Listen to the show:
Today’s host(s): Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams
Today’s guest(s): Jon Niven and Heather Flynn of LIFT Ministries
Links from today’s show:
- LIFT Ministries
- God of This City tour
- Photos of LIFT nights and The God of This City tour at BostonCatholic’s Flickr site
Today’s topics: LIFT Ministries and the God of This City tour
Summary of today’s show: LIFT Ministries and the God of This City tour present Catholics of all ages with a beautiful and contemplative experience of Eucharistic adoration coupled with energetic and contemporary music and talented and prayerful speakers. While LIFT occurs each month at Fontbonne Academy, for Advent the God of This City tour brings LIFT to all five regions of the archdiocese. Scot Landry and Fr. Matt Williams are joined by Jon Niven and Heather Flynn to talk about the birth of LIFT five years ago at St. Mary parish in Dedham, how it has grown and matured, and how it continues to reach ever wider audiences of people seeking to encounter the Lord in an uplifting environment of praise that complements their experience of the Eucharist at Mass.
1st segment: Scot asked Fr. Matt about the Jesus in the North End event last Friday evening. It’s a monthly gathering of young adults. They start at 7:30 with Eucharistic adoration until 8:45pm. It’s at St. Leonard’s in the North End of Boston. Some stand outside the church inviting people to come in and say a prayer. They’ve been doing these for 3 years. For the first time in 3 years, the Fire Department showed up to have them put out the little fire they light every month in front of the church. Next time, Fr. Matt said they’ll just put up loads of incense smoke.
Scot asked Fr. Matt if he’s prepared for the new English-language translation of the prayers of the Mass. He said he’s ready for them. They’re so much more beautiful and richer. The connections with Scripture are beautiful. He’s look forward to it elevating his own prayer life. He noted that Fr. Shawn Carey, who works in the Pastoral Center, is a deaf priest and he was involved in creating the signs in Sign Language for the new prayers of the Mass.
Fr. Matt is looking forward to today’s show because he is closely involved in LIFT Ministries and the God of This City tour.
2nd segment: Scot asked Heather Flynn what inspired the start of Lift Ministries five years. Heather and Jon were both working in the Life Teen program at St. Mary’s in Dedham. She’d been feeling God’s calling to expand her ministry beyond the parish and she’s had a love for praise and worship music that she shared with Jon, who was music director for Life Teen at St. Mary’s. They’d heard about a ministry in Louisiana, called Door, that’s similar to Lift.
Jon Niven said Lift nights begin with some praise and worship. Then they have a speaker come in, whether a local lay person, a priest, a bishop, or national personality, to speak on a theme. Then there is time for Eucharistic adoration followed by more praise and worship. Jon said the contemporary praise and worship music makes it unique in the Church. He said they’re not changing the Church or her teaching and traditions, but instead are using the means of the culture to say, “Hey, we’re here.”
Heather said on an average night it’s about 300 people, but they’ve had up to 800 people. What makes it unique is that while they’re geared to teens and young adults, they do get all ages. Fr. Matt said when Heather and Jon first came to him, as parochial vicar at St. Mary’s, Jon had also gone to Phoenix to see some similar such programs. They approached him at the end of a long day when he was exhausted from work, they told him their idea for a young adult outreach. His first reaction was “Don’t we already do that?” because he was so busy. He “yucked” their “wow”, but Heather in her great charity said they would take him out for lunch another day. He told them he didn’t want to do any of the administrative or planning work, but just wanted to show up and do priestly things. So when he walked in to the first event, he was expecting a garage band. But instead he was impressed by their professionalism.
Heather said the goal of Lift nights is to give people an experience of being in heaven, because that’s what worship is. So everything they do in the backdrops and lights and props is trying to give people and experience of what it might be like to be in heaven. Scot said seeing everything done in a first-class professional and beautiful way leads people to that experience of heaven. Fr. Matt said environment helps you realize that there is something special going on here. He said the aspect of praise and worship music comes from our Jewish tradition and the Psalms. They used cymbals and stringed instruments with singing and dancing in the Temple. Those who are in the presence of God are singing unto the Lord and worshipping him. It’s singing hymns of love to the Lord. It starts with praise that is upbeat and then worship takes you into a heart of God.
