Remembering a Final Conversation About Country

The day I wrote a blog about how God says no to your prayers sometimes was the last time I talked to my parish’s pastor about country music. It was actually the last time I talked to him, period. He died suddenly yesterday (Aug. 11). And I am struggling with the fact that our last conversation was about country music. I mean, shouldn’t we have been talking about something more reverent? Shouldn’t I have been asking him why bad things happen to good people? Or some other religious question that holier Christians ponder?

On the one hand, I feel like my only bond with Father Bob was a shared love of country music. On the other hand, is that so wrong? Just like me, he loved the music so much. He’d even gone to a few big arena shows over the years, even one of those mega Kenny Chesney shows at Chicago’s Soldier Field. And I have to assume that he wasn’t there for the electric guitar jams and the blazing fiddle solos. His love of the music seemed to revolve around the lyrics. I know, I know. Country has its share of sinful themes. Drinkin’, cheatin’, killin’, temptation, greed and other mortal and venial sins. Outlaw music just wouldn’t be the same without ugliness like that.

But then there’s the other side of country. The songs about repentance, counting blessings, sharing sacraments, seeing the Lord in little things, having faith in Jesus and getting called on home. When you think about songs like that, no other genre could ever come close. If you’re gonna make a priest’s playlist, you need to have songs that really mean something. That is why I know that St. Peter was there to welcome Father Bob, and tell him, “Good ride, cowboy. Good ride.”

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