It is only when we are more intentional in the way we act that we realize how much our choices change the way we think and feel. Lent, as a time of prayer, fasting and almsgiving, is a time to grow in intentionality. In this spring cleaning of the soul, I suggest cleaning up our music choices.
Too often, the music we listen to can put us in a headspace that does not contribute to our relationship with God. The lyrics tell us over and over that our joy is found in fallible people and fleeting moments, or the tone encourages us to overindulge in negative emotions.
Now, I love an angry car ride screaming along to Taylor Swift as much as the next person, but this indulgence ought to be purposeful and chosen, not automatic and thoughtless. In Lent, I suggest considering listening to music for the sake of developing one’s relationship with God.
If you’re not sure where to look, type “Danielle Rose” into your Spotify search bar. An ‘02 Notre Dame grad, Danielle Rose spent many years writing and performing music for God. After discerning her possible vocation to a cloistered convent, she heard the Lord’s call elsewhere and now lives happily with her husband and children in Minnesota.
She has several beautiful albums. One is dedicated to the memory of the saint she loved and worked with, St. Mother Teresa, and her most recent album honors the pain and faith of miscarriage. Her “Mysteries” album is particularly appropriate for Lenten listening. Written in response to Pope St. John Paul II’s apostolic letter “Rosarium Virginis Mariae,” the album is, according to Danielle Rose’s website, “both a tribute and response to JPII’s invitation: ‘Young people, take up the rosary once again.’”
The album consists of 23 songs written for the 20 mysteries of the Rosary, an opening prayer, and two concluding prayers. The opening song, “True Love,” sets the tone for the rest of the album by inviting the listener to quiet themselves in the light of Christ’s love and to follow His example. The following songs are each a masterpiece of theology and beauty that honor Mama Mary with every note. Each told from a different perspective in the Bible, the songs together weave a deep and fresh conception of the mysteries of the Rosary.
The songs on the Joyful mysteries truly are joyful. Sung through the eyes of Elizabeth and Mary, the Star of Bethlehem, Simeon and St. Joseph, Rose captures the emotion and essence of each mystery. “The Finding” is my personal favorite as the natural anxiety and parental fears of St. Joseph are beautifully confronted with the simple trust of the child Jesus.
The album couldn’t very well be a response to the letter of JPII without songs dedicated to his Luminous mysteries. Here, we hear from St. John the Baptist, Mama Mary, and Jesus. “Wedding at Cana” is an upbeat glimpse into the love Jesus has for His mother. Rose shows how willingly He inclines His ear to Mary and how lovingly she inclines hers to our own simple requests. “A Love Song From Jesus” reminds us of what the fifth Luminous mystery really means; Jesus reaches for us in the Eucharist and asks us to love Him as He loves us.
The meditations on the Sorrowful mysteries are perhaps the most powerful in the album. Here, Rose enters the heart of lonely Jesus, the mob calling for His blood, and even the branch made into His crown. “Crucify Him” is a chilling confrontation with our complicity in Christ’s death; the listener cannot help but question if every harsh word, every unkind act, is another nail driven into the hand of God. “Crown of Thorns” may be my favorite song on the album; it is the perfect song for meditation as Rose’s beautiful voice sings acapella about a familiar topic in an unfamiliar way. “Holiness is Faithfulness” turns the fourth mystery on its head; instead of focusing on the pain of Jesus, the song honors the joy of Christ’s sacrifice and invites us to take up our own crosses and follow behind Him. “A Mother’s Song” rounds out the Sorrowful mysteries with Mary’s heart-wrenching desire to spare her Son and her simultaneous pride and gratitude for His sacrifice.
The Glorious mysteries are certainly glorified by Rose. From the call to “Rejoice!” by the angels, to Jesus’ joy in crowning His mother the Queen of Heaven, these songs are full of the joy of revelation. They show us that the life of Christ is an invitation to active freedom.
The album ends with a beautiful song for our Mother and a final call to action. “Hail, Holy Queen” shows off Rose’s vocal grace and truly honors the holiness of the Rosary. As we enter into Lent as a Catholic community, let us consider the final song on the album; “Reason to Believe” sends the listener out with a concise plan for living a holy life: “live so as to be a reason to believe.”