It is extremely Catholic to know how to redeem, enjoy, recognize, and utilize the good things which come from beyond the boundaries of the Church, even those things outside the Christian world. Christ is still very present outside of those things which are “officially” Christian. We do not have a monopoly on the love of God. On the contrary, we are the flock of 99 sheep which God abandons in order to search for, and save, the one lost sheep. After many years of teaching the Catholic religion to youth, I am convinced of this.

It seems to me that it is imperative to recognize the sparks of goodness and truth which exist in the world in order to better initiate a more relevant dialogue with those who have doubts or prejudices about the faith. Music is a realm where this totally applies and has been a valuable tool in my religion classes (and other areas) to reflect on certain aspects of my students lives –especially for those farthest from the faith– from an explicitly Christian point of view, although for them it appears entirely human.

Today I want to share some of these songs. I am not ranking them; it is simply my personal list which reflects my tastes. I ought to add that this is a list of songs and not artists. The songs in this list seem decent, interesting, and apostolic (for the most part). I can’t vouch for any of the artists; a song on this list does not make the artist an example.

Here they are. Don’t forget to comment and mention a song which you recommend. Thanks!

Post datum: I’ll spare the criticism… the songs are in English, Italian, and French because I live in Rome, and I taught there.

25 Secular Songs That Can Teach Christians Something

It is extremely Catholic to know how to redeem, enjoy, recognize, and utilize the good things which come from beyond the boundaries of the Church, even those things outside the Christian world.

“Holes” by Passenger

Life is not rose colored. There are many situations which tear holes in our hearts, and we need to learn to live with them. Do we win or lose having these wounds? It depends on us and the attitude we have about them. The lyrics say “…sometimes you can’t change and you can’t choose, and sometimes it seems you gain less than you lose.” I believe that “Holes” is a song which makes a person face their own pain and asks them, “What will we do with this? Can we make anything good from it?” Here is the link

“Carry You Home” by James Blunt

The music video helps interpret this song. It touches on the profound pain of a woman who receives the news of her husband’s death in war, a violent experience that robs her innocence, separates her from the world, and ages her. However, this moment reveals both her fortitude and her human tenderness. The chorus “I’ll carry you home” probably describes the desire to accompany and alleviate the pain of those women who have lost their spouses this way. For those who don’t know, Blunt participated in the war in Kosovo and became an officer in the English military.

“Change” by Tracy Chapman

What has to happen to make us better people? To make us want to change the self-destructive things in our lives? The things which hurt others? “Change” explores all the possibilities. If we knew today was our last day, would we change? If we were certain that love was what we longed for, would we change? How awful do things have to get before we react? If God himself came down from Heaven to show us his face, would we convert? Here is the link

“I Won’t Give Up” by Jason Mraz

“I Won’t Give Up” is a romantic song which talks about the importance of betting everything on your beloved in spite of the difficulties and the differences. It talks about the importance of changing, learning, and conceding in a relationship. That’s why I like it. It briefly mentions that the opposite of love is not hate but possession of the other, which I believe. In that sense I think that the song is very balanced because the wager which it proposes is not stubborn and impatient but open to the liberty of the other.

“Hold on Tight” by Greg Holden

Life does not owe us anything, love is not just around the corner, and good looks don’t make us virtuous. “Hold on Tight” is a song which reminds us that we have to sweat and work hard to achieve great things in life. We must begin by holding tight to those gifts which we have received.

“Demons” by Imagine Dragons

There is darkness within us. Perhaps we would like to hide the truth and continue living in a world of fantasy, but bad things lurk in each one of us and affect our relationships with others. “Demons” is a cry for help to a loved one to look into our interior and pierce the darkness with the light of their gaze, to scare away the demons (fear, selfishness, etc.) which live there. The song does not say it, but I like to think that this is the gaze of Christ. Maybe I am not mistaken because two members are Mormons.

“Home” by Phillip Phillips

It is a simple song about the confidence and security offered by friendship and love. Friends and loved ones form the walls of our home: the spiritual, psychological space where we feel secure and protected, where we can most easily be ourselves. I like the sounds of construction interspersed throughout the song.

“Je Vole” by Louane

It is the final song in the film La Familia Belier. Have you seen it? “Je Vole” talks about the experience of a girl who has become a woman and the time has come to ask her parents to let her fly, grow, mature, and find her own space in this world. The song is French, and I don’t understand any of it, of course, but Louane’s voice is exceptional.

“Lovers’ Eyes” by Mumford & Sons

Interpreting this song is not easy. In my opinion this song is very similar to “Demons”, inasmuch as it is a call for help -most likely to God- for healing from a view of love which is too superficial and selfish (lovers’ eyes); a view which does not allow for relationships with others or true love. It ends with tremendous hope, with an act of trust and surrender to another, continuously repeating, “I walk slow. Take my hand and help me on my way”. Even though they don’t like being called a Christian band, two of the members come from Christian families, and certainly some of the lyrics have that influence. It is good to know.

“To Build a Home” by The Cinematic Orchestra

The song is sad. It talks about the contingency of the human relationships which we form. We can build relationships like trees which we plant, water, and care for. When they have grown they permit us to see the world from their branches. However, all this can disappear at any moment. What is more, they are made to disappear and become dust (think of sickness and death). The song seems valuable to me because it expresses, dramatically and authentically, from a purely human view, the transient condition of the things (even the good things) which we create in this life.

