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March 28, 2016 | Volume 91 Number 11


photo: Singer/songwriter Sarah Hart leads a group of youth as part of the Lenten mission.

Singer/songwriter Sarah Hart leads a group of youth as part of the Lenten mission.

Singer/Songwriter leads Lenten Mission at St. Mary’s, Blacksburg

Grammy-nominated musician Sarah Hart brought her unique blend of Chrisitan-contemporary folk, pop, and rock music to St. Mary’s in Blacksburg as part of their three-day Lenten Mission that began March 5.

“The theme of this Lenten Mission is mercy,” Ms. Hart explained after performing the first of two scheduled concerts for the parish.“Mercy in the way we are with others and with ourselves.”

The theme of her program was in keeping with Pope Francis’ Jubilee Year of Mercy, in which the Holy Father reminds us,“Mercy is the very foundation of the Church’s life. All of her pastoral activity should be caught up in the tenderness she makes present to believers; nothing in her preaching and in her witness to the world can be lacking in mercy.”

The singer/songwriter performed for Pope Francis to a crowd of 150,000 in St. Peter’s Square back in October of 2013.

Describing her mission program, Ms. Hart said, “It’s a blend of me singing songs, singing with the congregation, [telling] stories, and scripture [lessons].”

“She sang some of her greatest hits: Christ the Lord, God with Us, Give us Your Peace, [and] Praying with a Broken Heart,” said Beth Shaver, Director of Liturgy at St. Mary’s.

She noted the positive effect of Ms. Hart’s performance on attendees, saying “she had us up out of our seats, singing and praying and talking and sharing with one another.”

Ms. Hart’s songs have been recorded by many well-known artists, including contemporary Christian artist Amy Grant, whose version of Hart’s Better than a Hallelujah earned the songwriter a Grammy nomination for Best Gospel Song in 2011. Ms. Hart has enjoyed commercial success with her music, but her passion lies in leading faith-focused retreats such as the one at St. Mary’s.

“I go everywhere,” she said of her work as an itinerant minister. “It’s a blessing to be able to do this [for a living].”

In the course of the Lenten Mission, Ms. Hart performed at all weekend Masses, gave two concerts, and spent time with the youth of St. Mary’s parish.

“Find ways to see people, find ways to listen to people with your ears and your hearts,” Ms. Hart encouraged the youth.“And ask God to help you open your hearts.”

“I think Sarah surprised many [of those attending the mission events]. I don’t think people were expecting a Lenten mission to be filled with so much happiness and joy,” said Ms. Shaver, adding that 200 attended Sunday night’s concert.

“What I took away from the mission is that sometimes it can be difficult to show God’s mercy to other people unless we recognize and embrace the mercy God has shown to us in our own lives,” she said.

Ms. Hart told participants that, as a baptized member of a loving and merciful community, one is never alone.

“Just like Jesus on the way to the cross, we stumble and we fall at times,” Ms. Shaver elaborated. “But with the love and compassion of Jesus, we help each other up again.”

“I think that was a real joyful reminder for Lent to carry us through to Easter in this Year of Mercy.”

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