Rebecca Cribbs, Courtney Kramer and Kristen Morawksi
Rebecca Cribbs, Courtney Kramer and Kristen Morawksi
This year's contest asked Catholic teens, "What's on your MP3 player?" Teens sent playlists of five songs that connect them to God, remind them to pray or get them through hard times, along with descriptions of how the songs help them. Entries ranged from country to Christian songs, classic rock to instrumentals. Here are the three winners.

Senior, Academy of the Holy Names, Albany
St. Vincent de Paul parish, Albany
•  "Man in the Mirror" by Michael Jackson: The message in this song is that all change begins with one person. If I want to make a change in my life, it will make a difference in someone else's life, as well. I listen to this song every morning as an inspiration. It inspires me not to be blind to the needs of others. When I am listening to the song, I ask myself three questions: Who can I pray for today? How can I help them? What do they truly need? I do this because one cannot be selfish to those in need. This song reminds me that, in order to pull someone out of the water, I need to be standing on solid ground. I am reminded each morning to lift myself, so I may lift others.
•  "Sister Christian" by Night Ranger: As a teenage girl, my life is filled with stronger feelings and emotions toward boys. "Sister Christian" reminds me that I do not need to do anything before I am ready. No matter what, I will always have my faith in God to guide me. Before making such a decision, I need to be sure it's Mr. Right. Mr. Right can only be described as one's husband. This song keeps me staying on my faithful track and from committing the sin of premarital sex. Although I am growing up, I must stay grounded in my spiritual beliefs.
•  "You're Gonna' Miss This" by Trace Adkins: With my age going up, the desire to grow up even more increases. "You're Gonna' Miss This" helps me stay calm. College essays, applications and senior year are driving me crazy. I tell myself I just want to go to college, graduate and get married. Then I listen to this: "You may not know it now/But you're gonna miss this." I take a moment to think how much I truly will miss my life as a teenager. I cannot be worried with growing up; I need to focus on now. [An old adage says,] "Yesterday is gone, tomorrow is yet to come, and today is a gift; that's why it's called the present."
•  "Bigger Than Us" by Hannah Montana: "We all want to believe in something bigger than just us" is a line from "Bigger Than Us." When I am feeling down or going through a hard time, I put this song on. It inspires me to look beyond my own world and into the world of God. I want to know that I can be a part of a greater picture, and I know my faith in God allows for that. Each day, my love for myself, others and God grows because of my faith and because of this song. Many people believe Hannah Montana songs are for children, but this song taught me that, no matter what, God's love will always be there.
•  "Pray" by Justin Bieber: Since 2009, I have been the biggest Justin Bieber fan! When his acoustic album came out, I was one of the first 100 people in line down in New York City to purchase it. Little did I know one song on that album could change my life. It was a song called "Pray." The song's message is that a single person's prayer can make a true difference in someone else's life. There is strength in numbers! The world is a huge society, like a spiderweb: If one string breaks, the whole web is affected. This song shone a light on the importance of daily prayer in my life. Through God, all things are possible. Many songs, not even religious ones, can provide us with a faith-filled mindset. Music with faithful messages has gotten me through many hard times in my life. Music and faith make up the rhythm of the soul!

COURTNEY KRAMER, 15 Sophomore, Academy of the Holy Names, Albany
Christ the King parish, Albany
•  "See You Again" by Carrie Underwood: This song is not only about the loss of a loved one, but the comfort of knowing that you will be able to see him or her again in heaven. Sometimes, dying is kind of a scary thing, at least in my mind, so knowing that when we die, we will be in heaven with our loved ones that we have missed for so long always puts a smile on my face. Carrie Underwood said something that I could really understand, because we are both Christians: She said the song "takes a faith-filled positive spin on moving out of this life." I listen to this song when I think of my Uncle Jack, who died about four years ago. He was one of the best listeners I have ever known and I could talk to him about anything. Sometimes, I just need someone to talk to who will listen and understand, and I think, "I wish I could talk to Uncle Jack right now." When I listen to "See You Again," it makes me smile, knowing that someday I will be able to talk to him. Like the song says, "But I won't cry/'Cause I know I'll never be lonely/For you are the stars to me/You are the light I follow."
•  "Blessed" by Martina McBride: Whenever I am feeling lost or misguided, I listen to "Blessed." The song tells the story of a wife and mother who realizes all that she has in life and feels truly blessed. She describes having healthy children and a husband who loves her, and how "the world is a beautiful place." I tend to focus on every minor thing that isn't going right in my life. Usually, the issues that I think are so major, in the scheme of things are never that bad. For example, I may get very overwhelmed with schoolwork and get mad when I have multiple tests in a day, when deep down I know it will all work out if I just time-manage and stay focused. From time to time, I step back and think to myself, "I am blessed with so much and God has given me so much in my life; is this really that awful?" When I ask myself this question, the answer is always, "No."
•  "Up" by Shania Twain really puts me in a good mood. This song is about someone who is having a really bad day when nothing is going right, which we all have. Instead of having negative thoughts and thinking about all the bad that has happened, the person in the song realizes that "it can only go up from here." In life, one just needs to make the most of all situations, even the bad ones. One of the lines in the song is, "You just gotta' learn to have a laugh." If we all try to do this, our world would be a much happier and more positive place to live.
•  "I'm Your Angel" by Celine Dion and R. Kelly talks about putting your full trust in God - about having faith and how God is always by your side. People sometimes have trouble putting their full trust in God because they feel they are not good enough people and God will not love them. The great thing about God is that He will always be by your side. "I'm Your Angel" really calls attention to this universal fear: "No matter how far you are, I'm near/It makes no difference who you are/I'm your angel." This song also calls attention to materialism and how it is so important to have love in your life and people who care about you: "You have everything and you're still lonely/It doesn't have to be this way; let me show you a better day." Some people put more emphasis on accumulating money and things, but life will be much more meaningful with loved ones. The song discusses how God can guide materialistic people in the right direction so they can focus on what matters the most: love. Whenever I listen to this song, I am comforted by the fact that, no matter how lonely you are, God will always be by your side.
•  "So Small" by Carrie Underwood is very relatable to many people. It discusses how it is very easy to turn little worries into big worries. It is also very easy to forget why we are here on earth and the important things in life. The opening line, "What you got if you ain't got love/The kind that you just want to give away," is really saying that the only important thing is love, which is completely true. We are happier with people that we love, and we can reciprocate that love. I listen to this song when I need guidance on what really is important. Another quote I love is, "It's so easy to get lost inside/A problem that seems so big at the time/It's like a river that's so wide/It swallows you whole." There are so many little distractions that can get us off-track. Unfortunately, I tend to stress about really little things. When I look back on them, I realize that I made a very small problem into a really big problem. For instance, I got in a fight with my sister recently. We rarely fight and, when we do, it is not about anything truly important. (I realize this fact afterward, not when it is happening.) I tend to blow it way out of proportion, when deep down I know that what we are fighting about is no big deal. Like the song says, "When you figure out love is all that matters after all/It sure makes everything else/Seem small."

