Since the release of Bethlehem Morn in 2005, Canadian musician Chuck Stevens has been ordained a deacon in the Roman Catholic Church. Deacon Chuck has felt compelled for several years to share what he has learned in his studies through his music. Harvest of Love is a wonderful expression of that knowledge.
The beauty of Harvest of Love is the truly sacramental nature of the songs. It is obvious by the lyrics that Deacon Chuck has done a lot of prayerful reading in preparation for his vocation. Each song teaches the core beliefs of the Catholic Church in a prayerful way that is very accessible through the lovely melodies.
The title cut, "Harvest of Love," was written originally as a way of thanking all the people that had supported Deacon Chuck in his journey. The lyrics, however, apply to all of us who have realized that everything we have is a gift from God, meant to be given back generously to God's people: "Here is a harvest of love from all of the bounty You've granted, we give back to You; here is a harvest of love, we offer to You with our neighbor, the fruits of our labor, the works of our hearts and our hands."
I especially appreciated the way Deacon Chuck weaved the sacraments so effortlessly into the songs without actually naming them. A perfect example of this is "We Come to Return" which demonstrates the immense love and grace of God lavished to us through the sacraments of Baptism, Reconciliation and the Eucharist. The Church teaches us to live our lives sacramentally and songs such as this reinforce this core idea.
Songs such as "Elohim" and "How We Adore You" teach truths about the Lord God from scripture while inspiring the heart to pray and offer praise. Neither song especially exhorts to the listener to offer praise but rather, inspires because of content of the lyrics.
For example, "How We Adore You" proclaims truths about the Father, Son and Holy Spirit, allowing the listener to meditate upon the Trinity, and then offers this wonderful refrain which prepares the heart to praise: "All power and glory, all worship and praise, adoration and honor, till the end of our days belongs to You . . ."
The fifth song in the Harvest of Love collection is a nearly 10 minute sung version of the Jesus Prayer. The song is very easy to learn and once given the chance, will lead you on what Deacon Chuck calls a "mini retreat," meditating on the great mercy of God. I have personally prayed this song many times and have been greatly edified by it.
Deacon Chuck has a strong sense of service to the poor which is beautifully expressed in "Could You Give Me Some Water." Drawn from the gospel story of the great day of Judgment, when the sheep will be separated from the goats, Deacon Chuck begins the song by gently touching the conscience of the listener but becomes stronger in his exhortation in final verse. He recounts the number of hungry children in the world and calls on those of us who have been richly blessed with materials means to share with those who have very little. This song makes a very powerful social justice statement which is authentic, heartfelt and convincing.
Harvest of Love does have a drawback which will hopefully not prevent the listener from enjoying all the blessings and teaching this album offers: the production sounds home grown. There are some flat notes, mixing that isn't perfect, timing that is occasionally a little off, and sparse instrumental arrangements. Yet, I've seen a lot of musical growth since Deacon Chuck's last album which made it a joy for me to listen to, despite these problems.
Harvest of Love has quickly become a favorite of mine to listen to and pray along with. It can be purchased through CD Baby at http://cdbaby.com/cd/chuckstevens3 and is also available through iTunes. It can also be downloaded in its entirety for free at www.smalltalentmusic.com.
Copyright 2009 Susan Bailey
About the Author
Susan Bailey is the author of River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times (Ave Maria Press), and Louisa May Alcott: Illuminated by The Message (ACTA Publications), part of their Literary Portals to Prayer series. Along with her blogs Be as One and Louisa May Alcott is My Passion, Susan writes for the Diocese of Worcester newspaper, The Catholic Free Press.