Father Rob Galea, a Catholic pop singer with a global audience, knows a lot of today’s young people aren’t even sure Jesus Christ actually existed.
“I go to schools where kids equate Jesus with Hercules, a fictional character,” he said during a recent interview.
A priest of the Diocese of Sandhurst, Australia, Father Galea is one of the best-known Catholic singers on the planet, but he uses his fame not for his own glory but for one purpose alone: to bring Jesus to others.
The friendly, talkative priest said many young Australian Catholics have never been properly taught about the faith; some don’t even know how to make the sign of the cross. But using music, he has found a way to catechize not just young people but even people his age and older, noting that schoolteachers have told him they have been deeply moved by his message.
“It’s a language they understand,” Father Galea said of his young listeners. “I explain the Gospel through pop songs.”
It’s Jesus and the joy he can bring you that motivates the cleric to take his guitar and voice on the road again and again.
“The big difference between happiness and joy is joy is about knowing we will go through the storm, but God will walk with us through it,” he said.
This is no abstract belief for Father Galea. He’s lived through a few figurative storms himself and believes Jesus guided the ship of his soul to safer waters after many a tempest.
As a teenager growing up in the Mediterranean nation of Malta, he abused intoxicants and drugs, lied, stole and belonged to a gang. He eventually wound up fearing for his life after angering a drug dealer about whom he told a malicious lie. On the brink of suicide, the teenaged Galea found out about a church youth meeting his sister was attending and asked if he could go.
From that moment forward, he began praying to Jesus about his life, and eventually even had a mystical vision of the Lord, according to his 2018 book “Breakthrough: A Journey from Desperation to Hope” (Ave Maria Press, $14).
“It was like the Holy Spirit had chosen that moment to help me get rid of the inner fury, loneliness, and regret that was still left in my heart,” he wrote in the book, which he added may become a Hollywood movie.
Around the same time he was letting Christ into his heart, he was also developing a passion for music. He noted that in the Old Testament David soothed troubled King Saul by playing his harp, and that “music is a powerful thing because music soothes the savage beast.” His devotion to playing and singing helped him come out of his darkest times, he added.
“Music for me is a way to speak the unspeakable and of expressing the inexpressible,” Father Galea said.
Signed to a record label at 19, he entered seminary at 21 and was ordained in 2010. A trip to Australia during his seminary years led him to relocate to the country he today calls home. Now in his late 30s, the priest is probably most famous for having appeared on Australia’s “X Factor” show in 2015. He’s also performed for two World Youth Days and has released eight albums, including last year’s “Coming Home.”
A fan of many different musical genres, his style draws on rock, electronic dance music, pop, folk and world beat for inspiration, and he likes artists as diverse as U2 and famed DJ Skrillex to Brit rockers Keane and Irish singer Damien Rice.
“I use about 11 different methods,” he said about his songwriting approach, adding, “There’s no one system I use.”
Lyrical inspiration has come from a variety of ways, he said.
“Sometimes I have a Bible with me, sometimes I have a broken heart,” he said. “Some songs take me months to write, some songs take me minutes to write.”
In addition to his music, the priest is a noted speaker, podcaster, and YouTube presenter. Even people who aren’t interested in the Catholic faith would likely find many of his videos entertaining. Throughout them, he displays a contagious enthusiasm for his vocation, his beliefs, the power of music and the difficulties people can face in life and how to overcome them.
What’s striking about Father Galea is how different he is from so many other Christian commenters online, who are often bemoaning the secular world and its evils or who don’t like various directions the Church is taking. The priest seems to be able to sift all the chaff of Catholic spiritual life and focus on the wheat, namely, a relationship with Jesus Christ.
“I am in love with Jesus,” he said. “When I think about Jesus, I’m joyful and alive and full of hope.”
The priest occasionally visits North America, and has appeared at various conferences and events in the United States. He heads up FRG Ministry, a nonprofit devoted to proclaiming the Gospel. Interestingly, for a singer who has performed for thousands and has been on TV, the cleric admits to being rather shy. While he can handle being on stage, offstage is a different matter.
“I’m an extreme introvert,” he said. “I’m not interested in the attention, so to speak.”
What does interest him is connecting with the people he’s met through his public life and sharing his own faith journey with them so that they may be inspired to walk with Christ themselves. His latest album, “Coming Home,” was inspired by his own “prodigal son” experiences, he added.
“If you’re walking with God, you’re going to constantly run away, and you’re going to constantly want to come back.”