How do you make sense of your life? What goes on in the heart and mind that gives each of us a sense of "me?" Our faith teaches us that we human beings are made for relationships. Our experience tells us that the stories of our lives are stories of our relationships with others and that it is by seeing ourselves reflected in loving eyes that we most surely know who we are.
The Catholic faith is about a person. Truth for us is a Person and the Person is Christ –Someone who knows us intimately, seeks us intentionally and calls us each by name.
At no other time in history have human hearts been so robbed of the personal stories that make sense of life. The world around dissolves into meaninglessness and people grasp vainly for something solid to hold onto amid the shifting scene of fads and trends. Our faith, the truth of our lives, the unknown truths of their lives, is just exactly the handhold on reality that people need. But how can we bring it to them? How can the message of faith, the personal encounter with the loving eyes of God, be made real to our media-saturated generation?
Enter the O'Neill Brothers. Tim and Ryan are nationally known recording artists who've been at the top of the Billboard Charts nine times. Their music — performed on two pianos — has been featured on HBO, PBS, NBC and ESPN, and they have an Emmy nomination to their credit. But one has to go back to before the millions of CD sales and before the TV appearances to locate the roots of both their music and their success.
The two were students at Notre Dame when they discovered their gift of moving audiences with piano duets featuring a fresh take on hundreds of beloved melodies, played in a style that is both engaging and relaxing. Tim explains, "Faith has always been at the heart of our piano playing. For us it has always been a prayer — and an occasion for others to connect with God. If it does that for just one person, we've succeeded. Piano for us has always been keys to heaven."
In 1996, Tim and Ryan's father had major heart surgery. While he recovered at home, Tim was playing the piano for him when a new song began to emerge. As Tim puts it, "This is the song that God gave my fingers." The song celebrates their father's life and faith and is a continuing remembrance since his death in 2004.
While Tim and Ryan were grieving for their father, another Catholic man was coming to a growing awareness of the vital importance of the personal stories of faithful Catholics as a witness to the presence of God in our world. As a father of six children Greg Schlueter knew the unique power of stories. Greg also was no stranger to success in the world of media — with experience in marketing encompassing Disney/Walden's Narnia, A&E's God or the Girl, Champions of Faith, and WB's Superman Returns. While looking for audio to accompany a promo video he was producing for Fr. Larry Richard's Reason for Our Hope Foundation, he became acquainted with the O'Neill brothers and their extraordinary music.
The three men hit it off in conversation, feeling that God was leading them to some kind of collaboration. Months of prayer and deepening friendship followed and as they talked, more and more, the idea of telling stories and setting them to music became the theme of their conversation.
Whose stories, though? This is where it really gets interesting — because Greg Schlueter and the O'Neill brothers want to collect your story! That's right. They have set up a website to collect — and then tell — the faith stories of ordinary Catholics, stories that in many cases are far from ordinary. Take for example the story of a young mother, Tami, whose weeks old daughter was struck with a mysterious illness that stopped her breathing. Turning to God she pleaded, "Whatever is wrong with her, give it to me." The mother's panic turned to relief as the infant stabilized, but days later Tami was herself stricken and required open heart surgery. This amazing story of someone who dies and returns to life includes the testimony of her doctor and the entire narrative is set to original music by the O'Neill brothers.
Their website, keys2heaven.com, is a place where you can share your own journey of faith. Every month, the O'Neill brothers will pick one of the contributed stories and write an original piano composition to accompany it. The stories and music are available for a subscription, for yourself or as a gift that keeps on giving as new compositions and the stories that inspire them become available month by month. The entire inspiring package will be wrapped up in a compilation CD and accompanying booklet in November, 2008.
[Those who purchase this right now ($19.95 plus S&H), for a limited time will also receive Piano Brothers' acclaimed Christmas CD, Spirit of the Season, Vol. 1. It's a perfect Christmas gift, a Christmas CD right now and a new gift to open every month of the year.]
Visit the Keys to Heaven website now for details about this program and how you can share the story of your faith journey.