“Tu, tu eres el iman y yo soy el metal. Me voy acercando y voy. Armando el plan. Solo con pensarlo se acelera el pulso.”
These are the lyrics to “Despacito” by Luis Fonzi. Churchgoers at Saint Joe’s know that this is how Father Dan Joyce starts most of his homilies, with lyrics from the Billboards top hits. Now, why would a priest use songs that typically have no religious meaning for his sermons?
“When I was a deacon in Boston,” Fr. Joyce stated, “I began preaching at a church that had a lot of college students and I realized that I need to get them to focus on the key point of emphasis from the Scriptures and music was a big part of their spirituality and reflective life.”
Father Joyce not only uses songs to help his message during his homilies, but whenever he gives a talk to college students, most recently at the Greek Rites event last Sunday. Father knows that the messages of the scripture and his talks can often go over the heads of young college students, so using popular songs will help to point out the main message in a more relatable way.
The song “Despacito” by Luis Fonzi has been number 1 on the charts all summer and has been stuck in everyone’s heads for weeks on end. When translated into English, there are some questionable lyrics in the song, so it was surprising to hear Fr. Joyce open his sermon with these recognizable lines during the Mass of the Holy Spirit.
When asked why he liked this song so much, Fr. Joyce responded, “’Despacito’ is a song about appreciating another person you are drawn to or love. Songs about relationships can always connect to Jesus’ core message to love one another in the right relationship. ‘Despacito’ is also a great composition utilizing Reggaeton-pop influenced by hip-hop and Latin beats. The Jesuits have a tradition from the beginning of the 16th century using the music of different cultures to teach and preach the Christian message.”
So why pop culture? Why bring a world of so much sin into Church where everything is so pure and holy? Because “faith is communicated through culture. Faith needs culture to be communicated. Pop culture often gets to the essence of being human in very effective ways and Jesus was sharing a way of living out this humanity.”