Catholic musician Luke Spehar continues pilgrimage with new album

| Jessica Weinberger | March 2, 2018 | 0 Comments

Strumming his guitar and sharing prayerful melodies at the University of St. Thomas’ popular Sunday night Last Chance Masses, then-seminarian Luke Spehar kept fielding requests to play more of his music, which he began writing as a high schooler in Chisago City. From members of his swim team to fellow seminarians looking for an acoustic set to entertain visiting parents, Spehar’s growing list of gigs led him to consider a music career.

He discerned out of St. John Vianney College Seminary in St. Paul his senior year, but before graduation, Spehar announced that he would embark on a nationwide tour. He had just recorded seven original songs, but with no money to produce his first album, he turned to the seminarians at SJV to gauge interest in pre-ordering copies.

Then one morning, Spehar awoke to a pile of bills slid underneath his dorm room door and a list of pledges via email. It was enough to order 500 copies with 1,000 more to follow soon.

“It’s such a testament to the fact that if the Lord wants it to happen, literally nothing can stop it,” he said.

Now fresh off of his 30th birthday, Spehar is working as a full-time musician, traveling the country to play his music and minister to people of all ages, especially youths and young adults. He recently released his fourth album, “The Pilgrim” — his first album recorded locally with local musicians. A parishioner at St. Joseph in West St. Paul, Spehar regularly tours with his wife, Elizabeth, and their two young daughters, proving that faith, family life and one’s vocation can unite in a powerful way.

Luke Spehar

Luke Spehar during a performance. Courtesy Luke Spehar

Often compared to musicians such as Jack Johnson and Ben Harper, Spehar describes his music as modern folk-style. Lyrically, his songs carry faith-based themes with titles like “The Champion,” “All Is Gift” and “The Sonrise.” Many of his songs also play off his early years growing up north of the Twin Cities with his four siblings.

As a songwriter, he considers each of his albums and songs to be biographical.

“It takes a snapshot of those years and puts them in song,” said Spehar, who will be performing at the 2018 Archdiocesan Catholic Men’s Conference March 10 at St. Thomas Academy in Mendota Heights. “For me, they’re very much the prayers that I was praying at that time.”

Father Nathan LaLiberte, pastor of St. Maximilian Kolbe in Delano, remembers gatherings at SJV where the room would fall silent as he and other seminarians listened to Spehar’s lyrics. Now Father LaLiberte has hosted him at his parish, noting how Spehar evangelizes through storytelling and an “amazing” live performance.

“To have a musician that intertwines music and faith allows for the Gospel message to enter into the daily life of the faithful, hopefully resulting in the music moving them to the good, the true and the beautiful,” Father LaLiberte said.

Luke Spehar

Luke Spehar sings one of the songs on his new album to an audience of three: his wife, Elizabeth, and daughters Mary, left, and Jane. DAVE HRBACEK | THE CATHOLIC SPIRIT

‘The Pilgrim’

Spehar’s latest album offers a fuller, more mature sound with a blue-grass vibe that still stays true to his accessible music style that is both relatable and reflective. The album title draws upon his experience of walking the 500-mile Camino de Santiago — aka the Way of St. James — in Spain and experiencing many life milestones.

“The concept of ‘pilgrimage’ is we’re all on this journey and our own path to the Lord,” Spehar said. “From marriage to fatherhood to buying our first home to touring together as newlyweds, my life has really just reflected the reality that we’re pilgrims in a very tangible way.”

‘The Pilgrim’ in concert

MINNEAPOLIS

8 p.m. April 5
Bryant-Lake Bowl, 810 W. Lake St.
$12 advance, $15 at the door
All ages

ST. PAUL

7:30 p.m. April 20
University of St. Thomas O’Shaughnessy Educational Center Auditorium
2115 Summit Ave.
$10, free for UST students
All ages

Faith serves as the common denominator of all his roles and fuels each performance, which Spehar calls a “concert with a point.” They choose songs to emphasize a specific theme that will resonate at parish events, college campuses or young adult conferences. Their most recent theme was being courageous and stepping out in faith.

Each set of lyrics, drawn from personal experience, has different meaning to the songwriter. The death of his brother, Navy SEAL Nicholas Spehar, in 2011 has also had a significant impact on his ministry.

“What was inspiring about his service and gift was he lived a lifestyle that was just poured out,” Spehar said. “That aligned my priorities and made me realize that I have to go out and give this gift of music away.”

While on the road for about one week per month, Spehar prays the rosary and scrolls through the daily Mass readings on his phone each morning. He’s a fan of Lighthouse Catholic Media CDs and has taken an interest in audio books, including his current read, G.K. Chesterton’s “Orthodoxy.”

He feels blessed that his young family can minister to others and draw them to Christ through his music, which continues to resonate with his audiences, just like his former peers at the University of St. Thomas.

“Our hope is that the music and ministry continue to grow in such a way that honors all of our different roles,” he said. “The deepest hope is that the gift is given to its fullest potential.”

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