Fr Liam Lawton’s repertoire is strongly Celtic. Asked about the popularity of all things Celtic, he has a ready response. “Celtic notions have wide appeal, as Celts see the spiritual world as inhabiting the spaces where we live. There is an acceptance of the omnipresence of God, from great storms to a tiny blade of grass. The early Christian Celts had come from worshipping the Sun to worshipping the Son, whose love and compassion challenged all who called themselves Christians.”
Fr Liam had a traditional Catholic upbringing and was educated by Sisters. He served at Mass with his twin brother and the Church was important in family life. “When I left school I decided to study Teaching. I’d been learning music and nursed dreams of success but then, there was no “X Factor”! I was writing music and performing. At the university was a national seminary, and some of the students were preparing for priesthood. Several had been to Third World countries so our political geography classes were at times quite heated! These young men inspired me. I spent many nights wrestling with my aspirations and eventually decided to study for priesthood.”
Clearly this has been a wise choice. “The most rewarding aspect has been seeing people coming to know a God of love rather than fear, particularly when they are dying. Compassion is central to ministry − without it, we only serve ourselves. Most challenging is for the Church to be relevant to young people. Many will tell you they are ‘spiritual’ and don’t need the Church. Jesus said, ‘Come and see.’ He invited freely and we need to do the same.”
Writing books and songs; being diocesan Director of Sacred Music and touring internationally is not for the faint-hearted but Fr Liam seems to have it sorted. He explains, “I’ve been freed from parish administration so this has allowed me to work on various projects. There are times that necessitate more touring and within the Church’s life there are occasions I prioritise. Planning and support are vital and I’ve been blessed with these. And if I don’t take time to reflect and pray the well will run dry and I will have nothing to sing or say!”
Fr Liam has not met Pope Francis, but would like to tell him “an antidote to hatred and violence will only come about through beauty. The Church needs to rediscover the language and power of imagination that allow people to express their search for God. We have overfed the body, we have continued to feed the mind but we have starved the soul. WB Yeats said, ‘We have fed the heart on fantasies, the heart’s made brutal by the fare.’
“On a different note, I would like Pope Francis to consider the position of women within our Church’s decision-making. We are standing on one leg most of the time. We have been tired for a long time! The ones who keep our churches open and our liturgies prayer-filled are women, yet our male-dominated hierarchy is so slow to change.”
Fr Liam is excited about visiting Australia. “It’s a real blessing! I would like to believe that my concerts open a tiny window into the beauty of God’s presence. There is something mystical about the spirituality of Ireland, a land to which many people in Australia have connections.”
Fr Liam Lawton performs in Newcastle on 6 November 2015. Limited tickets are available now from ProTicket.