The United States bishops are calling the faithful to observe this Year of Faith with fasting, prayer and renewed efforts at evangelism.
Joe Higginbotham, the director of Liturgy and Music at St. Bavo Parish in Mishawaka, wants to put his musical gifts to use during this Year of Faith in an effort to evangelize the faithful to a deeper relationship with Jesus.
Higginbotham explains his understanding of music as a great evangelistic tool, “The Book of Psalms is ‘the’ prayer book of the Church. The word ‘psalm’ means a sacred song or hymn. We are created to sing God’s praise, to ‘sing to the Lord a new song.’ Sung prayer brings focus and intensity to the words to which they are set. Music is like a sharp point on an arrow that allows the words to penetrate more deeply into the depths of the heart.”
The latest musical venture by Higginbotham, vocalists Stacie Bert and Father Bob Lengerich, pastor of St. Dominic in Bremen, is a Lenten CD titled “What Wondrous Love.” The music is a blend of contemporary and traditional favorites chosen to help the listener contemplate the sufferings of Christ and to consider what one’s response to our Lord’s great sacrifice should be. Accompanied by Higginbotham, the melodic voices of Bert and Father Lengerich weave together to create a beautiful sound and an inspiring collection of hymns.
Last fall Higginbotham, Bert and Father Lengerich worked together to produce a first in Catholic music — a recording of all of the prayers of St. Francis of Assisi set to music. The project was the brainchild of Sister Agnes Marie Regan, a Sister of St. Francis of Perpetual Adoration, who is the spiritual assistant to the Secular Franciscan fraternity of which Higginbotham is associated. Sister Agnes Marie wanted Franciscans to become more familiar with the prayers of St. Francis and hopefully to memorize them.
“One of the things I have always thought about as an educator,” remarked Sister Agnes Marie, “is that if people can sing the text of something, regardless of what it is, they can remember it better and return to it when they want to pray. There is something about the cadence and rhythm of music, which makes the text very learnable.”
Aware of Higginbotham’s experience in the diocese as a liturgist and musician, Sister Agnes Marie asked him to consider taking on this project. After many months of research, Higginbotham set the prayers of St. Francis to music, using some of his own original compositions as well as some familiar chant melodies. Bert and Father Lengerich are the vocalists on the CD. Their beautiful voices, combined with the lyrics and the skillful accompaniment provided by Higginbotham, make this CD prayerful and meditative.
Just before Christmas, Higginbotham and Bert worked together again to produce a lovely Christmas CD. They used a mix of contemporary songs written from the Virgin Mary’s perspective as she contemplated becoming the mother of the Savior. These newer songs were combined with some favorite traditional Christmas hymns. The resulting CD was so well received by the local community that it sold out before Christmas and had to be re-ordered.
The website for ordering the CD is FranciscanMusic.com. All CDs are $10. The website has a few of the songs available to listen to for those who would like to preview the music. The CD is also available on iTunes.
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