The following is an article written by Michael Briley, in a province publication called Spiritu, published in the last month.
“Beatitude demands our hearts undergo revolution/
Each of us are lights that must make contribution/
Christ is our master teacher, we are the student/
In order for us to harmonize with angelic music/
Blessed are you for yours is the kingdom/
Blessed are you for yours shall be wisdom…”
— Opening lines of a hip hop song based on the Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5 through 7) written by Brother Mark Menegatti, O.S.A.
Br. Mark Menegatti, O.S.A. has always been passionate about youth ministry, going back to his high school days — sharing his ongoing encounter with the Living Christ with young people — via contemporary music.
Hip hop music has long been a part of who he is, so it’s only natural that he raps his own spiritual lyrics to hip hop’s driving rhythms and beats to evangelize teens and young adults. The positive message yields positive results. His listeners typically ask him to do more songs and do them more frequently.
Now an Augustinian seminarian at the Catholic Theological Union Seminary in Chicago, Br. Mark is quick to explain that true hip hop is not typically the commercialized gangster rap music that glorifies youth rebellion and immorality. To the contrary, hip hop remains outside the mainstream and in fact challenges the superficialities and excesses of pop culture.
Since its inception, hip hop has essentially been counter-cultural, an alternative voice challenging the status quo, says Br. Mark. “In the underground hip hop scene, you find the content a lot more spiritual, intellectual or political. That’s not to say that underground hip hop artists are all angels, or always moral, but it would probably be shocking to a lot of people to learn how divergent the mainstream rap music and underground hip hop culture actually are.”
Br. Mark says the entire people of God are and always will be the focus of all his ministry. Yet being young, he feels he’s in a position to connect with young people in ways other ministers in the Church just do not. He sees that as an important gift.
“I also see that young people do look for places in the Church where they can live out their faith and encounter Christ. But I do believe that the primary ministers to teenagers are in fact teenagers,” he reflects. “The reality is that adults have to learn to show teenagers how to be leaders in youth ministry. I personally want to find ways to incorporate the gifts of young people.”