Catholic singer reveals incredible faith journey in new album

Sarah Kroger thought she had finished writing music for her new album, when her artist representative approached her.

“Sarah, this record still needs those dirt-under-your-fingernails kind of songs,” he encouraged the 36-year-old singer, who had been wrestling with her faith. Listeners “need authenticity — and people who are willing to put themselves out there and say what other people are not willing to say because it’s a part of the reality of faith.’”

Kroger does just that with her latest album available beginning May 17. In “A New Reality,” the Nashville-based Catholic worship leader and songwriter embraces vulnerability and provides a glimpse into her soul — a soul that clings to Christ amid questions and doubts — to a worldwide audience.

In doing so, she hopes to let others know that faith is a journey — and that it’s okay to struggle.

Kroger, who performs nationally and internationally, is quickly becoming a familiar name in Catholic households. Earlier this year, she sang at Life Fest, a pro-life rally in Washington, D.C., by the Sisters of Life and the Knights of Columbus. And, this summer, tens of thousands of people will have the opportunity to hear her at the National Eucharistic Congress taking place July 17-21 in Indianapolis.

This new release comes months after Kroger spoke with Our Sunday Visitor about encountering God through music as a teenager and deciding to dedicate her life to giving others that same opportunity. It wasn’t easy: She previously hid her musical gifts due to bullying and struggling with shyness and anxiety.

“A New Reality” marks her sixth album. In it, her songs — which range from upbeat tempos to more contemplative meditations — place faith and trust alongside questions and doubts. Darkness next to light.

“Sometimes when I pray / I wonder if I’m talking to the ceiling / Sometimes when I sing / I question if this whole thing’s just a feeling,” begins her first song, “No Filter.” “Who are you?/ Who am I? / Questions just keep racing through my mind.”

In another, “Still Yours,” she responds: “You’re still a broken heart healer / My rescue and my soul’s redeemer / With every day I’m seeing it more / You’re still good and I’m still yours.”

While speaking with Our Sunday Visitor, she likened the album to her own collection of psalms.

“There are psalms that talk about the mountaintop glory of God moments and these moments of just blind faith and trust in him that he’s going to come through,” she described, “mixed in with psalms like, ‘My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?’”

She also pointed to the saints, who talk about periods of consolation as well as desolation.

“I feel like that’s something that we don’t talk a lot about in the modern-day Church because it’s not pretty, it’s not easy,” she said. “That’s what I hope this record sets the stage for, is [for] people to be able to bring their honest questions and their honest selves to God.”

A different kind of album

As a songwriter and artist, Kroger said that her voice has never been more present than in “A New Reality.” The album stands as a testament to her own healing journey, she said, and features songs that go beyond her.

“This record, I love listening back to it, because I feel like it’s ministering to me,” she revealed. “I’ve always loved what I’ve released, but this one feels different … It feels like God is using it in my own life.”

She expressed excitement for others to hear the album and apply it to their own faith journeys.

“That’s the part of releasing music that’s so special and so unique to artists, I feel like, is that we get to release things that then people get to take and make their own,” she explained.

A journey in faith

For her part, Kroger hopes and prays that listeners hear the honesty in the album “and that they experience the fact that our faith life is a journey and some days are good and some days are bad and that that’s okay.”

She emphasized that there’s no shame in questioning or wrestling with faith.

“I’ve struggled with that in the past,” she said. “I’ve kind of made faith out to be this striving for perfection, and that someone who’s faithful looks like fill-in-the-blank or fill-in-the-list — and it’s just not that way.”

She repeated a quote by Pope Benedict XVI, who, as a cardinal, said that there are as many paths to God as there are people.

“There’s such a freedom in that, to just recognize that it’s a journey and some seasons are better than others,” she said. “But it’s a worthwhile journey, and it’s the most exciting, wild ride you’ll ever take.”

She added: “I hope people experience that in this record.”

A song with ‘No Filter’

Of the 10 songs in her album, Kroger called “No Filter” the one where she feels most vulnerable.

“I’ve experienced a lot of shame about having moments of doubt and dryness in faith, and wondered if it’s all somehow my fault,” she commented on the music video posted to YouTube.

“The reality is that sometimes ‘having faith’ means wrestling with faith,” she shared. “In an unexpected way, the ‘unraveling’ of my faith has actually led me deeper into the mystery of God. My questioning has opened my eyes to the undeniable presence of Love at work in the world.”

The conversation with her artist representative — about the need for “dirt-under-your-fingernails” songs — sparked its creation, she said.

“I wanted to curl up in a corner and die right after we wrote that song,” she remembered working on it with friend and co-writer Savannah Locke. “I didn’t want to release it at all, but my label was like, ‘That’s the song we’re releasing first,’” she laughed.

Before, she didn’t realize that she could share what she was going through with other believers and be met with mercy and kindness, she said. But she was.

“God invites us to brutal honesty,” she responded. “If we can’t be brutally honest with him, then who can we be brutally honest with?”

A message for everyone

Now, she said, “No Filter” is listed as the first song because it gives context to the rest.

“I believe that it gives context to the worship moments when you come from a place of wrestling and recognizing, ‘Some days I really don’t feel you, Lord, but I’m still choosing to believe that you are here because we have a history of a faith journey that tells me different than what I’m believing in this moment,’” she said.

Everyone struggles, she emphasized.

“Everyone has these monumental questions that we’re like, ‘If anyone heard that, what would they think?’” she said. “That song was that for me.”

“It was like this confession-ish kind of thing of just kind of saying, ‘This is what I’m dealing with, anyone else?’” she continued. “It’s been met with nothing but kindness and other people saying, ‘Wow, me too.’”

She spoke about the necessity of community in the struggle.

“I think the evil one — in those seasons of wrestling — tries to keep you in isolation and it starts to spiral in your head,” she said. “To be able to walk through this season of questioning for my own faith life with community has been such a gift.”

A guiding hand

Drawing from her own experience, Kroger shared her advice for people who might be wrestling with their faith and feel like God meets them with silence.

“Just keep walking,” she began. “If you find yourself in the midst of the darkness right now, you can’t even see the light, you can’t even see the direction — maybe it feels like you’re on a boat and the fog has set in and you’re like, ‘The instruments aren’t working. I don’t know where to go’ — just keep moving and believe that his hand is guiding you.”

“This desolation is a tool that God uses just as much as consolation,” she said. “The darkness is just as much of a gift as the light is.”

She acknowledged the pain in the struggle.

“It’s a painful thing to walk through,” she said, “because it feels like you’ve been abandoned or like God has turned his back on you.”

“Know that there is fruit on the other side of this season that you would not gain without walking through it,” she added. “We can’t avoid it. We can’t escape it. We just have to keep walking forward.”

She stressed, again, the importance of finding community — and praying for community.

For the glory of God

Looking at her music as a whole, Kroger agreed that she considers her songs to be prayers.

“That’s part of what is so special about writing worship music, is you are literally writing prayers that people get to pray in their life, in their church, when they’re walking through darkness, when they’re walking through light and all different seasons,” she said.

One of her new songs, “Glory Be,” turns the prayer it’s named after into music.

“What else do you need to say?” she concluded. “May every aspect of my life give you glory — every aspect. In the ups and downs, in my weaknesses, in my successes, may every aspect of my life lead to your glory, God, not to my own.”

This post Catholic singer reveals incredible faith journey in new album appeared on Our Sunday Visitor.

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