“I Lived” by OneRepublic

It is an invitation to live a full life, without fleeing from pain and difficulties. Because in the end, happiness follows the risk and the courage to live each moment intensely. I like the chorus, “With every broken bone, I swear I lived.” You are going to like the video.

“Alessandra Sará Sempre Piú Bella”

Everything in the world can be divided two ways: that which we love and that which we do not love. That which we don’t love changes, it transforms, it wears out, it deteriorates, it fades, and if it doesn’t, we don’t care. The things which we truly love are special, they are in a distinct category of time and space. Their beauty renews itself and renews us constantly. I believe that “Alessandra Sará Sempre Piú Bella” speaks about this. Fabrizio Moro humorously describes a world which passes and is forgotten, while love flourishes in its own dimension, abiding and solid.

“A te” by Lorenzo Jovanotti Cherubini

I’m not certain if this song is for a girlfriend, a mother, or the Virgin herself (because Jovanotti is Catholic). But I am certain that it is one of the most beautiful songs which could be dedicated to a woman. The part I like most is the middle of the chorus which speaks of the inherent value of the person to whom it is addressed. It is saying, I love you because you are you. Your gifts, your abilities, and everything you have given me might be beautiful, but I love you simply because you are you. Huge!

“Hey Dio” by Nek

Nek does an x-ray of our world and comes to the conclusion that God has reason: the only way to heal and start over is love. I dare to say that when he says God has reason, he is referring to Christ because Filippo Neviani (Nek) is Catholic.

“One Life” by James Morrison

We only have one life. We can’t waste it thinking that we are too young to change or better ourselves because each decision which we make has real weight and transforms our future. The chorus says, “I’ve got one life, and I’m gonna live it right.” I admit that I have used this song various times when I had to make apostolic videos about social work.

“People Help the People” by Birdy

The song speaks of the immense need which we have to live in solidarity amongst ourselves. Birdy speaks of the suffering and nostalgia which exist in the hearts of many abandoned people and the importance of alleviating this suffering and enriching ourselves with the experience of solidarity. On the other hand, the song is a harsh criticism of the wealthy who have the possibility of helping but prefer to remain indifferent to this human drama.

“King and Lionheart” by Of Monsters and Men

Would you recognize an Icelander if you saw one? Well, remember these 6 faces. “Of Monsters and Men” is an Icelandic group which started playing in a small bar and made an enormous leap with I-forget-which-song. The best thing about this group is that most of their songs tell the myths and traditional stories of Iceland. It seems to me that this distinguishes them and gives them personality in a world full of plastic music. Here is a song which I like, but I don’t understand because to understand their music you need to be a master in Icelandic mythology.

“Depth Over Distance” by Ben Howard

A romantic song about the importance of having deep roots in order to maintain a long distance relationship and sort out difficulties. Anyone who has been in this type of relationship will probably understand Ben Howard. Here is a video with a live interpretation of the song. Judging by the force that Howard sings one would think that all his amorous relationships have been via Skype.

“Photograph” by Ed Sheeran

Some people think that this is a family song, others think that it is a romantic song. It’s clear to me that “Photograph” is certainly talking about love, for example: “Loving can hurt, loving can hurt sometimes, but it’s the only thing that I know… it is the only thing that makes us feel alive… and it’s the only thing we take with us when we die.” The song describes love as an experience which heals and redeems a person. Despite all the difficulties of attachment, these ties nourish us spiritually whether we are near or far from those we love. The video of the song is full of nostalgia for the past linked to the present life of Sheeran, full of activity, tours, etc. I interpret “Photograph” as a song written for his family or his Mother.

“Hey Hey Hey” by Michael Franti & Spearhead

A simple song which invites us not to lose hope in life and discover the importance of living for the people that we love. The happy tone of the song gives strength to the message. It’s perfect for running.

“If You Fall” by JJ Heller

Love, especially in marriage, has nothing to do with escaping when things get hard. The song talks about a painful marriage situation where the wife decides to save her marriage and carry the suffering of her spouse with the hope that things can get better. The chorus is very beautiful: “If you fall, I fall with you. If you hurt I feel it, too. Even if my heart turns black and blue, I will love you.”

“Tea and Toast” by Lucy Spraggan

This is a moving pro-life story. A pregnant woman dies giving birth to her son. The boy grows, matures, becomes an adult, marries, has a daughter, and lives his whole life remembering a loving phrase which his father told him that his mother used to say. The son ages and finally… Listen to the song!

“Fix You” by Coldplay

When the father of his wife dies, Chris, one of the band members, composed this song to tell her that he would always be at her side. The lyrics say that in the worst moment of her life, when nothing seems to function, and the pain is too great, he will be there for her. He will bring her home and try to fix her.

“Where is the Love” by The Black Eyed Peas

We live in a world full of hurts: bombs, wars, hatred, violence, etc. We fill our mouths with words, but we do nothing concrete. With this song of protest The Black Eyed Peas asks humanity, “Where is the love?”. They ask God for the grace to heal the wounds which we have caused. I don’t know if you like hip-hop, but the lyrics of this song are excellent.

“All I Want” by Kodaline

This song is about an unrequited love in which the artist presents the good things which the relationship brought him. The melody is well constructed, and it was very useful as the theme song for the most recent documentary of Catholic-Link. The video is unusual but expressive.