I’ve always felt I had a disposition towards the sorrowful; for as long as I can remember, I felt drawn to the tragic or dark. A lachrymose nightmare for my parents, I’m sure. When I was eleven or twelve, I discovered Emo music at the height of its popularity and in a way, it felt like coming home. The unabashed outpouring of these songwriters’ hearts was a breath of fresh air, a refuge to hide myself in as I navigated my own difficult middle and high school years.
And yet, I didn’t fully understand why. As a young evangelical protestant, I was being brought up in a breezy, rose-tinted Christianity. With Christ, everything was supposed to be easy, fresh, neat and tidy. Christ was supposed to make me new, make me clean, make me joyful at all times. I had a part to play, but I couldn’t. I didn’t belong. What was wrong with me? I wrestled with this question for most of my teenage years.
It wasn’t until almost a decade later that things began to make sense. After years of studying and discernment, my husband and I were welcomed into the Catholic Church in January of 2014, a few months shy of my twenty-second birthday. It felt like the gears were all falling into place; it felt like a light had been shone and I could finally see clearly. It was then that I realized that everything in my life had been leading me up to this point: to coming home to Christ in the Catholic Church.
By the time I was twenty five, I had almost entirely forgotten about Emo music. My conversion still felt fresh and everything within Catholicism was so new and important; I listened to Latin chant, sung prayers, and Catholic podcasts almost constantly. I was still finding my place in the life of the Church, learning about devotions and saints and how to really live as a Catholic. Putting on my new self, letting go of my old self as they say.
But then one day I rediscovered an old playlist: a mess of songs from the early 2000’s, featuring a heavy dose of My Chemical Romance. And as I listened to many of these lyrics for the first time since my conversion, I realized that I knew exactly why they had meant so much to me -- and why they still do. My love for the sorrowful and messy, my attachment to these songs, was like a thread woven throughout my whole life that I had only just noticed.
While the artists likely didn’t intend it, and some of it can rightly be described as unorthodox or offensive, I’ve learned that some of my greatest moments of prayer have come while listening to Emo music in my car. To put it plainly, this kind of emotionally raw, often sorrowful and morbid music feels incredibly Catholic to me. Once again, I find myself at home.
Catholics are not afraid of death, and we do not shy away from our mortality or our suffering. In fact, we embrace it. We carry the bones of our Saints, we kiss crucifixes, we venerate Our Lady of Sorrows, we meditate on death (#mementomori). We know that Christ makes us clean but that it’s a long and messy process; we don’t have to put up a facade or play any parts. And we don’t have to walk this path alone because we have the examples and intercession of the saints that have gone before us.
There are two verses from songs on My Chemical Romance’s 2006 album, “The Black Parade” that have stuck with me, and I wanted to share them with you, too.
"Do or die you'll never make me
Because the world will never take my heart
Go and try, you'll never break me"
- Welcome to the Black Parade
"I am not afraid to keep on living
I am not afraid to walk this world alone…
Awake and unafraid"
- Famous Last Words
In a world filled with luke-warm Christians, take courage and take note. Has the world taken our hearts? Are we willing to die for what we believe in? Are we afraid to walk alone for the sake of our Christian faith? Christ never claimed that it would be easy, but he did promise that he would never forsake us. These songs convict me of my own weakness and inspire me towards courage and fortitude. I am reminded of the Church’s many martyrs who were not afraid to suffer because they were so confident in the truth of the Gospel. Strengthened by these verses, let us go out and dare to live -- Awake and Unafraid.