Igniting the Spirit through Song
By Cassidy Kassab
Praise and worship are two words that,when put together, can make some Catholics put up their guard. It is very much associated with Protestant circles and usually brings to mind charismatic images of people throwing their hands in the air and dancing like it’s nobody’s business. When I first experienced praise and worship I was nineteen and on a Catholic retreat.
I felt uncomfortable, awkward, and pretty self-conscious to say the least. I try to keep my Mariah Carey-esque voice to a limited audience — myself. Regardless, I gave it an honest shot and tried to embrace the fact that I felt silly. Dave, the man who was leading us in praise and worship, is a mild celebrity among the Chaldeans who love praise and worship in our community. So, even though I felt like a dork singing along, I was still able to enjoy his quality music. The love of music for many is probably why most people eventually warm up to it.
Over the past four years, my love for praise and worship has only grown; today I would call myself a full-blown enthusiast. I love praise and worship because it is joyful and energizing.
Life provides us a volley of positive and negative experiences and trials. Because of this, our prayer can turn into what feels like a never-ending string of petitions. Don’t get me wrong, it’s beautiful and encouraged to come to the Lord when we are in need. But, I sincerely feel like we forget the magnificence of God. We have somewhat decreased our awareness of how small we are and how enormous, grand, all-powerful and glorious He is. We are teeny tiny creatures and we were quite literally made to praise and love Him. Trust me when I say, His beauty is more than enough to make you lose every ounce of self-consciousness when you come to praise Him; everybody fades into the background and it’s just you and Jesus. That’s another reason why I love praise and worship as a form of prayer; it takes the focus off of us and puts it back on God. After a praise and worship hour I always feel energized, lifted, and peaceful. My focus has been taken off of my troubles, and placed upon a glorious, loving, and beautiful King.
That’s how we came up with the name, we thought about things that expressed the uplifting energy of God. How could we communicate that by coming to praise and worship for one hour, you could change your entire disposition? We came up with a relatively long list of names and then began a series of voting. Interestingly enough, after our 100th round of voting, someone randomly came up with Ignite the Spirit, even though it had never been mentioned before. It was so good that we added it to options right away, voted one more time, and chose Ignite the Spirit as our name. I mean, talk about the Holy Spirit coming through where we fall short, right?
When I was first approached about beginning the Ignite the Spirit program at ECRC I said yes right away. Because praise and worship isn’t something that our Chaldean community is extremely comfortable with, we approached the idea from a less charismatic perspective and focused on the source and summit of our Catholic faith: the Eucharist.
ECRC wanted to create a meditative praise and worship environment where everyone could feel comfortable. We love to say that an hour at Ignite the Spirit can be loud time with Lord, or quiet time with the Lord. Meaning that, if you want to throw your hands in the air, go for it. If you want to sit and simply listen, we think it’s beautiful. Plus, we have a live band so nobody can hear your less than American-Idol worthy voice.
How beautiful is it that we can take a beautiful gift from God like music (that is so often adulterated by society) and use it to pray and to get to know Him better? Praise God for His beautiful gift of music; He has given us everything we need to get to know Him more intimately and to enrich our lives by cultivating a deep love and relationship with Him. Ignite the Spirit praise and worship is one more channel He has given us to do just that. No matter where you are on your spiritual journey, I recommend Ignite the Spirit to everyone who is looking for something new to nourish his or her relationship with God. Plus, Saint Augustine said, “He who sings, prays twice”.