by Kara Hansen
SABETHA — After finishing the writing and production of his first CD, “Tobit,” in 2006, Father Kent O’Connor did not expect to be going through that process again anytime soon.
But when one of the musicians that worked on “Tobit” casually mentioned the idea of a saints CD, the young priest could not get the idea out of his head.
“I liked the idea of introducing people to the saints through music,” said Father O’Connor, pastor of Sacred Heart in Sabetha, St. Augustine in Fidelity, and St. James in Wetmore. “I think sometimes people think of ‘the saints’ as a kind of conglomerate of boring, holy people with no real personalities of their own.
“But nothing could be further from the truth. The saints lived real flesh-and- blood lives, and each had his or her unique personality.”
Once he’d decided on a “Saints” CD, Father O’Connor had to figure out which different saints to feature and what angle to take on them.
“The idea for this CD was to not just do a tribute to the saints, but to have songs written from their perspective and in first person. I wanted to use as much of their words as possible,” he said.
That, however, required hours of research; he wound up pouring over the saints’ own writings for ideas and for a better handle on each’s personality. Though he had some saints in mind when originally starting the process, Father O’Connor found himself intrigued by saints he knew very little about previously.
“I really didn’t know anything about St. Gianna Molla,” he said, “but felt very inspired through her writings and story to put that into a song.”
The inspiration for other songs came from unlikely places.
St. Clare, for example, was not one Father O’Connor originally intended to use in the CD. By chance, though, he saw a quotation from her writings in a religious goods catalog that read: “Place your mind before the mirror of eternity.”
“I liked that quote so much, I ended up looking it up, and it inspired a song about her, focusing on those words,” he said.
The entire process of writing music and lyrics for each song — 10 in all — was labor intensive, requiring several drafts and numerous edits. Finally, in February 2007, Father O’Connor started recording the songs and completed the collection in October. He is joined on the album by several musicians from Curé of Ars Parish in Leawood, his previous assignment.
If listeners take just one thing away from the CD, said Father O’Connor, he hopes it will be a desire to learn more about the saints. If listener reviews are any indication, it seems to be doing just that.
“I absolutely love it. I like to listen to it in the car because the songs are great to meditate on,” said Lisa White, a parishioner at Curé of Ars. “The music is very inspiring and has really made me crave another CD on different saints so I can get to know more of them.”
Although she enjoys all the music on the CD, White especially likes the songs on St. Therese of Lisieux and St. Maximilian Kolbe.
But one song particularly stands out.
“St. Gianna is the most beautiful song. It really speaks about the heart of a mother that I can relate to,” she said.