A lot of contemporary Christian music is soothing, contemplative, and comforting.
Then there’s the music of The Thirsting, a Washington state outfit whose music has much more in common with the combat rock of The Clash than it does with the airy melodies of Enya.
Just take a look at these lyrics from The Thirsting’s Green Day-like song, “Michael,” which proclaims the power of the legendary archangel, to whom Pope Leo XIII composed a famous prayer in the 1880s.
“So, do thou oh prince of the heavenly host/by the power of God cast him into hell/that damn serpent Satan gonna say farewell/with all of his angels gonna rot in hell!”
Formed in 2007 by Daniel Oberreuter, who sings and plays guitar, The Thirsting draws on a variety of punk and post-punk rock influences to create blistering tracks that unapologetically espouse Catholicism. If you set aside the band’s lyrics, you could swear at times you were listening to Stiff Little Fingers, Good Charlotte, Foo Fighters or, for that matter, any number of bands that played the Vans Warped Tour in its skater punk heyday.
However, Oberreuter doesn’t want you to set aside his lyrics. In fact, given they address such topics as the sacraments and the Blessed Virgin Mary, his lyrics often serve as concise catechetical lessons set to rock beats.
“Success is not me becoming a big-time star,” the friendly assertive musician says. “Success is getting souls to heaven, and the best way to do that is through the Catholic Church.”
A married father of three who volunteers at his parish, St. Mary of Guadalupe Church in Ridgefield, Washington, Oberreuter once pondered whether he should become a priest, but decided God was calling him to serve the Church by playing Catholic rock. And it’s a calling he’s taken seriously.
How many musicians, indeed how many Christian rockers, have you heard singing about a “rosary revolution” or belting out praises to our Blessed Mother? Oberreuter is just that musician, rockin’ out for the Lord as he calls on Catholics to prepare for spiritual battle and to embrace anew traditional practices like eucharistic adoration. Oberreuter is decisive about the place he feels the Catholic Church occupies in human history.
“It’s the church that Jesus Christ founded,” he says, adding that he thinks the Eucharist and such sacraments as Reconciliation — about which he wrote the rap-rock song “In This Sacrament” — gives Catholicism a user-friendly characteristic, so to speak, that other Christian denominations can’t offer. It’s one thing, for example, to believe God has forgiven your sins, it’s another to have a priest say you’re absolved of them in confession.
“They don’t have the tools, for lack of a better word, that we have as Catholics.”
Rock and reflection
Oberreuter’s band is rounded out by bassist Jason Seymor, lead guitarist Wyatt Kane and drummer Alec Maier. Oberreuter notes he’s the constant in a lineup that has changed over the years since The Thirsting started when he was attending Our Lady of Lourdes Church in Vancouver, Washington.
Since the band first plugged in, it has made its mark in the Catholic music and event world, releasing three albums: “Companions of the Lamb” in 2008, “Universal Youth” in 2011, and “Michael” in 2017. The Thirsting has played for large crowds at numerous diocesan and youth rallies, including World Youth Day in Poland in 2016 as well as National Catholic Youth Conferences in 2015 and 2017.
Over the years, Oberreuter has also developed a solo acoustic guitar ministry, which he brings to parish missions and other events. He estimates he plays about 30 to 40 such shows yearly now. While he’s obviously a fan of raucous rock ’n’ roll, Oberreuter has a meditative side, which especially comes through in his missions and solo performances
“The key with music is you’re trying to meet people on their level,” he says. “Outside of the liturgy I think we should have a lot of freedom to explore musical styles.”
On that note, Oberreuter says, he likes to wander around his fretboard when he writes songs.
“I would say most of the time it’s kind of messing around on the guitar and hearing some melodies,” he says. “It seems like I know when the Lord wants me to write a song. Every once in a while, I wake up with a melody in my mind and work with that, and that’s kind of cool.”
Oberreuter and his wife, Leticia, have also made it their mission to promote the rosary, and released an album of musical accompaniment to the prayer last year, called “Come Hold My Son.” Fans of The Thirsting can also order rosary beads through the band’s website.
As for the road ahead, Oberreuter says he’ll assemble his full band for big events, but is focusing more of his work on solo acoustic performances. He sums up his mission with these words:
“Here we are on Planet Earth, and Jesus Christ, the Lord of the Universe, is hanging out in every Catholic church,” he says, referring to church tabernacles. “My game plan is to get everyone in front of Jesus Christ in the tabernacle in adoration. The Eucharist is the source and the summit. Everything points to the Eucharist.”
EDITOR’S NOTE: You can download the album “Universal Youth” from The Thirsting for free. Text catholic to 31996.