COLUMBIA — Matt Maher is not only an extremely talented musician and songwriter, he is also one of the few Catholics represented in the world of popular contemporary Christian music.
Maher, who grew up in Newfoundland, Canada, is now based in Arizona. He has spent much of the past four years traveling the United States, performing and speaking mainly at Catholic churches and youth conferences, www.mattmahermusic.com.
For the next few months, however, he will be on tour bringing his music to much larger audiences with fans from a wide variety of denominations. He will perform at the Bi-Lo Center in Greenville on Oct. 23 with popular contemporary Christian artist Michael W. Smith. Tickets are available at www.ticketmaster.com, (864) 467-0008 and www.bilocenter.com.
Smith was familiar with Maher’s music because they both are on the same label, Provident, and he had performed some of Maher’s songs at his own church in Tennessee.
In a phone interview with The Miscellany, Maher said he was invited to join the tour after Smith heard his latest CD, “Alive Again.” It features 12 songs that explore what it means to be a Christian in a secular world, and how to embrace fully the impact of Christ’s incarnation and sacrifice for humanity.
Maher’s musical style ranges from introspective, guitar-focused, slower songs to driving, upbeat tunes in a contemporary rock style. The music on “Alive Again” ranges from the soaring title track to the slightly heavier but uplifting “Shout of the King,” and more topical songs.
He said the opportunity to perform with Smith and other artists is important not only for him as an artist, but also because it gives him a chance to bring his message as a Catholic to a larger audience.
“The tour is called ‘A New Hallelujah,’ and it’s a very timely title considering we’re all of different denominations,” Maher said. “It’s kind of a chance for the whole church to come together. It’s great to just come together with our Protestant brothers and sisters and pray together.”
Maher said he became interested in promoting greater unity among denominations after studying and speaking on Jesus’ prayers before his crucifixion, as described in the Gospel of John.
“Jesus asked that his disciples might be one as he is one with the father, and I found myself asking the question if he knew that in time, the church would be divided,” Maher said. “I feel like I’m working for unity within the church, and unity within Catholicism and the larger community. Let’s just pray together first and not try to solve 500 years of doctrinal issues right off the bat.”
He said the latest CD explores the challenges and mysteries of living out the faith in today’s world. It’s a topic he said he has explored increasingly ever since he came back to his childhood faith at age 20. Now 34, Maher said the past 14 years have opened him up to the true richness of Catholicism and Christ’s real presence in the Eucharist.
“I think the integration of faith into our lives is one of our biggest challenges in today’s society,” he said. “God really does want to be present in every nook and facet of our lives. I think that’s why he became a human being. If Jesus became a man and walked among us, how should that change the very way we live our lives?”
Maher said his frequent work with youth groups puts him in touch with some of the spiritual problems they face. Challenges don’t just come from an increasingly secular society, he said, but from the very gadgetry that powers much of daily life.
“I observe a growing disconnect with teens’ ability to enter into contemplative prayer,” he said. “The world around them won’t shut up. Between technology, the media and the way they live their lives, there’s no room for silence. I see teenagers hungry for the truth, for meaning and purpose more than ever before.”
Maher said he believes young people can be brought closer to their faith through a more positive form of evangelization, focusing on the truth and beauty of what the Catholic Church stands for and not just what it is against.
One song on the CD, “Hold Us Together,” was written in response to the recent economic crisis.
“That song is just trying to call people back to very basic biblical truths,” Maher said. “God does not promise you riches. If you’re not rich, it’s not because God doesn’t love you. He says very clearly you can’t serve two masters. The one thing Jesus promised us is that we have his peace. The peace and love of God is the one thing everybody desperately needs. You can’t place material value on it.”