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The Sun and Pope Francis

INTERVIEW: From Punk Rock to Faith: “Christ Has Changed My Life”

Francesco Lorenzi of ‘The Sun’ Speaks Ahead of August 11 Concert in Rome with Pope & Young People

From many of their 700 concerts all over the world, Francesco Lorenzi (author, singer and guitarist), Riccardo Rossi (drummer), Matteo Reghelin (bassist), Gianluca Menegozzo and Andrea Cerato do not hold exciting memories. They had fulfilled the dreams of their childhood: but the world in which they lived, consisting of various excesses and addictions, “prejudically excluded God from human life.”
Halfway through the band’s 20 years of existence, its turning point had nothing to do with music: it is about Lorenzi’s approaching Christianity, after having being turned away from it since he was young, just as his fellow band members were too. Today, he tells Zenit, “I could no longer make music without being guided by the faith.”
In fact, “The Sun” has since played at the World Youth Day in Rio De Janeiro (2013) and Krakow (2016). And before that, at the invitation of Cardinal Gianfranco Ravasi, it had participated in the Plenary Assembly of the Pontifical Council for Culture on Emerging Youth Cultures. On August 11, at Circus Maximus in Rome, the group is expected to perform in the course of “We Are Here,” a meeting of young Italians with Pope Francis ahead of the upcoming Synod on Youth.
“The Sun” is considered the most fashionable rock band of Catholic inspiration today, in Italy and beyond. “We are atypical rockers, but fortunately we are! Because our lives are full of joy, love and fullness!” Francesco Lorenzi says, speaking for him and his bandmates. He does not hide that giving testimony to one’s faith is penalizing in the music business: “We will not become U2, but God has freed our souls and gives us so much joy through our work.”
Zenit interviewed him.
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Francesco, why don’t you introduce yourself to our readers…

I’m 35, I come from Thiene, Vicenza (Veneto, Italy). I’m an author, composer, guitarist and singer in The Sun band (www.thesun.it). For some years I have also been a writer and, despite the eight Italian editions and the eight foreign translations of my book La Strada del Sole [The Way of the Sun], I still feel very timid in talking about this last part of my professional experience.

What point am I in my journey? Although I’ve come a long way, in reality “I’m, still at the beginning” I’ve played for more than twenty years, but I’m still a youngster. I’ve done over 700 concerts in three continents with ‘The Sun,’ but I still look at the world with the eyes of a child travelling for the first time. I have published records with Sony Music and my present editor is Mondadori, a leader in the market, but they are among the most independent authors in circulation. I’m not a travel agency, but I take hundreds of young people with me to the Holy Land. Yes, because Christ has changed my life; however life in Christ is renewed every day, as a promise, as a marriage, and then to take so many young people to Jesus’ land reminds me where my heart is and my treasure.

In what direction do you see yourself going?

Wherever the Lord calls me. Meanwhile, I’m on tour with The Sun’s new show “Ogni Benedetto Giorno” [“Every Blessed Day”]. Our tour began at the same time as the publication of Pope Francis’ encyclical “Gaudete et Exultate, and in many aspects, it seems to be an artistic declination! In addition, I’m writing a new book, and it’s a further spiritual trial, which calls me to much prayer, discernment and study. The book will be a vademecum to live the spiritual struggle daily and find one’s path of happiness. A real challenge, which every one of us must face every blessed day.

You are a musician and singer who has attained much recognition. Was this your dream as a child?

As a child, especially when very small, I dreamt of being a singer and of playing the guitar. My parents brought me up with a special love for music. I often saw them dance happily, in simplicity, in the kitchen, while mother was preparing a meal or maybe in the sitting room in the evening, etc. When there was music, there was joy and sharing. This made me understand that songs can unite people and accompany them every day of their life.

Then, growing up, I forgot this dream, but a series of “God-incidences” brought it back to me. So, at 14, I began to perform and write self-taught songs. And now I live that dream exactly as I saw it as a child.

What is the song that best describes what ‘The Sun’ is and what does it say?

Our songs recount personal experiences examined through the perspective that discernment and faith give. There are many different arguments and subjects, so it’s difficult to identify a single song that is able to represent The Sun today, after 20 years of life together. Let me mention a song per album: I’m Not Afraid (Spirits of the Sun), Perfect Wave (Light), My Best Defect (Open Heart) and the Alchemist, which is about our last “20” recording. At the base of this song there is often the strength of friendship, of a friendship transfigured in God.

You are a musician and singer who does not hide having had a very intense experience: rediscovering the faith. What made you lose sight of it?

When you are 18-20 and find yourself travelling, performing punk music also next to your idols (bands such as The Offspring, The Cure, to mention two) being able to decide your life freely and allowing yourself to be led by the experiences that are suggested to you, it’s easy to lose the right way. The excesses, the sexual ambiguities, drugs, but also living in general in a musical world that prejudicially excluded God from human life, took us far from the Truth and from ourselves.

In your daily life, what relationship exists today between the faith and making music?

