Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Sarah Hart has a gift for music and lyrics, so it’s a good thing she didn’t follow through on her initial career goals of becoming an archaeologist or pediatrician. During an interview with me on Christopher Closeup, Hart laughingly recalled a conversation she had with her band director in high school. He asked her what her career aspirations were and she responded, “I might want to be a doctor.” He just looked at her and said, “Honey, you’re not gonna be a doctor.”
While some might interpret the band director’s response as harsh or condescending, Hart appreciated him “speaking vocation into my life…I think it’s something we need to be able to give our young people a little more – to say, ‘Here are the gifts I see in you and here’s a path that you can carve to use these gifts.’”
Hart’s gift for music and love of God have led her to a successful career in Christian music, where she’s written songs for artists like Matt Maher, Audrey Assad, and Amy Grant, whose hit “Better Than a Hallelujah” earned Sarah her first Grammy nomination for songwriting. But she also enjoys stepping behind the microphone herself to perform songs she’s written. She’s released a number of popular albums including the country-flavored “Road to Ohio” and the more recent Christmas album, “This Winter’s Eve.”
Hart’s connection to her faith goes back to her “cradle Catholic” childhood. She was raised across the street from a church that she used to sneak into to pray because she knew a side door that was always kept unlocked. She says, “For me, Christ was always present and the Incarnation was a very real thing. Even as a child, I didn’t question it – and I know that’s a huge gift… I feel that God’s always walked with me and never let me go.”
The importance of connecting young people to their Catholic faith in this era of people who say they’re “spiritual, not religious” has led Hart to talk with and perform for that generation, specifically at the National Catholic Youth Conference this past November in Indianapolis, Indiana.
When I asked her why she thinks some youth remain practicing Catholics while others drift away, Hart responded, “I have to give an unbelievable amount of kudos and credit to the people who are in the trenches: parents and youth leaders. If parents are committing themselves to getting their kids to religious ed, to praying with them in the home, to loving them with the love of Christ – and if they get them to those religious educators who are faithfully there every week to pray with those kids and teach them about Christ, I think the combination of that compels these kids to be excited about their faith. That is where it has to begin…Kids who are loved at the parish level and the home level, those are the kids that understand the love of God. The only way you can really understand love is if you are shown love.”
One of the human embodiments of God’s love in Hart’s life is her husband of 18 years, for whom she wrote the song “Bethlehem” on her Christmas album. She especially wanted to highlight the importance of seeing their marriage as a sacrament: “I wanted to paint that picture of…bringing our sacrament back to the manger year after year, turning to Christ with our brokenness in our hands and saying, ‘Lord, continue to help us. Bless us and walk with us on this path of marriage. We come here to remember where love comes from. It comes from You. Please bless us with one more year of love for each other in our love for You.’”
That’s a wise prayer for any time of year.