I'm going to do something a little different. Instead of a book or movie (like usual), I'm going to review an album of music. Brace yourselves :)
Title: Culture of Life
Author: Danielle Rose
My Rating: *****
Age Group: various
Official Rating: N/A
I'm going to do this by song because it seems like the most efficient way to review an entire album.
(Note: I apologize for the length this method caused, but because of the content of the album and how it is distributed, I thought it would be the best way to review this particular work.)
Style: gentle, almost like a lullaby
The Story: Rose addresses a popular lie in our world today: overpopulation. She compares children to roses in God's garden, saying one can never have too many. She also brings to attention that God is the one who creates us, and children, and that He has promised to take care of us and does so. God loves all, misses nothing, and provides (through us) for His children.
"Just One Life"
Style: slow, careful, sorrowful but also hopeful
The Story: A young woman is pregnant and the father doesn't want the child, dropping her and the unborn baby off outside a clinic and saying it'll be over soon. He says that it's the best thing for her and that she doesn't need any more problems, implying that the child is merely a problem and nothing more. While the word "abortion" is not actually mentioned, it's not easy to miss what is happening for those who are aware of such things. We don't know the baby's fate. The focus switches to a sobbing man on a bridge who is wondering if anyone will care if he lives or dies.
Then we get another reflection. Just one life saved us. Just one "yes" to that life brought Jesus into the world. Every life is precious.
Style: upbeat, joyful, praising.
The Story: Each of us is precious. No one like you has ever been in the world and no one will follow you. Your soul has life for all eternity and you have valuable because you are an image of God that the world hasn't encountered yet. You are necessary in this world and are irreplaceable.
"Waiting For You"
Style: gentle and lullaby-like, peacefully praising and trusting
The Story: God has a plan and the singer is looking forward to meeting her future spouse. She is determined to be chaste and wait patiently but hopefully and with longing. She refers to lying on her bed waiting, thinking about her future spouse whom God is preparing just for her. She speaks of her body as a gift wrapped beneath a tree (the cross) and only her future spouse will unwrap this gift after laying down his life, on their wedding night, with God. She adds that only her future spouse will "touch what's inside", as God gives her heart to this spouse "as is right". We rarely hear this in our culture, but Rose is wise to add that her heart has already been claimed by God, and does her spouse love her "enough to take second place"? After all, only God can "fulfill [her] deepest desire".
Ages: 10+ (it's easy to miss the meaning behind what the gift is, what is meant by it being unwrapped, the rest)
"Make Love With God"
Style: joyful, gently dancing, praising, free, deep chords mixed with carefree dancing ones
The Story: A married couple welcomes God into their love. We hear that "Pressed up against your skin, this is where life begins". The young woman surrenders everything including her fertility. Then we get the beautiful refrain: "Let's make love, let's make life. Let's make love with God." We are informed that the two are free but open to conception and "embrac[ing] responsibility". We get the line "And when we know it's best to wait, then we'll chose to abstain" because "we have learned how our bodies are made." Underlying is a trust in God's plan and a welcoming of children whenever God gives them. We learn that the two will create a new life, with God.
Ages: 16+ (this is by far the most explicit song in the album)
"A Mother's Communion"
Style: a prayer of surrender, joy, thanksgiving, and trust in God
The Story: A mother is with child, apparently unexpectedly, but it is viewed as an "invitation." She is afraid but willing and trusting in God who gave her the child. She knows the baby is alive even though she cannot see it and it is a true human being, complete with body and soul. Unworthy, the mother nevertheless surrenders her body for her child. She shelters the child inside her, gives the babe her blood, her "breast is bread" and "milk is wine" for the child to live by. She plays the chalice for her child, a living tabernacle.
It is reflected that the mother lays down her life for the child, and there is no greater love than that. Suffering will follow, but it will not be regretted. God gave her the child and though the mother feels unworthy, she knows she can be healed by Him.
Just as we hear at Mass, "This is My Body" and it has been given up for us, so too does for this mother: "This is my body, given up for you", Rose sings.
Ages: all (unless the reference the breast being bread and milk being wine makes some people squirm, which is completely understandable)
"Joseph's Prayer of Adoption"
Style: almost oriental in sound, a story being told
The Story: This is the story of St. Joseph, the stepfather of Jesus, but also of all adoptive fathers. A child is invited to sit with his father where he is told that his life started "within your mother's womb, another father gave the seed". Still, the babe needed a father, and God chose one. The father welcomes the opportunity to "take this child as your own...give this child a home. All the love that he deserves, I want him to receive. To know the father's love in this family." The father puts aside his work to spend time with his child. He intends to teach the child prayer and to serve his family. He holds the child as the "greatest gift I've received" and wants to share the love he has received with his child. We are reminded that God also adopted us, not leaving us behind, and sheltering all with love undeserved but given nonetheless.
