The Role of Cathoilc Heavy Metal in the Church Today

By | December 20, 2006

Now that I have your attention….

As a Catholic priest, I’ve learned that the salvation of souls is the primary objective (including one’s own soul, of course).

Now, many methods have been put forth in aiding efforts toward this goal. Certainly, music has been one of them. Sometimes people are drawn to a church because of the music. This is a rather shallow reason, but our basic passions are often the initial motivators toward God (or away from Him, for that matter).

In the 1960s and ’70s, various Christian groups began to use pop and rock music and a tool of evangelization. It was only a matter of time before band imitating the "metal" style began to emerge, such as Philadelphia and Barren Cross (and of course Stryper). Throughout the (short) history of such bands, their concerts have consisted of music, preaching, and almost always an altar call. The goal was obvious: get ’em in the concert hall and get ’em saved. More recent bands have become more sophisticated perhaps, but if they are seriously Christian, then one knows what to expect.

Now, in the country with the most Catholic people in the world, Brazil, it stands to reason that efforts in Catholic evangelization are more varried than any other country. The sheer number of Catholic music groups is overwhelming, and they cover practically every genre.

It is here that we find many of the existing Catholic heavy metal bands, modeled largely often the ’80s "big hair" bands from the USA. Eterna usually uses English lyrics, which is apparently "cool." No doubt their preaching is in Brazilian, however. Other bands use English and Brazilian or just Brazilian lyrics. Rosa de Saron is more contemporary, with some slower songs.

As an example, here is a video of Eterna performing their song, "Final Warning."

Here are some lyrics from the song:

Never, never forget
You can find the way of light

The final warning
Turn your eyes to the Lord
The time is coming
And
the Spirit will be your guide

People need
salvation
So many starvation
If you can see
You can be free

Looking at the truth now
The enemy
is falling down
If you can see
You really can be
free
— Eterna, "The Final Warning"

The song is actually quite apocalyptic, because the first lyric is "The deceiver’s coming."

And, just so you know, they have a song with the chorus in Latin: "Da Pacem Domine." The rest of the lyrics are in somewhat broken English. The song appears to be about the vanity of chasing after fame and wealth and a warning not to let TV and commercialism brainwash you.

One can debate the effectiveness of such a band from any number of perspectives…. What does such a band accomplish?

I don’t think we are to be the judge of that. They are doing something that, as far as they know, is a particular vocation from God–to reach a segment that many can’t begin to reach.

Certainly, they have fans that are "on the fringe," and may not be practicing their faith at all, but those are exactly the kind of people Jesus would hang with (i.e. sinners), and it drove the Scribes and Pharisies crazy!

Further info on Eterna, taken from their website: (translation a bit rough)

Did you know that Eterna is the only Heavy Metal band that has a straight connection to a Catholic monastery? That’s how it works: The band came up inside the Monastery of Hope, a catholic religious order in which members are called “Servants of Hope”. This order is recognized by the Vatican and the Pope and it was founded by the Friar Bernardo da Esperança SE (Fradao). The Monastery of Hope, besides supporting Eterna’s work, it also supports social works. CCEV (Home, Hope and Life Community) is responsible for the rehabilitation of thousands of drugs and alcohol dependants and it was created by the Monks of Hope. CCEV is already present in five states of Brazil and in more than 50 cities and it has more than 60 community centers, all of them have special support groups such as NATA (center of support for chemical and alcohol dependents), NAFTA (support center for the family of chemical and alcohol dependants, NAFTINHA (support center for chemical and alcoholic dependant’s children) and NAVI (support center for LIFE),which [has done] a great job with the young people in terms of [drug] prevention and which Eterna works with.

Yes. Salvation of souls is key. Now, not everybody is going to win souls with an exceptional ability to chant ancient Gregorian chants, although some people will be attracted by this.

Catholic metal bands are a "rescue" or "lifeboat" operation. We should not expect them to have any profound theology, or perhaps even correct grammar in a second language. They are not meant to be the type of music a Catholic who has passed through, say, the purgative stage in the spiritual life would listen to. If you are reading St. John of the Cross, I doubt you are listening to Eterna.

Nonetheless, I can say that listening to Christian heavy metal was indeed part of my journey towards God, and, come to think of it, I was reading St. John of the Cross at that time… Of course I didn’t understand much of what I read….

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