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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.”


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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