It’s an inseparable relationship. To live a journey of faith means to relate everything of your life to the light of Truth, of Christ. Music is a piece of me, as an arm or, even more so, my heart. It’s not important that it’s also my profession. God guides us to live as a unit all the aspects of our life; if there were in us watertight compartments and divisions, it wouldn’t be a path of God. I wouldn’t be able to make music anymore without being guided by the faith; a gift was given to me and it’s my task to use it to do the good I can.

However, is it possible to make music and offer messages of faith?

I’m often asked this question. Music is a very lofty gift of God, which man can then decide to use for good and for freedom, or for evil and slavery. In itself, rock has energy, force, clarity, straightforwardness, and enthusiasm. It’s a perfect style of music to awaken consciences, to give courage, to say how things are. And there are many musicians who are committed to bringing some light through playing rock music!

And are young people still receptive to these messages…?

Young people have distanced themselves in part from the Church. Where they find credible witnesses and really fulfilled spiritual guides, young people stay —  in fact rush <to the Church>. However, there must be something very true, constant and real. And communication can no longer be made in a trivial or not very interesting way. This is the challenge today.

In these last years we have held many meetings in schools, with adolescent students who often have never even heard the name Jesus. In all cases, regardless of their country of origin and social extraction, they were moved by our story – and believe that we state our faith clearly. Those students often listen to us for hours in silence and at the end are full of questions: they are in need of finding a concrete direction in a world that proposes solely superficial, false or unreachable examples. Young people are receptive if stimulated in the right way. Our duty, as that of any adult, is to give them a positive and real example, protecting their growth by living ours in truth. Example is everything.

As a rock band, ‘The Sun’ is as far away as possible from the often typical lifestyle of a rocker, a life full of excesses, of transgressions . . . as a rocker, do you feel somewhat atypical?  

Yes, in fact today we are atypical rockers, but thank goodness! Because our lives are full of joy, of love and of fullness!

We are Christian guys that engage in rock. Examples of this type were many in the history of music, also at lofty levels; suffice it to think of our very beloved Johnny Cash (who himself also had excesses, but also a life full of love of God) or of U2, to mention only two. An artist certainly makes more news and sensation who dies because of drugs or who leads a reckless life as opposed to one that promotes constantly a simple style of life and beneficial initiatives. However, this happens, unfortunately, because first of all the media continues to fill us primarily with negative examples, also in music, constantly lowering the level of the quality of the contents proposed to the masses; despite this, beauty and Truth will save the world.

But why in the world of rock music,  is the image of the “bad” rocker (‘rocker maledetto‘), if you will, so popular?

The fact that growing notoriety leads to having access to unexpected opportunities and, at the same time, leads artists to be surrounded by persons that are with them out of interest and convenience certainly plays an important role. To have profound and true relationships, rooted in the charity of truth, is very important, especially when you are successful. Without these, it’s easy to yield to temptations, especially if one then doesn’t live seriously and constantly the spiritual battle every day. I will also speak of this in my new book.

At the same time, something else must be said: in the 60s and 70s the musical expression was the fruit of an experience of an intense, perhaps tragic, perhaps difficult and complex life. From those experiences were also born the songs as a cry to the world. In those cases the rockers were certainly “cursed,” but because they had already lived a restless life and, when they reached notoriety, they fell easily into excesses. Nowadays, instead, the fashion is greater based on an absence of roots.

A direct question: how is your career doing as musicians – after the ‘turn’ that led you to rediscover the faith? In the world of rock music, is it possible to live and witness the faith without losing something in terms of visibility, ‘likes,’ career opportunities?

Today we are also very happy with our career. We won’t become U2, but God has freed our souls and gives us much joy through our work.

When one speaks of losing something, it’s always useful to understand what one has gained at the same time, because otherwise one only takes into consideration one side of the medal. Our witness of faith certainly penalizes us in the world of music business. Therefore, one needs much patience, meekness and endurance because often we must demonstrate our value doubly more than others. And, despite this, many media — supported by specific power and interest groups –, exclude us in any case a priori. This notwithstanding, we learned long ago to carry forward our artistic path, without being “distracted” by what is happening (or didn’t happen) around us. And if I look today at what The Sun is, and how much good has been generated by our choices, how many lives have changed and been reborn thanks also to our music, I can assure you that we are truly not lacking anything!

Your band has been active for more than 20 years. It’s a milestone, but you are still very young. . . What is your personal desire for the future?

Only to continue to do good and with fidelity to what God will indicate to us, loving one another always as brothers, exactly as today.

 

 

 

About Deborah Castellano Lubov

Deborah Castellano Lubov is a Vatican & Rome Correspondent for ZENIT; author of 'The Other Francis' ('L'Altro Francesco') featuring interviews with those closest to the Pope and preface by Vatican Secretary of State Cardinal Parolin (currently published in four languages). She often covers the Pope's travels abroad, at times from the papal flight, and has done television and radio commentary, including for Vatican Radio and BBC. She is a contributor to National Catholic Register, UK Catholic Herald, Our Sunday Visitor, Inside the Vatican, and other Catholic news outlets. She has also collaborated with the Vatican in various projects, including an internship at the Pontifical Council for Social Communications, and is a collaborator with NBC Universal, NBC News, Euronews, EWTN and Salt & Light. For 'The Other Francis': https://www.amazon.com/Other-Francis-Everything-They-about/dp/0852449348/

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