowship hall long after the concert had finished, seemingly confirming the remarks of one of the other young ladies, Kristen. She offered, “This is a life-changing program that welcomes everyone with open arms.”
If those attending the concert approach the coming weeks and months with the same enthusiasm shown when they ended it singing an adaptation by True of the traditional Irish blessing, “May the Road Rise to Meet You,” the powerful and wealthy attempting to control West Virginia’s future may find themselves being challenged – all because of a couple hours of music.
© Michael M. Barrick/Appalachian Chronicle, 2014.