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Hermit priest records his own music from his seclusion

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The lifelong musician deftly plays every instrument on his catchy Catholic tunes.

Father Maximilian Mary Dean, a Franciscan hermit who lives in seclusion in Appalachia in south central Pennsylvania, has polished his music skills to put them to use in his vocation. Fr. Dean uses his time to compose and record his own brand of Catholic rock, richly steeped in the classic rock style of the 60s-80s, which strikes a great balance between liturgical and secular easy-listening.

A life-long musician, Fr. Dean notes in his autobiography the several bands with which he played through high school and college, for which he performed on a slew of instruments, including guitar, bass, keyboards, drums, harmonica, and even a little saxophone. While he was still a freshman in college, he experienced what he describes as a “major conversion,” which set him on the path of becoming a priest.

Dean transferred to the Franciscan University of Steubenville, where he completed his education with a degree in philosophy and was ordained a Catholic priest in 2000. The multi-instrumentalist and singer lent his musical skills to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal from 1992-1995, and went on to lead music ministries for the Franciscan Friars of the Immaculate from 1995-2017.

His recent album release, A Battle Cry Goes Out, raises the age-old question: Is it possible to use contemporary instruments for the glory of God? On his website, Fr. Dean suggests that it is:

But there is also a place, even a need, for non-liturgical music. For example, at a summer camp gathered around an evening fire there is certainly a place for a guitar, tambourine and some festive hand-clapping — songs of praise. In the car when mom is driving her son or daughter to a distant soccer tournament, 2 hours of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony might not be the most suitable music for the occasion — there is, even among the hermits and desert Fathers, a need for holy eutrapalia.

With this in mind, Fr. Dean has composed and produced a full album of faithful, Catholic music that is just as appropriate for a church service as it would be as a soundtrack to a scenic drive. Impressive is not a powerful enough word for the album, which was completely performed and recorded solely by Fr. Dean from his hermitage. In the music video for the title track, featured above, we can see the robed, bearded monk laying down each track from his humble home.

The music is reminiscent of many of the greatest rock acts of the mid-late 20th-century. He cites bands such as Steely Dan, Supertramp, and Huey Lewis as his influences, and it certainly shows. We fell in love with his “Come Holy Spirit,” which had a break for an astounding saxophone solo. Fr. Dean says on his website that he never really kept up with the sax, but his thrilling work says he was being modest. There are also several impressive guitar solos that could easily stand up next to the greats of the classic rock pantheon.

“Made by the Lord” was our favorite track on the album. With a standard blues rhythm and a wailing harmonica, the song would be right at home in the House of Blues, complete with a sweet guitar solo that would make B.B. King eat his heart out.

Running just over 47 minutes, this album has a lot of great music waiting for Catholics and music lovers alike. The full album is available to stream on Spotify. For more information on Fr. Dean’s wonderful brand of Catholic music, visit his website here.

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