This isn’t liturgy, but it is a form of prayer that ultimately leads you into deeper communion with the Lord, another way of entering into the stillness of God’s love for us.
Scot asked Jon what he’s hoping to do so the music leads people to Christ without distracting them from prayer. Jon said the most important thing is to get out of the way. Too many worship leaders try to force worship. Step back an let God shine. From a technical standpoint, it’s simple. There’s nothing complex musically to distract, especially during adoration. As musicians they step back.
Scot asked Heather how you prepare an auditorium like one at Fontbonne Academy as a suitable place for adoration. She said they do them in a series over three months with a particular topic. If the topic is the Blessed Mother, they bring in a statue of Mary and flowers, for instance.
As we go to break, we hear a clip from Jon’s 2008 album, “Show the World.”
3rd segment: Fr. Matt said Lift for some is an initial outreach to introduce some to the Lord as well as an opportunity for those who already know the Lord to go deeper in relationship with him. Fr. Matt said if you listen to Jon’s music or Matt Maher, the words are beautiful, theologically and scripturally based, help you to prayer, and in a musical setting that appeals to all ages, but particularly young people.
He said they are committed to bringing in wonderful dynamic Catholic speakers who break open the Lord’s Word. From there they move into Eucharistic adoration. One of three things happen: they could be in complete silence, Fr. Matt could lead them in prayer, or Jon could play a hymn. Some people want silence. Others aren’t comfortable with silence and need something to help lead them. The mix of prayers helps people to enter into a comfortable attitude of prayer. They aren’t rocking out to music, but praising God in a more traditional manner.
Heather said the theme of the most recent season was “Get a Life.” The first night talked about how to surrender our lives to Christ, the tools the Church gives us to help us do that, and how do we listen to God and discern what he’s calling us to. Starting in January will be a series of right to life issues. The Cardinal will be speaking in February. Fr. Matt said this will act as a precursor to the March for Life, which the Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults sponsors for youth from Boston. Fr. Matt said they are focusing on respect life issues is partly because of the push to legalize physician-assisted suicide in Massachusetts. He wants to focus young people on this defense of the dignity of human life.
Scot asked Jon how Lift has changed in the past 5 years. He said in the beginning they were enthusiastic but didn’t know what they were doing yet. Over the course of five years, they’ve slowed down and started to let the Lord lead, like in choices of music that fit the theme or being in the moment of adoration. They have grown and learned to listen. Also as a band, they’ve learned they’re not just a band. They are called to reflect Christ’s light, so they take the focus off of themselves and re-focus it on Christ.
Heather said there are some people who’ve gone to almost every single Lift, but every month they also get a bunch of people raising their hands to show they were new. Scot said George Martell takes photos of each night and posts them on Flickr.com/BostonCatholic.
Scot asked why it complements going to Sunday Mass. Fr. Matt said people who tend to go to Eucharistic adoration and develop a love for it, they start going to Mass more than once per week. There is a concern out there that too much adoration puts an unbalanced focus on adoration above receiving communion, but that’s not Fr. Matt’s experience. He said adoration gives an opportunity for silence to reflect on Christ’s Real Presence in the Eucharist, where there isn’t that much silence during the Mass for that reflection. That experience helps people to go to Mass with greater fervor.
He said there at least tow men who have entered seminarian after becoming regulars at Lift. They know at least several converts to the faith as well. Scot recalled Jon saying that he’s learned over 5 years to slow down more. However, Mass moves on at a fast clip and you’re already anticipating the next step.
Heather said they help people to get a taste of what Lift is like through the video on their website, but it’s hard to convey the experience without experiencing it for yourself. Fr. Matt said you’re walking into an environment of faith, a room filled with people who came to pray, which can have a big impression on someone who’s not yet practicing their faith with fervor. He said in sports, the home team feeds off the fervor of the fans.
After the next segment, we’ll hear a clip from Jon’s new song, “Glory to God Forever” which is the theme song for this year’s God of This City tour.
4th segment: It’s time to announce this week’s winner of the WQOM Benefactor Raffle.
