Harry Connick Jr. inspired by Catholic Faith
By Tony Rossi, Director of Communications, The Christophers
The coronavirus pandemic prompted music great Harry Connick Jr. to create an album inspired by his religious beliefs. Titled Alone With My Faith, it consists of Christian classics, such as “Amazing Grace,” Catholic hymns like “Panis Angelicus” and “Be Not Afraid,” and original songs, including the title track. In that song, Connick explores the idea that despite not having all the answers to life’s big questions, he knows he is never alone. The singer notes that he has found a way to integrate questions, and even occasional doubts, into a strong faith life.
During a “Christopher Closeup” interview, he told me, “My dad is my spiritual hero. His faith is stronger than almost anyone I’ve ever met. We talk about faith and what it means, and what it means to question things…My dad was raised by two extremely devout Roman Catholics. They said the rosary every day, my dad had an incredibly fertile Catholic upbringing. My mom was Jewish and was non-denominational by the time I was born, so I didn’t even get baptized as a baby. I was 13 when I got baptized and confirmed. So, my dad and I have a lot of good conversations. And I like where I am because I’ve asked a lot of questions, but I’ve also found a lot of answers.”
Connick’s faith also was shaped by his Catholic schooling in New Orleans. He recalled, “I went to Jesuit High School. I became close to many of the priests there. They were great spiritual advisors to me, and friendly to me. I lost my mom around the time I went to high school. I think about the president of Jesuit High School then, Fr. Tony McGinn. I was struggling, having some hard times, and he was incredibly patient and kind with me, so I felt at home in the Catholic Church.”
Connick’s father has taught his son to be aware of the movings of the Holy Spirit. When certain opportunities present themselves, for instance, the elder says, “That’s the Holy Spirit talking to you. Say yes and listen.” That’s why Connick’s dad, age 95, is working to build a chapel to the Holy Spirit. He’s even got an architect lined up and has already tapped his son to hold fundraisers for the project.
In retrospect, Connick can see how the Holy Spirit has worked in his life. For instance, his first job when he moved to New York City at age 18 was in a church. He recalled being broke and stopping by Our Lady of Good Counsel to ask if they needed a piano player. Father Richard Guastella offered Connick $25 to play two Masses on the weekends. Connick felt ecstatic. He recalled thinking, “You know how many ramen noodles I can buy with $25?! That’ll set me up for the week!”
“The great thing about Fr. Richard,” continued Connick, was that almost every Sunday, “he would take me across the street, and buy me a hamburger at this little restaurant. He was calm, he was measured. I was 18, and I needed someone like that in my life. He was so kind. He eventually became a monsignor, moved to Staten Island. I asked him if he would marry me and my wife, Jill, so he came down to New Orleans [in 1994]. Sadly, we found out that he died last year from COVID. So, it’s been a tough year. But those are happy memories for me, playing in that church.”
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