Freshman, Bishop Maginn High School, Albany
St. Ambrose parish, Latham
•  "Firework" by Katy Perry: I have several songs I listen to that really connect with my heart and allow me to get a better sense of connection and gratitude toward God. The first is "Firework." This creative song is about not being afraid to express who you really are on the inside and not letting your flaws stop you from having a great life. I find it hard to express myself. I constantly fear others will not like me for who I am and will make fun of me, as others did in the past. Listening to this song has shown me [how] to just be myself, no matter what others may say or do. God created me this way, and I should be proud of the traits He gave me. Although I still find it a little hard to express myself at school, I have found a way to use my imagination and emotions to show my personality. I wish to become an artist, so I have been drawing most of my life. I am extremely grateful to God for giving me the ability to draw the way I can; I could never repay Him for how much He has given and helped me. I use my drawings to show others my ideas and emotions. God has given me this trait to allow a stronger bond with Him, since every time I draw a simple doodle or masterpiece, He and I are in unison.
•  "So Much More" by Bentley Jones is a very positive song that helps me get through harsh times. This song is about how you only have one chance on earth and one chance to achieve your dreams; basically, [that] you should live life to the fullest of your capabilities. Even if you're stuck in a horrible time, you need to keep positive and try to get out of the rut by taking away all negativity in your life. Everyone has had their share of terrible times. A couple of years ago, one of my best friends left for a different school; I had to get used to middle-school life; and I was having personal issues. During that year, I did not do any work and really didn't converse with my other friends; I was stuck in a rut. Around the time this song came out, I decided to give [talking] a try. I met a creative and crazy girl who is now my best friend; I met some of the greatest friends. My grades improved, even getting me two scholarships to this amazing high school. I stayed positive through the harsh times, always believing God would eventually make it all go away, and He finally answered my prayers. Even if you feel like nothing will go right, try to stay positive!
•  "Don't Stop Believing" by Journey: Life is rough sometimes for everyone. There will be good times, and you just have to "hold onto the feeling" of hope and belief and you'll get through the rough times. Life continues, and you may as well keep hoping for the best. There will always be things you think will never happen that will catch you off guard, sending your life hurtling downward. Sometimes we feel lost and confused; we don't know what to do or say. Even if you feel like nothing in life is good anymore, God will always be there to help you out, setting you back onto your path of goals. [We must] become more strong and independent when we are old enough to make our own decisions. Every day we must pray, thanking God for His grace and for keeping us safe and always watching over us and our loved ones.
•  "Fireflies" by Owl City: This song is about the "magic" the world has to offer. [The singer says that,] when you go to sleep, maybe you are missing out on the beauty of nature. When he says, "It's hard to say I'd rather stay awake when I'm asleep," it means he would rather be asleep because he doesn't want to wake up to what reality is. He wishes that he could see the magic in the world again and see the world from a different point of view. I see nature as beautiful and creative, with all the trees and creatures God created for us. I often find myself staring out my car window on the way home, admiring how the trees look or the animals I see. Many of my drawings are nature-related. Nature can bring a lot of beauty into our lives. Nature has a way of affecting our moods and it can force us to change our plans. I believe we should take much better care of our environment, since God went through all this trouble to create it for us and all we have done is destroy this beautiful masterpiece. Thank you, God, for allowing me to have this personal connection to nature and all of its wonderful creatures.
•  "Reach for the Stars" by Will.I.Am: What this song means is, "Be all you can be!" Go for your goals and dreams; after all, this is supposed to be the land of opportunity. You should never give up on your dreams; keep striving to get to them. I am striving to be an artist. My art allows me to express my creativity and personality in ways I cannot through other means. This song inspires me to keep improving my special ability, so I can make God proud that I am doing the best I can with the environment I am in right now.