Our prize this week is Seven Deadly Sins, Seven Lively Virtues CD with Study Guide and Workbook by Fr. Robert Barron. Join Father Robert Barron for this engaging presentation concerning the Seven Deadly Sins, those great spiritual blocks that inhibit our flourishing in relationship wtih God and one another. Based on Dante’s writings, the seven deadly sins correspond to the seven stories of Dante’s Mt. Purgatory. Pride, envy, anger, sloth, gluttony, avarice and lust are all presented as patterns of dysfunction within us that lead to unhappiness. Father Barron tells us how to counteract these seven sinful patterns through a conscious process of opposition, which are the Seven Lively Virtues. The Seven Lively Virtues offer antidotes to each sin and help set us on the right path to healing and happiness. This CD can be used for personal reflection and examination of conscience or in a class or group setting, followed by discussion or meditation, using the Study Guide and Workbook.
This week’s benefactor card raffle winner is John & Mary Rose Sullivan from Woburn, MA. Congratulation, John and Mary Rose!
If you would like to be eligible to win in an upcoming week, please visit WQOM.org. For a one-time $30 donation, you’ll receive the Station of the Cross benefactor card and key tag, making you eligible for WQOM’s weekly raffle of books, DVDs, CDs and religious items. We’ll be announcing the winner each Wednesday during “The Good Catholic Life” program.
5th segment: the God of This City tour will take place all next week, Monday, November 28 to Friday, December 2, in a different place each night. The God of This City tour evolved out of Lift and is a collaboration between Lift and Office for the New Evangelization of Youth and Young Adults.
Jon said the first year of God of This City was a song by Matt Maher. Last year was “Our God”. You want the song to be scripturally relevant and true and energetic. The song reminds him to slow down and give it all to God.
Scot asked what’s different about God of This City. Heather said it’s pretty much Lift on the road around the Archdiocese. They already do some events of Lift on the road when they’re invited to parishes and schools. The main difference is they’re in churches and so the logistics is a little different. Fr. Matt said they saw that Lift has met with much success and has been a great blessing, but they often hear people say it’s so hard for people to get to Fontbonne Academy in Milton on a Tuesday night. The tour gives them a chance to go to the five regions of the archdiocese. But it’s also a recognition that it’s a powerful ministry that can reinvigorate the faith of everyone. They don’t say who the audience for Lift of God of this City is so everyone comes.
Fr. Matt said Pope John Paul II said our parishes must become an all-pervading climate of prayer.
On Monday, they will be in St. Mary’s in Dedham with Fr. Matt as speaker whose theme is “Enthroned in Heaven”. On Tuesday, they will be at All Saints in Haverhill where Fr. John Capuci will speak on “Enthroned in the Hearts of His Saints”. On Wednesday at St. Bernadette in Randolph, John Bettinelli will speak on “Enthroned on the Altar”. On Thursday at St. Agnes in Reading, Sr. Florencia Silva will speak on “Enthroned in Our Hearts”. On Friday, Sr. Olga Yaqob will speak at the cathedral on “Enthroned in our Lives”.
Heather said they do get some people who go to all five events. She said anyone who goes to all five events, she’ll give them a free t-shirt.
Scot asked about the topics which all reference “enthroning.” Fr. Matt said enthroning refers to a king and it marks the beginning of his reign. Jesus is enthroned in heaven, not because of his domination, but because of his humility and self-emptying. He is enthroned in heaven because of his obedience to his Father and all of heaven bows in worship to the Lord. The second night connects to confession. That leads to the Eucharist on the third night. And from there it’s the lives of the saints and the last night, Sr. Olga will talks about bringing Christ enthroned out into the world. This is a preparation for Advent.
Jon said leading people who may have not prayed this way involves patience and being willing to teach the people. Jon said the benefit of this style of music is that it’s catchy and very singable so people pick it up very easily.
Scot asked about putting up the big screens and setting up the environment in a church. Heather said they visit each parish and figure out how to make it all work and how to do so respectfully. Fr. Matt said they have a great reverence for these as liturgical space and houses of worship. They’re not there to take away from the beauty or meaning of the space, but to help people pray in.
Fr. Matt said they also offer confession from 8-9 pm each night. Scot said he tells his friends that if they feel awkward going to confession with their own parish priest, big events like God of This City offer a good opportunity to find a priest you don’t know.
Fr. Matt said if you can only come to one night, go to the Friday night at the cathedral.