Contest of Strength
“Contest of Strength” is a project which reveals through ten songs the spectrum of dynamics that play out when “my will” and “God’s will” meet. Track 1, “Magnificat,” matches the sinless will of beautiful Mother Mary with the fruitful will of God who is Love itself. The final track is called “Vista Hymn” because it’s the hymn sung when we see clearly what God has done for us, in us and through us. The entire Church, in heaven and on earth, joins voices to simply give God His due praise, amazed at who God is. So the CD begins and ends with the harmony of God’s will with our human will.
Every song in the middle expresses the interplay of wills. “Not By Appearance” helps us realize the walk of faith which begins with a childish use of vision and matures with lenses of a godly perspective. The title track, “Contest of Strength” is a power tune. With a three-quarter time signature and a bridge that makes the arm wrestling of the two wills, mine and God’s, very clear, this song really punches the point. I wanted to re-record the title track of my first CD. We came together with a beautifully unplugged version of “Never More Me.” I can see this version of the song at Eucharistic Adoration or during Holy Communion at Mass. The song “Reconcile” is track 5. Four verses and no chorus simply plead and pray that the listener “reconciles” in every way possible. Real life comes out of it when we do. Track 6 is a true praise and worship style song. “Higher Fire” asks God to fill our desires that rage in us throughout our lives, the lower fires which can never be satisfied no matter how much we try. But, submitting these lower fires to the “Higher Fire” of God who purifies them rightly directs them and fulfills them, now this is progress!
I thank God for track 7: Leonard Cohen wrote the music (“Hallelujah,” from the movie, “Shrek”) while Kelly Mooney wrote the beautiful Passion and Resurrection lyrics. My addition is every ounce of sincerity and emotion that I could muster. Enjoy it and let it take you through current passions into Jesus’ victory. The next two tracks are in Spanish. I have been so moved over the last few years with the beautiful people of Ecuador. I also felt like I needed to better reach out to all of the Spanish speaking members of the Body of Christ here in the United States. So, two Spanish covers follow, one after the other. “Nadie Te Ama Como Yo” (Nobody Loves You Like I Do) and “Ya No Eres Pan Ni Vino” (Now You Are Not Merely Bread and Wine) really blessed me as I got to sing them and pray them. Oh yeah, please excuse the pronunciation if it’s not perfect – neither am I!
I hope you reach “Vista Hymn” ready to join the victory march of Christ Jesus. Join with the Church Triumphant in heaven and with the Church still in the battle on this earth. Join with the Saints and Martyrs in glory and those being formed in Christ here. Thanks be to God! Alleluia!
Purchase Contest of Strength Album
Never More Me
This is the title track on this first CD which hopefully is the first of several. The first and last tracks are Eucharistic in nature, the whole project held together by His Presence. I wanted this record to offer more than entertainment or a “feel good.” I wanted the music and the lyrics to be a prayer that glorifies God — that teaches and feeds listeners something of Christ.
The title conveys that Christ is the fullest and most true “me.” Receiving Him in the Holy Eucharist with a soul and heart longing for wholeness creates the chance to be more this “Real Me.” I actually played this in my parish for the first time the weekend when our First Communicants were to receive Jesus in His Holy Eucharist for the very first time. They brought a whole new appreciation of this song into my life.
This song I would like to make a gift to all priests and a “thanksgiving” to the Eternal High Priest, Jesus, in whom we serve in persona Christi. I wrote this song in two phases. The refrain goes back to seminary days, sitting at the grand piano in the beautiful chapel of my alma mater. The original verses, though, in their melody and in their words from Jeremiah just didn’t fit anymore. The new verses were inspired by the signature retreat I wrote and have lead about 40 times — From Albatross To Phoenix. The melody reminds me of the signing of the ship’s log, and the words come from Matthew’s Gospel: 11:28-30.
I want to thank this record’s producer, Rick Elias, for giving the song its current sound. There’s power in uniting our personal crosses with the One Salvific Cross of Christ Jesus. There’s power in permitting Christ to live in us who, Himself, gives us the wholeness of life every human heart seeks. Jesus is the Son of God who the Father sees when He looks at us; Jesus is the Lamb of God who took our burdens upon Himself in order to bring life out of them. He keeps this promise He seals in His own Blood.
From the Inside Out
There are some Christian covers on this record that move my own spirit. I must confess, I included them not only because they speak to me and I enjoy singing them; but, this being my first CD, I actually feared that my own music just wouldn’t be good enough. Hopefully, I’m wrong.
This song from the Christian group, Hillsong United, moves me in its description of human weakness. I hope to convey the hope that dwells in a penitential heart. There is an unfailing quality to God’s offer of mercy and a certainty in our repentant heart. Everlasting and Never-ending!
The Last Word
This song was a wonderful surprise as I hoped the Lord would pour out some gift with musical and spiritual integrity. I wrote this over the last few months, and I think it has become my favorite track on the record. It’s my own reflection on Jesus’ last words from the cross. In a broader context, it’s my reaction to the power of God’s Word period.
