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A Rock Critic Talks Faith View Comments
By James Breig

LIKE A DNA helix, music and faith have intertwined throughout the life of Rob Sheffield, a Catholic and rock critic for Rolling Stone magazine. He’s also the author of Love Is a Mix Tape and Talking to Girls About Duran Duran—books filled with his personal beliefs and his love for contemporary music.

“I’ve learned that my faith is always changing in ways I don’t have the power to predict,” he tells St. Anthony Messenger. “Questions that seem clear enough to me one year will seem incredibly troubling the next year. Music is like that, too. You decide one week you have a clear idea of what you like and what music you identify with. Then, the next week, some music sneaks through the walls you’ve built and reaches your heart.”

Sheffield, 45, was born into Catholicism. He grew up near Boston in the 1970s, which he describes as “an exciting time, when the adults around us were deeply inspired by leaders like Cardinal [Richard] Cushing of Boston and the late Pope John XXIII, and by the Second Vatican Council. There was this idea that Catholic spirituality was not something you let the experts take care of for you, and it wasn’t something you watched happen while the clergy did all the work.

“Instead,” he continues, “growing up Catholic meant taking your place as an adult in a collaborative, interpretive community. That was scary as well as exciting because it was a challenge. It meant we learned to ask ourselves tough adult questions about our faith and what it meant, and [we didn’t settle] for easy, dismissive answers.

“It meant shouldering the responsibility for making the Church happen,” says Sheffield. “It seemed obvious to all of us that we were growing up in the best possible time in history to be Catholic. There was an excitement in the adults around us, our parents, our CCD teachers, the nuns and the priests. There was a sense of the Church as a growing, vibrant, dynamic thing.”

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James Breig is a veteran writer for Catholic newspapers, magazines and books. He now authors a syndicated media column for dozens of Catholic papers.

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Philip Neri: Philip Neri was a sign of contradiction, combining popularity with piety against the background of a corrupt Rome and a disinterested clergy, the whole post-Renaissance malaise. 
<p>At an early age, he abandoned the chance to become a businessman, moved to Rome from Florence and devoted his life and individuality to God. After three years of philosophy and theology studies, he gave up any thought of ordination. The next 13 years were spent in a vocation unusual at the time—that of a layperson actively engaged in prayer and the apostolate. </p><p>As the Council of Trent (1545-63) was reforming the Church on a doctrinal level, Philip’s appealing personality was winning him friends from all levels of society, from beggars to cardinals. He rapidly gathered around himself a group of laypersons won over by his audacious spirituality. Initially they met as an informal prayer and discussion group, and also served poor people in Rome. </p><p>At the urging of his confessor, he was ordained a priest and soon became an outstanding confessor, gifted with the knack of piercing the pretenses and illusions of others, though always in a charitable manner and often with a joke. He arranged talks, discussions and prayers for his penitents in a room above the church. He sometimes led “excursions” to other churches, often with music and a picnic on the way. </p><p>Some of his followers became priests and lived together in community. This was the beginning of the Oratory, the religious institute he founded. A feature of their life was a daily afternoon service of four informal talks, with vernacular hymns and prayers. Giovanni Palestrina was one of Philip’s followers, and composed music for the services. </p><p>The Oratory was finally approved after suffering through a period of accusations of being an assembly of heretics, where laypersons preached and sang vernacular hymns! (Cardinal Newman founded the first English-speaking house of the Oratory three centuries later.) </p><p>Philip’s advice was sought by many of the prominent figures of his day. He is one of the influential figures of the Counter-Reformation, mainly for converting to personal holiness many of the influential people within the Church itself. His characteristic virtues were humility and gaiety.</p> American Catholic Blog We need do no more than we are doing at present; that is, to love divine Providence and abandon ourselves in his arms and heart.<br />—St. Padre Pio

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