John Michael Talbot brings music ministry for the new evangelization

By 
  • November 13, 2011

TORONTO - He’s a Third Order Franciscan friar with an iPhone.

And through his music ministry, top-selling Catholic musician John Michael Talbot embraces new ways of evangelization while keeping his ministry grounded in the roots of prayer and Catholic tradition.

One of the ways Talbot is part of the “new evangelization” is through his latest album Worship and Bow Down. Seventeen tracks include choral background harmonies and the songs for the new “Mass of Rebirth” which he composed in contemporary chant style for the new Roman Missal. (Talbot is one of several musicians around the world who have been commissioned to compose new settings for the new Missal which will be launched at Masses the first week of Advent.)

Talbot will be taking part in the 22nd annual International Festival of Religious Song at the John Paul II Cultural Centre Nov. 18-20, which will also feature Polish singer Gang Marcela and local musicians. Talbot will perform on the final day of the festival, Nov. 20.

He will feature songs from his new album for the first time to a Canadian audience. It will also be Talbot’s final North American concert this year before going on retreat in December.

Talbot’s songs for the new Missal reflect Eastern Catholic influences, but this setting is “very modern, very American, in its harmony structures,” he said. He said he tried to compose the sounds of the chant in a way that is “universal” — the Eastern and Western parts of the Church — to reflect the universal Catholic Church.

Also, Talbot said his songs reflect his philosophy on music ministry: That music forms part of Catholics’ prayer and worship life.

The award-winning singer, who has sold more than four million albums, explained that an important aspect of music ministry is to have it grounded in prayer. He borrows from St. Charles Borromeo’s model where a minister “begins in meditation before the ministry, meditates while in ministry and enters into deep meditation after ministry.”

Over the years, some music ministers have asked Talbot for advice on how to get people to pray. His suggestion? To integrate prayer in your daily life and ministry.

“Like attracts like,” he said. “We don’t just discuss doctrine. (We also) share the thing that animates your doctrine. Share your faith.

“Those leading liturgy must be praying it,” Talbot added.

Talbot started out as a secular musician, sharing the stage with rock stars like Pink Floyd, the Grateful Dead and Janis Joplin.

But it was seeing the aftermath of one concert — the sea of bottles, beer cans and drug paraphernalia — that took the shine off of the “rock star life” for Talbot.

He spent years praying and searching for answers which eventually led him to the Catholic Church and founding “The Brothers and Sisters of Charity” community, 30 years ago as a secular Franciscan. The community has been a part of the “new monasticism” movement within the Church. It is made up of traditional monks, single individuals and families in one monastery in the United States as well as families living in their own homes who want to bring the monastic spirituality in their daily life.

“We want to bring a vibrant spirituality to every state in life.”

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