When the Lord speaks, His Word does what it was spoken to do, in us or around us or having nothing to do with us. God means what He says. God does have the last Word: “You will have life and have it to the full (Jn.). God does breathe the first breath: first into man (creation in Gen.) and then the breath of the Risen Lord into the apostles (the New Creation in Jn.). “It is finished,” says the Lord who has made all things new. The “Paradise” we yearn for is afforded to the repentant thief and now to us. But, perhaps the most comforting and powerful word is the word of forgiveness and love that brings you and me back to life in Christ.
Word of God Speak
I want to thank Mercy Me for such a beautiful plea to the Lord, that His voice might meet our eyes, “washing” them, and our hearts, giving them rest. If I don’t invite the power of the Word to be spoken into my life, God will not argue with me. Arguments are between two people trying to prove each one’s point. The Lord has confirmed His point. I took the liberty to modify the words in this version from “won’t you pour down” to the plea “pour down,” and from “washing my eyes” to “wash my eyes.” I like the clear permission we give the Lord to simply have Him “pour” and “wash.”
Word of God speak. Your servant is listening.
He Will Carry Me
There is a comfort in the message of Mark Schultz’s lyrics. This song speaks to a deep place in me. I believe it, and I have experienced it. I really loved singing it from the same deep place in me.
Okay, okay, I had to drop it a half-step or so in order to hit the notes. I hope that doesn’t take anything away from the beauty of this battle cry. I agree that engaging the battle is never easy, but I praise God that He has already won. I rejoice to live on His side of the battle.
This is Love
Pope John-Paul II’s incisive “Theology of The Body” has helped to form my own appreciation of the meaning and purpose of human sexuality. And, I am just one in a world of hungry hearts who has been fed and changed with the Truth of God’s enlightenment to the Church through the Pope who I grew to admire and love greatly. There is no question that marital love is a gift from God to humanity, endowed as a mirror of God’s divinity.
Michael and Faith live out the Holy Father’s “Theology of The Body.” They are also the recipients of this next song on the CD. It was my wedding gift to them. I wrote the lyrics within a couple months of their July 2005 wedding. The melody and music came to me a little earlier. Thank you Lord for bringing them together just as you brought Mike and Faith together as one in marital love.
Verse 1 presents the “man,” or groom longing for a sense of completeness in his life. Verse 2 presents the “woman,” taken from her “man” and recalling an eternal moment when she enjoyed being whole, when God held her and everything.
The chorus makes it really clear how the love of husband and wife is brought to us in the person of Jesus Himself. He is the Father’s love poured into flesh and the power for sacrifice to give life to the “other” whom we love.
The bridge allows both spouses to see in each other the Love who is Christ Jesus Himself. He is so very near and visible in the Sacraments of the Holy Catholic Church, the Bride of the True Bridegroom Himself. (Happy Anniversary Mike and Faith)
Are Not Our Hearts
CHRISTSONG is the name of a Catholic cast of artists, five musicians, a sacred ballerina and a mime who studied under Marcel Marceau. Mark Girardin is the very faithful and talented composer/singer who put it all together. We toured for five years together throughout the U.S. and the U.K. Thank you Mark for inviting me to collaborate in this two-hour sacred musical. CHRISTSONG portrays the Joyful, Sorrowful and Glorious Mysteries (the Luminous weren’t instituted yet), and invites all present into the transformative spirit present in each. “Are Not Our Hearts” is lifted from the Glorious Mysteries portion of the musical. The two disciples who are downcast have their hearts set on fire with the Risen Christ. First in His words to them, and then in His Eucharist (the Word-Made-Flesh) Jesus makes it clear that the “journey is the thing.” He will permit us to encounter Him in the journey, and we are changed through the experience. A burning heart will brighten this world with the Source of the blaze.
I wanted this record to begin and end with the Eucharist, and it does. In between, I hope the Cross, the repentance, the victory of the Word-Savior, the consolation of His strength, and His love lived out are conveyed.
Art and Images
Even though I am blind, the visual message of “Never More Me” was important to me. I wanted the message heard and seen: “Hearing is seeing.”
My hands permit me to “see” in a way. It was important to have hands on the front of the jacket. Those are my own hands pressed together with another set of hands closed over mine. The gesture is lifted from the ordination ritual of a priest, wherein one’s freedom is understood in the context of obedience to Christ’s will as revealed through the bishop.
I envisioned the outside pair of hands having the wounds of Christ and as having light emanating. “I’m never more me than when I receive you.” (Thank you Marcy for your artistic eyes and Christian heart which came together in this image.)
The back of the jacket, in addition to containing important information regarding this project and my website, contains a picture of myself. I’m dressed in my “blacks” with my white cane in my hand. Linda took many different pictures in various places. I think this one conveys what I wanted.
I’m walking away from the camera toward something beautiful opening up before me. The cane and the collar are discernable, but I, myself, am not is what’s important here. It’s the movement from one’s old self toward one’s true Self. “Keep me ever more me.”
Thank you for praying with me.