Interview: Behind the making of an all-Ignatian album, that includes the music of Jesuits from 13 nations

In the course of the top of the Covid shutdowns in Might 2020, my good friend Cristóbal Fones, S.J., a musician from the Province of Chile of the Society of Jesus, despatched me a WhatsApp message. Father Fones is a composer, vocalist and guitarist. Music runs in his household. As a Jesuit he studied on the Berklee School of Music in Boston and has launched a dozen albums, starting within the late Nineteen Nineties. At the moment he lives in Santiago, Chile, and serves as director of formation for Chilean Jesuits.

He was messaging me to ask about leads for a music by a Jesuit from North America to placed on his subsequent album. It might be his second assortment of songs composed totally by Jesuits from all over the world. He was planning to translate into Spanish all of the songs not already in his native tongue and to sing the lead vocals himself, backed up by a global assortment of performers and featured artists.

I wished to indicate who we’re, by songs—what we categorical by the humanities.

Cristóbal was enterprise the challenge for the Ignatian 12 months of 2021-22, which commemorates the five hundredth anniversary of the conversion of St. Ignatius Loyola and the four-hundredth anniversary of Ignatius’ canonization alongside his good friend St. Francis Xavier. In making the album, he joined Jesuits and others worldwide who’ve engaged in a wide range of inventive tasks to rejoice these milestones by artwork.

After I inquired amongst some Jesuits and located that they had not written a lot authentic music, I supplied Cristóbal (with some trepidation) a music I wrote years in the past, primarily based on the lifetime of Ignatius. I play a little bit of guitar and harmonica and have composed songs on the charge of about one per yr—usually on my annual silent retreat. I had written “Carry You” for my youthful brother when he took Ignatius as his affirmation title. Because it turned out, Cristóbal determined to make use of the music for the challenge and took this very humble providing and turned it into one thing lovely.

The album, known as “Nova Omnia,” was launched in April 2022, and is on the market alongside along with his different work by his web site and on many on-line music platforms. I had the possibility to talk on Zoom with Father Fones concerning the challenge, the importance of music and the enjoyment—and ache—of working with different Jesuits. 

Whereas establishments are essential, and we can’t entry God with out mediations, they aren’t God.

This interview has been edited for readability and size.

Phil Hurley, S.J.: Thanks very a lot for agreeing to debate your newest music challenge with us, Cristóbal. It’s additionally a very good excuse for us to speak as Jesuit buddies who’ve additionally completed some work collectively! You’ve launched two albums now of songs by Jesuit composers. Inform us concerning the thought behind these tasks.

Cristóbal Fones, S.J.: Sure, I recorded the primary one in 2014. That was “Ite Inflammate Omnia,” [“Go, Set the World on Fire”], that are supposedly the phrases Ignatius stated to Xavier when sending him to India. I used to be making an attempt to gather totally different Jesuit artists, and to indicate one thing of our vocations, as I labored with our [Chilean Province] vocations workplace. I wished to indicate who we’re, by songs—not simply what we do, however what we imagine in and what we categorical by the humanities. This time, with “Nova Omnia” [“All Things New”] the concept was to do an album in the identical vein, however for the Ignatian 12 months—so we are able to rejoice with compositions from all all over the world.

P.H.: May you describe the idea, and say a bit bit about what first gave you the concept to do an album of songs by Jesuit composers?

When individuals see that Jesuits will be buddies, we are able to collaborate, it sounds brilliant—as a result of the message is far more than simply the phrases or the music.

C.F.: The primary motivation for me is at all times to satisfy with Jesuits. I really like the Society of Jesus! So, it’s a little bit of an excuse for me to get in touch with different Jesuits, to share our strategy to mission and spirituality—for me it’s fascinating to get to satisfy them and get to know them. I attempt to observe what’s happening when it comes to Jesuit music all over the world. The Filipino guys are composing quite a bit. I additionally obtained to know a number of Indian Jesuit music of excellent high quality.

P.H.: Was there a very attention-grabbing means you got here throughout one of many songs for the brand new album?

C.F.: “En Éxodo” is a music composed by Enric Puiggròs, who’s a good friend of mine, however I didn’t know the music. The textual content is by [former Brazilian bishop] Pedro Casaldáliga. It’s very rooted in Catholic custom, but it surely principally expresses to God: the extra I attempt to seize you, the much less I can entry your thriller. And that’s very vital for the present church in a day when establishments are very a lot questioned. Whereas establishments are essential, and we can’t entry God with out mediations, they aren’t God. Younger persons are very delicate to that.

P.H.: Every of the 13 songs on “Nova Omnia” is written by a Jesuit from a unique nation. What are a number of the nations represented?

The extra we work with the humanities, the extra we enter the thriller of God and categorical it in a free means—gratuita.

C.F.: There’s a model of the “Suscipe” [“Take, Lord, receive,” a prayer of St. Ignatius] from Poland. Then there’s one with lyrics by a Jesuit from Cuba however with music from the Dominican Republic. There’s one known as “Aún Más Allá” (authentic English title “Carry You”), by an incredible Jesuit from the U.S. [he says wryly, because he is talking about me]. “Contigo de la Mano” is an Italian music. “El Senor Los Bendiga” is by a Jesuit oboist and composer from Slovakia. He despatched me the music in Slovakian. So I put it in Google translate to get the essential thought! Then I went to the Bible to assist me, as a result of it’s primarily based on a number of Scripture passages.

P.H.: On this Ignatian 12 months, we rejoice each St. Ignatius and St. Francis Xavier, who remained shut buddies even when separated by nice distances. I’m listening to that indirectly this album represents a type of international “friendship within the Lord” for you. Is that the case?

