By DAVID CRUMM
What’s new in the Catholic church? How about this: A Florida-based, Hispanic-American seminarian who is in the process of discerning a vocation to the priesthood—and has so much talent for hip hop music that he is creating new songs to help young people discover the love and power of God.
As a candidate for the priesthood, currently on a sabbatical, he’s known as Alvaro Vega in the Archdiocese of Miami. As a music and video artist, he’s emerging nationally as “Communion,” a stage name he chose to point toward the core sacrament in his church.
Ironically, Vega discovered his vocation to the priesthood in a very traditional way. In 2008, he began reading Thomas à Kempis’s early-15th Century classic, The Imitation of Christ. Like countless Christian converts over the nearly 600 years of the book’s existence, the stark spiritual teachings as described by Thomas à Kempis transfixed him. After finishing the book, Vega said in a profile published by the Miami archdiocese, he was convinced that “God was real, and was with me, and loved me.”
Like Thomas à Kempis many centuries before him, Vega decided to prepare for the priesthood. For two years, Vega left behind his early dreams of a musical career. But, well into seminary, he realized that God could use some hip hop in the church.
MEETING ‘THE BOY MESSIAH’
Most recently, Vega (as Communion) connected with another unusual Catholic media professional—Chris Stepien, who lives in Michigan. Stepien has worked for many years in broadcast TV, audio, video, writing and all-around media production for secular clients. Then, Stepien felt a calling—like Vega—to use his talents to inspire others.
Stepien stresses that he is neither a trained Bible scholar nor theologian. Nevertheless, Stepien set out to painstakingly research a vivid yet mysteriously brief chapter in Jesus’s early life. For many centuries, artists have referred to a brief passage in Luke’s second chapter as: Finding Jesus in the Temple. That particular scene was one of Rembrandt’s favorites among the Gospel stories. In summary: Jesus was 12 and his family went to the temple in Jerusalem at Passover. They headed home afterward; without telling them, Jesus stayed behind to talk with elders around the temple; and it took several days for the frantic family to reunite with their son.
After a long period of research, Stepien wrote Three Days: The Search for the Boy Messiah, a fictionalized account of what might have happened during those several days. The book is intended for Christian readers and has a combined rating of 4.5 out of 5 stars from 32 mostly glowing Amazon reviews.
So, perhaps it was a movement of the Spirit—as Stepien tells the story—for this Midwest Catholic media personality with a book about Jesus’s childhood to connect with the Catholic artist in the Florida seminary using music to try to reach young people.
Stepien wrote the lyrics; Vega agreed to write the music, perform and produce it as a hip hop tune. While hip hop may not be everyone’s favorite form of music—the fact is that media experts say that hip hop is one of the most popular genres of our era.
No question: Once you hear Vega’s performance, it’s hard to forget the lyrics, which include:
So you’re the boy messiah with your bucket at the well.
Do they know what’s deep inside ya?
What it’s like to conquer Hell? …
So you’re the boy messiah
And you’re from a tiny town
Was a Virgin mom that had ya—
Holy Spirit came on down.
Intrigued? Read on … we’ve got the music video below!
FIRST, GET THE BOOKS!
Chris Stepien now has two inspirational books you’ll enjoy. First, there is the original Three Days: The Search for the Boy Messiah, which one reviewer describes as “a wonderful interweaving of history and imagination exploring the life of a young Jesus.” Another reviewer puts it this way: “Stepien invites the reader to a rare exploration of the 1st Century life-setting and activities when Jesus actually walked upon the earth.”
Want to know more about Stepien’s own spiritual journey? In the spring of 2016, Beacon Publishing/Dynamic Catholic is releasing his new book, Dying to be Happy—Discovering the Truth about Life. In addition to telling some of his own story, he has gathered a series of short, true stories about people confronting and overcoming a fear of death. The book is structured so that readers could enjoy these stories over a series of days and, in the process, recapture the joy of life and faith.
CHECK OUT THE MUSIC VIDEO!
Here is the “Communion” version based on Chris Stepien’s lyrics …