Bringing a musical role model to my attention

| December 15, 2011
Archbishop Nienstedt

Archbishop John C. Nienstedt

It has been said that, “You can’t teach old dogs new tricks,” but I am here to prove otherwise.

The setting for this story was the National Catholic Youth Conference, which was held this year from Nov. 17-19 in Indianapolis.  Twenty-three thousand young people were present.

Since we had over 130 youths participating in what I like to describe as a mini-World Youth Day celebration, I flew to Indianapolis from the bishops’ conference in time to preside at an evening liturgy for our own youths as well as for those from the other five dioceses of Minnesota.

It is difficult to describe the intense prayer, praise and song that characterize this gathering. Truly, it is for many participants a religious experience that touches their very souls.  The talks, the dance, the song and the prayers are powerful, making connections with our young people in a way that solidifies their identity as Catholics.

Doing my homework

After I had celebrated Mass for the Minnesota delegation, the archdiocesan contingent walked four blocks to the Old Spaghetti Factory for dinner. I was seated at a table with 14 representatives from various parishes.

In the course of the meal, which was accompanied by loud background music and equally loud conversation, one young lady leaned across the table and asked, “Archbishop, what do you think of Taylor Swift?” I responded, “Who?” “Taylor Swift,” came the reply. I had to admit, “I’ve never heard of her.” There was a look of disbelief and horror on the faces all around.

Well, since that awkward moment, I have done my homework and have become very impressed with this country music singer, a singer who has recently entered the field as a pop artist as well.

Taylor Swift, now 21 years old, began writing songs and poems while still a teenager. She started singing professionally when she was only 14, living with, and being home-schooled by, her intact family in Nashville.

Singer Taylor Swift performs at Bishop Ireton High School in Alexandria, Va., in this 2009 file photo. CNS photo / Jonathan Tramontana

By the time she was 18, her album, “Fearless,” was the fourth best-selling album of all time. This year, her album, “Speak Now,” has set a Guinness World Record as the fastest-selling digital recording. Her singing tours have grossed more than $100 million.

And here is the best part: her lyrics are pro-parent and pro-family. She speaks about her relationship with Mom and Dad, on being nice, putting bullies in their place and backing up friends.

She has also publically acknowledged fathers who chaperone their daughters to concerts. And the message is getting communicated. The New York Times described her as “one of pop’s finest songwriters, country’s foremost pragmatist and more in touch with her inner life than most adults.”

Aware of responsibilities

It is refreshing to find a popular, musical role model who is focused on friends, friendship and family values. She is also aware of the responsibility she carries by being in the limelight. In a recent “60 Minutes” interview, she said, “The truth of it is every singer out there with songs on the radio is raising the next generation.”

I am grateful to our NCYC “next generation” of Catholic youth for bringing Taylor Swift to my attention. They disproved the old adage that you can’t teach old dogs new tricks.

God bless you!

Tags: ,

Category: Only Jesus

Comments are closed.