by Joseph Austin
WASHINGTON (CNS) – Singer-songwriter Audrey Assad seeks to bring a message of Pope Francis about building bridges to the music business.
“Paul is a pontifex, a builder of bridges,” the pope said at a Mass May 8. “He doesn’t want to become a builder of walls. … This is the attitude of Paul in Athens: Build a bridge to their heart, in order then to take another step and announce Jesus Christ.”
“As a musician, a unique way I live that out, being Catholic in an industry full of evangelicals and Protestants,” Assad said, is to “establish bridges … (to) be Catholic in the presence of people (who have) never encountered a Catholic before.”
A New Jersey native, Assad grew up in a Christian Plymouth Brethren home and never encountered a Catholic until she was 21. Then she met a high school student who changed her life.
A Catholic involved in LifeTeen ministries, he knew his faith really well, and he “asked me questions that challenged my faith,” Assad recalled. She said she was already considering entering the Catholic Church because she liked the reverence and the incense, but that his words challenged her to come to a deeper understanding of her faith.
She became a Catholic in 2007, realizing that the “sacraments were real and I needed them, and that the only place to really get them was in a Catholic Church,” she told Catholic News Service (CNS) in a telephone interview.
Assad, whose mother is musically inclined, started playing piano at age two. After attending college for a few months, she left and supported her musical career with odd jobs for several years before moving to Nashville, Tenn., at the promising age of 24 with $7,000 she had raised for the venture.
“I trusted that God will provide and he did over and over,” she told CNS. “I just held on and believed that God had called me to it.”
“All my pride, you know it doesn’t stand a chance against the way you move. You’re tearing up roots and breaking down walls,” she writes in a song titled, The Way You Move.
After working at a record company for several years, she spent some time on tour with Matt Maher, Chris Tomlin, Michael W. Smith and other Christian artists. Over time, the now 29-year-old has cut several albums and built a reputation for herself in the music industry. Her husband, William Price III, is her publicist.
A fan of the teaching and mystical insights of Blessed John Paul II, Assad takes composing lyrics and music quite seriously.
“I don’t want to just write what I’m feeling,” she said. “Am I feeling desolate, joyful? Now let me read some Scriptures and teachings so I can write a song that is helpful to people, (and) not just me venting,” she said, describing her music ministry as “pastoral.”
“These songs are true to the teachings of the church … with richness of orthodoxy,” she said. At the same time, though, she gives a huge effort to making them artistically beautiful because the “church deserves my best work,” she said.
Assad draws much of her inspiration for her music from just living life.
“I’ve never been a musician who sits down” and plays a lot, she said. “I like to read or cook and then if I’m writing, then I’m writing.”
Among her inspirations is the English poet-priest Jesuit Father Gerard Manley Hopkins (1844-1889).
“For Christ plays in 10,000 places,” the priest once wrote in his poem, As Kingfishers Catch Fire. “To the Father through the features of men’s faces,” he said.
That inspired Assad to write the song, For Love of You: “You live in a million places. Your fingerprints can be seen on a million faces. There is a trace of you in every hallelujah. Every song that I sing.”