January 23, 2024 // Diocese

Theology on Tap Series on Prayer Opens in South Bend

Icy roads and subzero temperatures couldn’t stop 50 young people from gathering for prayer, discussion, and drinks at South Bend’s Theology on Tap. The winter 2024 series began on Tuesday, January 16, with an evening at Bar Louie in Granger. The theme for the winter series is “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.”

“The goal of our time together is for us to become more disposed to different kinds of prayer, while keeping the words of Jesus on prayer at the forefront of our time together,” said Audrey Lewis, a Theology on Tap volunteer.

Photos by Kasia Balsbaugh
Young adults enjoy fellowship at the beginning of South Bend’s Theology on Tap evening on Tuesday, January 16.

The South Bend Theology on Tap team, which is made up mostly of volunteers, began weekly planning meetings for the winter’s series in November. “It’s a lot of bouncing ideas off each other,” Lewis said of their six-person team.

The team also chose the winter series’ patron saint – St. Francis de Sales. “St. Francis de Sales was a 16th-century French priest and bishop, widely known for his gentleness and his skill at making and keeping friends,” explained Ally Brown, another volunteer. “So, we love that as young adults.”

Addressing the series’ theme of prayer, Brown told attendees, “There are many different ways to reach out or listen to God; we have chosen to highlight just a handful of these prayer forms over the next four weeks.” Throughout the next month, the weekly series will address the theme of prayer through the Rosary, the saints, and art. The first evening was focused on prayer through music.

The featured speaker was Andrew Goldstein, a musician, songwriter, and COO of The Vigil Project, which trains Catholic musicians and creates devotional music. Goldstein had been to Theology on Tap on the West Coast, but this was his first time at South Bend’s Theology on Tap since his family moved to the area six months ago.

For a person who has devoted much of his life to making music, Goldstein sees it as a gift from God and to be offered back to God. “This gift of music is meant to be, as St. Augustine would say … a response of love,” Goldstein said.

Catholic musician Andrew Goldstein and volunteers lead prayer music for the Theology on Tap gathering.

He added, “Using this gift properly is a responsibility of each one of us.” And part of that responsibility means thinking seriously about how to engage with music and devotion well. “The challenge of musicians, and the challenge of all of us, is how do we take the load off of Sunday Mass and create a culture of musical devotion in the day-to-day life?” Goldstein said.

In thinking about music as prayer, Goldstein applied it to the three ways of prayer outlined in the Catechism of the Catholic Church. “Music, when applied to this structure – vocal, meditative, contemplative – has a way of not only guiding us through that but actually creating a really direct avenue,” Goldstein said. “Because music helps us begin this vocal prayer, turn toward the meditative, and then if we’re in that place, enter into that contemplative place.”

After his presentation, Goldstein and a couple other musicians led the Theology on Tap attendees in worship and prayer through music.

Attendee Julia Akre said she had “jumped on the opportunity” to attend the Theology on Tap series after moving back to her hometown of nearby Niles, Michigan.

“This is my first time coming to Theology on Tap after graduating college and trying very hard to find local community to really connect with,” Akre said. “I went to a university that was relatively Catholic, and I was part of a scholarship that had a great Catholic community. So, I’m really, really itching and thirsting for a group of people that I can talk theology with and that I can grow in my faith with.”

Catholic musician Andrew Goldstein speaks at Theology on Tap during the winter 2024 series’ opening session, which is themed, “Lord, Teach Us to Pray.”

“I was a little bit nervous coming in because I knew nobody here, but I sat down and was immediately able to start talking to somebody,” Akre said.

A phenomenon that began in Chicago in the 1980s, Theology on Tap spread to South Bend soon after. After a hiatus, the event came back to stay in the 2000s.

Sean Allen, former organizer of South Bend’s Theology on Tap and current president of Ablaze Mission, attended the winter series opening on Tuesday. Allen reiterated the Church’s need to be “reaching out to this young adult demographic” and cited Pope Francis’ theme of “accompaniment” as a necessary way to engage with one another in living lives of faith.

As Brown told attendees, “We also hope that these presentations and small-group discussions will provide you with new techniques and tools to help you pray without ceasing.”

* * *

The best news. Delivered to your inbox.

Subscribe to our mailing list today.