Take a legendary rock musician, join him to an equally-legendary Italian saint…and you end up with a winning combination.
There are surprises galore in this tale, which I read about in a feature story by George P. Matysek Jr. in The Catholic Review of Baltimore. For one thing, the rock musician–saxophonist Ray Herrmann, star performer with Chicago and other contemporary music groups–turns out to be a faithful Catholic who attends Mass every Sunday and gets to daily Mass whenever he can. And the saint–St. Alphonsus Liguori, the 18th-century Neapolitan best known for founding the Redemptorist order of priests–was also a distinguished artist who composed a dazzling array of spiritual music. They “got together” some 250 years apart when Herrmann recorded some of St. Alphonsus’ classical compositions as devotional aids to such traditional Catholic practices as saying the rosary and praying the Stations of the Cross. The results are available for listening at www.tinyurl.com/rherm11, and you can order all three CDs at littlelambmusic.com. All proceeds go to support Redemptorist missions in South America and Africa.
Herrmann’s rock musician credentials are in perfect order. He’s been on all the late-night television shows, played on film soundtracks, performed with everyone from Stevie Wonder to LeAnn Rimes, and it’s his tenor sax solo you hear on “Jump, Jive and Wail” by Brian Setzer. But doing the CDs of the music by St. Alphonsus–the result of an initiative by the Denver Province of the Redemptorists–brought him closer to God.
“St. Alphonsus wanted to bring home to the common Italian the message of the Gospel,” Herrmann told the Review. “We want people who hear these CDs to take action, using them as a prayer aid to gain more insights into the Gospel.”
St. Alphonsus Liguori was a many-talented priest, a “man for all seasons” in his time and beyond. He earned a law degree before becoming a priest, and then gained a reputation as an artist–a writer, painter, architect, sculptor, harpsichordist and composer, all in addition to his many priestly accomplishments.
“Listening to St. Alphonsus’ music and digging deeper into his lyrics reached my heart immediately,” Herrmann said. “Don’t get me wrong: Vivaldi’s ‘Four Seasons’ is wonderful, but St. Alphonsus goes deeper and touches your soul.
“Of all the things I’ve ever done, the three projects featuring St. Alphonsus’ writings and music have been the most satisfying and the most gratifying.”
Herrmann spends much of his life on tour, and finds that fellow rock musicians respect him for taking his faith seriously.
“I think it’s very easy to be a good human being with the Catholic Church if you follow the magisterium and take the sacraments,” he said. “I try to share that with others. I know it works for me and it works for my wife. If I can share that, I’m happy.”