C.F.: Yeah, I actually imagine in that. Even once we don’t know one another personally, we are able to discover ourselves very shut as we share religion, vocation, the expertise of the Religious Workouts. That’s one of many major causes I do that. Greater than phrases, when individuals see that we’re collectively, we will be buddies, we are able to work collectively, we are able to collaborate, you already know, it sounds brilliant—as a result of the message is far more than simply the phrases or the music. It’s the Society of Jesus making an attempt to share the Gospel. That’s the identical motive I’ve this group known as Jesuitas Acústico. We’ve been assembly every year since 2016, and this yr we’ll meet in Spain. For the final time in all probability…. We’re very outdated now. [Laughs.]

I actually imagine God is sort of a chord. Like Ignatius did.

P.H.: For “Nova Omnia,” what are a number of the Ignatian themes represented within the songs?

C.F.: Some are very specific, like “Alma de Cristo,” which is a prayer referred to within the Religious Workouts, or “Coloquio” which is a means of prayer instantly from the Workouts. “Aún Más Allá” displays the lifetime of Ignatius. For the opposite songs, one other connection is with our mission of reconciliation. “Único” is type of a reference to the fourth (present Jesuit) apostolic desire, making an attempt to reconcile with the entire creation by religion.

P.H.: What do you see because the position of the humanities, and particularly music, within the Society of Jesus and the church immediately?

C.F.: I believe it’s vital. We as Jesuits have labored with the humanities from the start, particularly within the first two centuries. It’s a means of speaking issues, however not only a means—in a sure means it’s additionally a sacramental. It has an interior worth; it’s not simply one thing in between the message and the individuals. And I believe the extra we work with the humanities, the extra we enter the thriller of God and categorical it in a free means—gratuita— not making an attempt to seize God, however simply being with him, you already know? Being who we’re… expressed in several methods—on this case, by music. I actually imagine God is sort of a chord. Like Ignatius did.

P.H.: Sure!

With artwork, it’s not simply figuring out one thing, or deepening our understanding of a religious textual content, however somewhat it’s making an attempt to have an expertise.

C.F.: On the Cardoner [a river in Manresa, Spain], he understood God as three musical keys, and that’s a chord. There’s something in concord that displays the great thing about God amongst us. It’s not only a technique of evangelization. Many individuals ask me, “Why did you select music as a way to say….” No! I didn’t select music as a way of something. I simply sing, as a result of it’s the best way I really like, you already know? And I do assume that we [Jesuits] must reconnect a bit bit with the humanities generally, however with music particularly. And it’s not simply speaking. As a result of we speak a lot. And persons are uninterested in our speaking.

P.H.: [Laughing] Generally Jesuits ourselves are uninterested in it!

C.F.: Yeah. And you already know, we write quite a bit, and that’s marvelous—I actually recognize it. However there’s one thing totally different with artwork. It’s not simply figuring out one thing, or deepening our understanding of a religious textual content, however somewhat it’s making an attempt to have an expertise. And that makes all of the distinction.

P.H.: It jogs my memory, to place a philosophical bent on it, that there’s a motive there’s the three “transcendentals:” fact, goodness and sweetness. That are all entry factors to God. And I’m listening to you say that typically individuals speak about artwork and music and assume, “Oh, so that you’re utilizing this to get at fact or goodness,” and it’s like—no, it’s simply lovely. And that itself is an entry to God. They work collectively.

We have to wait, we have to preserve within the presence of God, and that’s very laborious.

C.F.: And you already know, in music there’s one thing individuals don’t understand a lot: Music is product of each sound and silence. For those who solely have sound, it’s noise, it’s not music. And we’re in a really noisy world. So music helps us to make silence. Silence, not within the sense of not having any sound, however in not being rooted in our ego. Silence is with the ability to open ourselves to others, to transcend. And music, it’s not the one means, but it surely’s a really fantastic and human strategy to categorical that. We’ve got all this content material, and feeling and concepts, but additionally we’d like…simply being, you already know? And that type of mixture between sound and silence—I find it irresistible!

And the opposite factor is, music solely occurs in time. It’s not an immediate factor. It is advisable to waaaiiituntiiiil the music is ended. I believe that’s additionally very human. We’re very used to issues being immediate lately. However that’s one thing that’s—empobreciendo—making us poorer, when it comes to depth. We have to wait, we have to preserve within the presence of God, and that’s very laborious. It’s very laborious to hope, particularly immediately.

P.H.: You’ve shared movingly relating to a number of the greatest issues about working with brother Jesuits on an album like this for the Ignatian 12 months. What’s the worst factor about working with different Jesuits on music?

C.F.: Oh, come on—there are such a lot of issues! Initially, we’re very busy, you already know? So to achieve individuals, it’s very laborious. They don’t reply their WhatsApps and their emails. They’re—we are—horrible.

 P.H.: I’ll say, unequivocally, you’re a excellent singer. For those who might do a duet with another singer on this planet, whom would you decide?

C.F.: Wow… (thinks for a second) …Mon Laferte. She’s a Chilean singer, however she lives in Mexico.

P.H.: We’ll attempt to get a duplicate of this interview to Mon Laferte, and hopefully you’ll get a name from her agent quickly.

C.F.: Yeah! You already know what? There are some Jesuits in Dublin who’re making an attempt to attach with Bono, for me to sing with him.

P.H.: O.Ok.! Effectively if that occurs, let me come, and also you faux you don’t converse any English, and let me be your translator so I can meet Bono.

C.F.: Sure. I’ll take you.


Take heed to the album right here: