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A Joyful Noise: Celebrating St. Cecilia’s Feast Day with Singer Francesca LaRosa

St. Cecilia is the patron saint of musicians, and Team Busted Halo celebrated her feast day last week with a live performance from Catholic composer and singer-songwriter Francesca LaRosa

Francesca grew up in a family devoted to music ministry, and later served as music director of her childhood parish. During that time, she began composing music to accompany the lyrics of psalms at Mass and felt God’s call to pursue this full-time. She writes music for each week’s psalm, and provides other resources for music directors to use in rehearsals and liturgies.

Father Dave wonders if it’s hard to write music for the psalms using David’s biblical text as lyrics. Francesca explains, “It’s really hard to write a new melody every single week. And sometimes the words are a little challenging where it might say, ‘you set my foot upon a crag.’ That can be really challenging to set to music and to make it sound musical, but also to adhere to the text and make the music match that. Since the songs are so emotive, I really like for the music to match the emotion of what is happening in the text.”

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“I really try to make it feel like a conversation, because I really do feel like when David was writing these, it was his conversation with the Lord,” she continues. 

After performing Psalm 122 for the First Sunday of Advent, Francesca explains more of her composing process. “A lot of it is true deep discernment. I feel like a lot of writing this is deep Lectio Divina, and I do a lot of it with my mom. So we will read the text together, I’ll do it with my husband as well. We’ll read the text together and we will ask ourselves, ‘What is the theme? What words are sticking out to us? What words do we want to emphasize?’” 

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Francesca also writes songs with original lyrics, as well as using words from famous prayers. One example is the English translation of “Anima Christi,” and she reflects on when she first read the text. “I was sitting in my basement, just reading this, and I broke down crying. It really spoke to me during COVID, where I just felt really isolated and churches were closed. Reading ‘Soul of Christ, sanctify me. Body of Christ, save me. Blood of Christ, inebriate me. Water from the side of Christ, wash me. And it just really, really struck me.”

After performing more of her music on the show, she explains, “Truly I just want to write word-for-word prayers just to help people memorize them, and have people lean into the Word of God…So it’s just an honor to serve, and it’s all for his glory.”