How Music, St. Ignatius and the “Sons of Santa” Led Ben Walther to Jesus

The Sons of Santa.

That’s the name 16-year-old Ben Walther and his friends chose for their cover band when they were in high school. In retrospect, the now-successful singer-songwriter and music minister admits, “We were awful, but we thought we were rock stars.” Regardless, God used their talents to draw them closer to Him.

During an interview on “Christopher Closeup,” Ben recalled that he and other members of the band were feeling called by Christ to embrace their faith more deeply. After performing an original song at a retreat, several girls approached them in tears and said, “That song reminded us so much of our good friend that we lost in a car accident two weeks ago.” The girls then hugged them and left.

Ben told me, “We realized at that moment just how powerful music ministry can be when we take poetry and give it a melody. That was the birth of my vocation. I realized I want to do this for the rest of my life, to channel these gifts for God’s glory because I saw how powerful it was for good.”

In the years that followed, Ben grew in faith, but continued to struggle spiritually: “I did feel unlovable sometimes as I faced my own sinfulness, [but I] wanted to be better.” He also dealt with a depression of sorts because he took himself too seriously and considered himself a failure if a goal wasn’t met. He tried to lighten up, but laughingly admitted, “I’m German, so that’s tough to do.”

To help him, his mother framed and hung up the quote from Jeremiah 29:11 – “For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the LORD, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope.”

That helped point Ben in the right direction. His depression finally lifted when he got married, thanks to his wife, his kids and God, who have all made him a more joyful person.

With a Little Help from God and St. Ignatius

Ben took a job doing campus ministry and teaching in a Houston Catholic high school to support his wife and children, but his heart yearned to devote more time to music and songwriting. In between classes, he would go to the school chapel and pray the Suscipe prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola, which reads, “Take, Lord, and receive all my liberty, my memory, my understanding, and my entire will, All I have and call my own. You have given all to me. To you, Lord, I return it. Everything is yours; do with it what you will. Give me only your love and your grace, that is enough for me.”

That prayer literally inspired the song “Take Me,” on Ben’s new album “Make Your Home in Me” – and eventually led him to pursue his music dream full time.

Ben has now become a popular worship leader who travels around the country and often works at Life Teen events. “Make Your Home in Me” is meant to draw listeners into “deep communion with Christ,” then prompt them to share that communion with the world.

Ben explains, “It’s one thing to welcome Christ to make His home in us. Eventually He should cause us to go into the streets and to be friends with the orphans and the widows, to look after those who are lost and to help them come to know and to taste and see the joy of the Lord.”

A Sense of Responsibility for Each Other

Ben got a sense of that type of communion recently during a mission trip he and other artists from the “Spirit and Song” record label took to Ghana with Catholic Relief Services. They visited various villages and tribes, absorbing the joy that defines the people there.

One particular experience stands out. A Monsignor invited Ben and the others to a Marian grotto for a private Mass, then they went to his home for a delicious dinner. Somebody asked the Monsignor, “What do you want the people of the United States to know about the people of Ghana?”

His response was, “The people of Ghana and the people of Africa want to be loved. We want to be seen. We want to know we are valuable in the eyes of the world. It’s one thing that you Americans write us checks and paint our orphanages and do great things. Those are great things! But what we really want is for you to come and be our friends.”

In light of the bonds between neighbors that he experienced in Ghana, the contrast of life in the United States was a little jolting to Ben when he returned. He observed, “From witnessing the people of Ghana…[I saw] their sense of community, of the common good, their sense of responsibility for each other. They move as one, they dance as one, they live as one body. Then you come back to the States and you’re like, ‘Well, I live in this neighborhood. Do I really know my neighbors? Do I depend on my neighbors?’…You’re isolated, you’re alone. That’s one of the greatest plagues here in the States.”

Coming Full Circle

Ben Walther is doing his best to live out that sense of community and God’s love in his own life, as well as instill it in the young people he often works with. At the recent “Steubenville of the Rockies” retreat in Denver, he was approached by a young man who wanted to grow closer to God, but kept messing up and struggling with doubt.

Having walked in his shoes, Ben told him, “When you go home, you’re going to mess up again, and God is going to be right there with you…You’re going to feel lonely sometimes, but you need to know that God is with you, that God never leaves us, even when we bomb in sin.”

It was a coming-full-circle moment for the former Sons of Santa member who let God take control of his life – and wound up a better man for it.

To listen to my full interview with Ben Walther, click the podcast link below:
Christopher Closeup podcast – Guest: Ben Walther

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About Tony Rossi

After graduating from St. John's University in New York with degrees in Communications and English, Tony Rossi found a job at the Catholic media organization, The Christophers, that allowed him to indulge his interest in religion, media, and pop culture. He served as The Christophers' TV producer for 11 years, and is currently the host and producer of the organization's radio show/podcast Christopher Closeup, writer and editor of their syndicated Light One Candle column, and producer/scriptwriter of the annual Christopher Awards ceremony.