Matt Maher reflects on being Catholic in the largely-Protestant contemporary Christian music world

By Jenara Kocks Burgess

Correspondent

MATT MAHER (Photo courtesy of CMA Media Promotions)

Catholic singer and songwriter Matt Maher recently shared his thoughts about being a Catholic in the primarily non-Catholic Christian contemporary music scene with the North Texas Catholic. Maher was in the area with Christian contemporary musician Toby Mac’s “Worship, Stories, and Songs” tour. Two of the three Texas stops on the tour were within the diocese’s boundaries — Memorial Auditorium in Wichita Falls and First Baptist Church in Lewisville.

Because of his worship music, Maher is known as a worship leader, and his music is often used in Catholic parishes and Protestant churches in the United States and throughout the world. He performed at the University of Dallas Ministry Conference in 2010 and at World Youth Day in Rio de Janeiro in 2013.

“My personal mission is really rooted in John 17 in the Gospel, when Jesus prays for unity,” he said, “I’ve really tried to be a Catholic, ministering alongside my fellow brothers and sisters from different denominations ….  But with that being said, it’s a different kind of ecumenism. It’s not one where I’m trying to convince anyone of anything as much as I’m first of all, trying to stand alongside and proclaim Jesus to the world with them,” Maher said.

Originally from Newfoundland, Canada, Maher moved to Arizona when he was 20. Although he was raised Catholic, in Arizona, Maher grew deeper in his faith through the Charismatic Renewal. He said he thinks the way for Christians to understand each other is to publicly proclaim together the centrality of Jesus.

“Jesus is at the center of the Church, even for Catholics with the Eucharist. The Eucharist is Jesus, so Jesus is the center of our Catholic faith,” he said. “Being able to stand shoulder-to-shoulder with other Christians and just proclaim the importance and beauty of who Jesus is is a great thing. And I think this is what the Holy Father (Pope Francis) has been trying to say. ‘Look, if we can stand together and proclaim Christ on the way, we can understand our differences and talk about them and learn to have a greater respect for each other.’”

Maher said he thinks worship music, which has become his specialty, could be used as a way of bringing all Christians together and bringing the younger culture in as well, because of its honesty.

“I think in our culture, that’s what people really want when they look at Christians — they just want people to be honest,” he said. “Be honest about life; be honest about the struggles that we face; be transparent; be who you are. I think Christianity has had a real credibility problem in America, and it’s not just Catholicism now. The world needs witnesses, not people who are perfect, but people who are honest, because, I think, the Gospel really starts with honesty.

“Jesus has all these conversations with sinners who are honest about who they are. So I think God can work with honesty,” he added. “I think God can work when we sort of get everything out into the light. Worship music is very real because it comes from a place of need or a place of deep devotion.”

Referring to one of his most popular songs, “Lord, I need you,” Maher said it’s popular because it’s honest.

“It’s writing about God from the point of need,” he said.

Maher has also written worship songs about Catholic beliefs such as “Adoration.” He said he thinks music is a way to allow other Christians and non-Christians to become familiar with such beliefs.

“...You can just expose them to something and give them space to think about it on their own. I think that’s what I’ve definitely tried to do,” Maher said. “Music is music, and they appreciate it, but at the same time, there are things we sing about from a Catholic context. A lot of it is how you articulate it. I think the Eucharist is just inherently a part of Christianity. You can’t remove it, but you can lose sight of its importance.”

Maher originally wanted to be a film composer writing music for movies until he started working at a parish in youth ministry. He said he had been in a couple of rock bands but had never considered himself a singer until he became involved in ministry.

“I realized I had kind of a passion for it ….  Ever since then it was kind of like, ‘Well, I guess that’s what I was called to do,’” he said.

Maher also sits on the board for Life Teen, a national Catholic youth ministry catechetical program that began in Arizona and is used in several parishes in the Diocese of Fort Worth. “I love what they do. I think youth ministry is an important thing in terms of kind of helping the Church change its notion that the youth are a really important part of the Church,” he said.

Now a husband and father, Maher tries to balance his vocation as a Christian musician with his family life. “You leave for a few days and come back,” Maher said. “I think the goal is when I’m home, to be really present to being home. That’s kind of the balance of it.”

Maher said he never knows when he will receive inspiration for a song, so he has to be prepared. “You just try to capture the idea — iPhones have been great for that in the sense of just the spontaneity of it; you get an idea, and you can hum it into your phone.”

He said his own life and relationship with God are inspirations for his music.

“You write about what you know, is sort of the first rule of song-writing. So it’s not about me projecting what I think other people know. It’s just saying this is what’s going on in my heart and my life,” Maher said.

 

Catholic singer and songwriter Matt Maher recently shared his thoughts about being a Catholic in the primarily non-Catholic Christian contemporary music scene with the North Texas Catholic. Maher was in the area with Christian contemporary musician Toby Mac’s “Worship, Stories, and Songs” tour. Two of the three Texas stops on the tour were within the diocese’s boundaries — Memorial Auditorium in Wichita Falls and First Baptist Church in Lewisville.

Published