"Can You Hear Me?"
Style: mournful, wailing, desperate, guilty and sorrowful, haunting, comes to a more peaceful end but we are still a bit haunted
The Story: A mother is mourning the loss of her unborn child. She says "my heart is like an empty sea" and "my womb is like an open grave". She is weeping without ceasing for her lost child. She cries out desperately, not knowing where to go with her pain but needing to escape it. The child responds from heaven where it dances with the angels. The child responds with "Momma can you hear me now?", adding "Momma do not be afraid" because she has loved the mother always and always will and that she is safe with God. God catches the tears of the mother. The child then cries out as well, joining the mother in the weeping, but the mother's cries overwhelm the verse and consume it, giving even the strongest listener shivers and tears. The mother then requests that Mary call her child by name, care for the child, and hold both of them (mother and child) close in her arms. It ends with a haunting, "Rest in peace" and quiet sobbing in the background.
Ages: 8+ (it really is quite haunting and a real tear-jerker)
Style: a bit forceful and desperate, almost scratchy and a bit wild
The Story: This is psalm 51, David mourning the wrong he did to Bathsheba, to himself, and to God. We don't get David's story, but this is his psalm after he commits adultery with Bathsheba. The singer wants God to cleanse her of her sins, which she is well aware of and regretting, seeking forgiveness. She wants God to "create in me a clear heart" and not to "take...thy Holy Spirit from me." The short story is this: seeking forgiveness for past sins. There is nothing the be worried about concerning the lyrics.
Style: gently rejoicing, steady beat, joyful
The Story: A reflection on the wounds of Christ, which remain even after He conquered death. They are a sign of His triumph. There are hints of St. Thomas (the one who doubted). There is mention of Jesus being pierced and scars and His sacrifice allowing us to live. The whole piece is a praise of Christ's wounds, His triumph, all in relation to His love for us. It is then suggested that we too can triumph and be proud of wounds we receive, "the greater the sin, the greater the light", "His mercy will shine."
"Not A Burden"
Style: very steady beat, something one could tap a foot to quite easily
The Story: The refrain says it all: "You are not a burden, you're a blessing to love." Life is seen as a gift and worth sacrificing for. Then comes the offer, almost a request, to wash one's feet and "serve your deepest needs." "Love is strong when I am weak." And it is beautiful to be open to receiving life.
Style: slow, the beginning feels a bit Celtic, majestic
The Story: This is Jesus's song. He has suffered for us and questions, "what will you do" with your life? The thief then speaks up, crying out that he has been abandoned by God. But the other thief offers all he has: his suffering. Jesus assures the thief that he will join Him in paradise.
"The Saint That Is Just Me"
Style: reflective, gentle, slow, longing
The Story: The singer wants to be like all the saints who have gone before us. She names a few well known saints, reflecting on their lives, wishing she could be like them, and even reflecting on her struggles to do so. But then she recalls that Jesus "didn't die so I could be somebody else." Jesus died so she "could be the saint that is just me."
Style: deep chords, slow
The Story: She "couldn't see the future yet" but Jesus knows and is the author of life, every moment past/present/future is written. The singer's story has been written out "from my conception." Someone is groaning in labor pains, a passing reference joined with Jesus's death and being reborn. Part of the Our Father is sung. She reflects that one can only take love when one dies, that which is given and that which is received, and she prays for God's help at the hour of her death. "Death is only the beginning of a life that will never end."
"I Love Lifeland"
Style: cheerful, fast, upbeat
The Story: Everyone is to take a trip to "I Love Lifeland." It's advised to think of joyful things and make the world smile. Live joyfully because there is every reason to do so (many of which are named off).
Note on the author: Danielle Rose is a Catholic singer whose music is beautiful. She has gone on mission trips, considered the consecrated life, and is now out in the world evangelizing through music riddled with scriptural references.
Danielle Rose does a wonderful job at capturing the culture of death--and the Catholic view of how the world should be. Her music is refreshing and hopeful even when she is reflecting on the horrors in our culture today. She also portrays a beautiful image of marriage, its sacredness, and God's part in it. Marriage is, after all, a union of man, woman, and God. Life is precious and a gift that should never be turned down.
Mixed with a beautiful voice and artistic music, a message we need so badly to hear is brought to us. Surrounded by the culture of death, it is easy to become numb to the world even if one would never stoop to the low that the world has. But lukewarmness is the devil's strongest weapon.
Danielle Rose fights the battle bravely, picking us back up and catching us up in the beauty of God's creation.
As St. Augustine of Hippo said, all of creation is good. Rose removes the veil our culture has blinded us with to show us the truth in Augustine's words. Yes, all of creation is good. In fact, it's beautiful.