Nashville Singer Marie Bellet Visits Diocese

Marie Bellet is an unlikely Nashville songwriter and singer. The 38-year-old mother of seven children celebrates sacrifice and commitment, the joys and challenges of raising a family and the face of God in everyday life. This devout Catholic recently made her first appearance in Northern Virginia at the National Association of Catholic Home Educators convention in Manassas. In so doing, she added to her growing number of fans. Bellet performed 12 songs, some of which were on her first CD, "What I Wanted to Say," and a few expected to be on the second, "Ordinary Time," which be recorded in August. After her local appearance, she flew to Minnesota to sing at a Mary Foundation National Men’s Conference. One of her many upcoming engagements is at Catholic Familyland in Bloomingdale, Ohio next month. But despite her success, Bellet remains the rarest of rising stars: a self-effacing homemaker who sees her part-time artistic effort as an apostolate to other wives and mothers. She hopes they might find identification and inspiration in her music. The vivacious performer told the HERALD, "I want them to turn around and look at their lives and give to the people who God has put here. It's a very simple message, and I wish I could get it out to everybody." In an enchanting voice, Bellet delivers ballads with a nice mix of emotion, whimsy and spirituality — the kind of message that entertains while encouraging listeners to think about what's important. The title song of her first CD, "What I Wanted to Say," involves a real-life encounter, like so many of her songs. In it, she shocks a cashier by bringing the big family through the grocery checkout counter. The cashier says, "Tell me, when do you get time for you? You know there's so much more that a woman can do?" In response, Bellet writes, "What I wanted to say was 'look closer and you'll see how they are beautiful and I would not take back a single day...'" "So many times it's ignorance," she said in an interview. "But such 'hit-and-run' comments show a lack of appreciation for the sacredness of the family." "I get a lot of comments from women who are starting a family and never thought about having many children," she said. One of eight children herself, Bellet added, "I've always thought building a family is the most beautiful thing you can do." Another important theme of her work is the special relationship between husband and wife. Married since 1987 to Bill Bellet, a psychologist, she says that songwriting often helps her to better understand their love. Bellet calls "Above It All," which will be on her new CD, an "in-the-trenches song about being married for several years. You want to get back to really seeing the beauty of the person you married. "It's easy in marriage to become so involved in what you have to do and in solving daily problems, that you stop seeing this beautiful, strong man." And in "Don't You Think I Count?", a discouraged wife calls out to her hardworking husband to pay more attention to her. The husband responds, "I do it [work] for you. I do all that I know to make our dreams come true." And the wife says, "I just miss you and that's all this is about." A third and overarching theme to Bellet's work is our relationship with God. In "One Heroic Moment," the husband prays at the beginning of his challenging day: "Today please be with me. I know that this is nothing compared with Calvary." "Here I Am" is a morning offering while "Thy Will Be Done" and "Will You, Too, Go Away?" also encourages faith and trust in God. After listening to her songs, it's not surprising to hear Bellet say that the most important things for her is "my children, my marriage and getting to heaven." Such public witness developed in an unusual way. The daughter of a professor of medicine at the University of Illinois, Bellet grew up in Champaign-Urbana, Ill. She went on to Swarthmore College for an undergraduate degree and received an M.B.A. from Vanderbilt University in Nashville. She then did some part-time singing in Nashville while working in the health care field. But after marrying at 26, she soon found herself uprooted to Singapore and later to Spain, where her husband had assignments. As a result of the distance from her family and friends, she pursued two initiatives while living overseas: intensely studying her faith and writing songs to work through her problems and feelings. Although raised in a Catholic family, she said, "I never really had the opportunity to study doctrine in a real way. In Singapore, there were no distractions. "It was wonderful to have this chance to learn all that when I needed it most. It was four years of isolation and it was getting back to what really matters," she added. When the Bellets returned to the United States, they had four children. And they found a change in the country during that brief time: "a sudden, clear hostility to children," she says. But there was a change in Marie Bellet, too. She had more things to write about; her relationship with one sister and about her dying grandmother were examples. There also was the ongoing nobility of confronting everyday life with a Catholic conviction. After getting encouragement from a wide variety of people in and out of the music business, Bellet recorded her CD late in 1997. It's distributed under her own label, Elm Street Records, named after the street where she grew up. Two years later, the staff of the record company is still only one person, Marie Bellet. She takes phone orders and packages and ships them out. But her growing popularity may change all that. "I don't have any master plan," she admitted. "I'm not doing this for the sake of having an album out; I'm doing it to convey the truth. "It's a complete surprise to me to be singing at all. It's a huge pleasure that I never expected. "But having seven young children at home is a good indication that I can't spend a lot of time on it. I hope that I can reach women who might need that lift, both in a personal and spiritual way. I'll let God show me how." Marie Bellet's music can be heard at her website, which is: Esposito, who lives in Springfield, writes on religion, public policy and history.

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