Irish band Celtic Spring brought joy of Christ to Denver

The energizing and toe-tapping Irish melodies of the Celtic Spring band are designed to entertain listeners. But for the Wood family that makes up the folk ensemble, it’s also a chance for an encounter with Christ.

“I found Irish music and dance seems to give people a taste of things deeply beautiful and joyful,” said Elizabeth Wood, 29, who has played fiddle and step-danced since age 4. “I hope people who see my family performing have an encounter with beauty and joy, which is an encounter with the Lord, whether they realize it or not.”

For the first time in Colorado, Elizabeth and her five younger siblings—Deirdre, Sean, Patrick, Maire and Aidan—fiddled and step-danced to witness to the joy found in a life in Christ. They gave a free performance July 19 at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 2298 S. Logan St., in Denver.

Greg and Mary Wood’s original intention to cultivate a love for their Irish heritage in their six children through music grew after they began to receive requests to perform at parties and weddings. In 2002, Celtic Spring was named the grand champion at the World Championships of Performing Arts in Hollywood. Their fame took them to the TV show “America’s Got Talent” in 2007 and earned them a spot among the top three finalists.

“We never formally decided to do this. But it was God’s will and we just watched it unfold,” said Mary, who plays the keyboard. Greg plays the bodhran, an Irish frame drum, and percussion instruments.

Their rousing performances that combine music from Ireland, Scotland and Nova Scotia, Canada led to appearances on “The Today Show,” “Good Morning America,” PBS and EWTN among others. They’ve also released two albums titled “Celtic Spring” and “Cornerstone.” They’ve performed across the country, but this weekend is their first time as a family in Colorado.

“I’m so excited to have my family do a show here,” Elizabeth said.

A graduate of the Augustine Institute in Greenwood Village, Elizabeth said she’s wanted to share her family’s gifts with the local Catholic community. Their music has become a way to connect with each other and their audiences.

“It brings all of us closer to together,” said Elizabeth, a parishioner at St. Mary Parish in Littleton.

Their music also gives a glimpse into their family life.

“It’s a great way to bring joy to the culture, especially as the culture has gotten more and more broken, and there’s not a lot of witness of families coming together,” Mary said.

Before performances they pray, especially to St. Patrick, and attend daily Mass together. The family will also pray for their audiences.

“I’ll be on stage sometimes and my family will play ‘Amazing Grace,’” Elizabeth shared. “When I’m playing, I think about the people and hope and desire it will reach their hearts.”

Performing has given the family some of their happiest memories and has become a way to give themselves to others in joy.

“In our culture today, people need that taste of joy,” Elizabeth said. “I hope that many families and many people are inspired through our performance on Saturday. It’s a huge gift for us.”

For more information about Celtic Spring, visit www.celticspringband.com.

 

COMING UP: On Fathers and Christian Masculinity

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The Year of St. Joseph points us to Jesus’ adoptive father, Joseph, as the essential model for fathers. Joseph not only manifests genuine masculinity, he also images God’s own fatherhood, as Pope Francis makes clear in his apostolic letter, Patris Corde: “In his relationship to Jesus, Joseph was the earthly shadow of the heavenly Father: he watched over him and protected him, never leaving him to go his own way.” Jesus, though the Son of God, obeyed Joseph, learned from him, and worked with him, acknowledging Joseph as a true expression of God’s own fatherhood.  

God does not just use fatherhood as an image of himself, because he himself is Father, even within his own triune life. Earthly fatherhood comes forth from him and should manifest his life and love. St. Paul speaks of honoring the “Father, from whom all fatherhood in heaven and on earth is named” (Eph 3:15). God wants everyone to be able to see his own fatherly love and called certain men to share in his own paternal gift of bringing forth life and caring for others. Every father is called to be liked Joseph, “an earthly shadow of the heavenly Father” for his own family. 

Our culture, however, often denigrates masculinity, sometimes viewing even its proper expressions as toxic. We too often see maleness in its fallenness — dominating and selfish — rather than showing self-sacrificial service. In fact, later in Ephesians, Paul speaks of the true vocation of the husband and father: “Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her” (Eph 5:25). He also speaks of the role of fatherhood: “Do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up in the discipline and instruction of the Lord” (Eph 6:4). Paul shows us the goal of fatherhood — sacrificing himself for the flourishing of the family by putting the good of his wife and children before his own desires.   

No matter what the contrary voices of our culture say, we need strong men and fathers. God created man and woman in complementarity, and they need each other to thrive, helping the other in relation to their own strengths and weaknesses. Children need the strong presence of a father to discipline and teach, as Paul reminds us. Study after study has shown that fathers have the largest impact on the faith of their children. Christian Smith explains in his sociological study, Young Catholic America, that “the faith of Catholic fathers is powerfully determinative of the future faith of their children (125). The same can be said for general wellbeing and success. When fathers are absent or refuse to exercise their role, a moral and spiritual vacuum appears. A strong majority of felons, for instance, grew up without fathers in the home.  

St. Joseph helps us to understand the strength of Christian fatherhood. First, like any good husband, Joseph listened — not just to his wife but also to God. Woken up frequently by angels, he demonstrated obedience and trust, quickly leaving everything behind to follow God’s instructions and to protect his family. We also know Joseph for his work as a carpenter and builder, content to live simply and to work hard. Importantly, he also taught Jesus how to work, showing that fathers model and teach by drawing their children into their life and work. And we can also learn from Joseph’s humility, serving the Incarnate God and his Mother without even a single recorded word in the Gospels.  

This humility points us to the essence of Christian fatherhood. Although living with two perfect people, Joseph was still called to lead. He quietly and humbly did what was needed for his family and taught his own maker how to share in his work. Fathers do not lead in order to be in charge or to get their own way. They lead because God asks them to care for and protect their families. Fathers and mothers share in the great and beautiful partnership of family life, although fathers cannot simply sit back and let mom take the lead in the spiritual life, as they are often tempted to do. Like Joseph, fathers should act firmly and lovingly to put God and the family before self, obeying God and leading the family in the right direction. They are called to model faith, work, and sacrifice to their children. 

On Father’s Day we can affirm that masculinity and fatherhood are not just good — they are essential to understanding God and his plan for human flourishing. If our culture turns around, it will be because, in large part, Christian men stand up and fight. As Christians, we cannot give in to the culture’s attempt to denigrate masculinity and fatherhood or to pit men and women against each other. We can use this celebration to affirm the essential role that our fathers play, leading their families like St. Joseph.