Gospel Choir's Performance Of 'Total Praise' Leaves Pope Francis Smiling

The song was performed by members of St. Augustine Catholic Church, an historic black Catholic parish in Washington, D.C.

President Obama and Pope Francis were treated to a gospel choir performance during the pontiff's visit to the White House on Wednesday.

The St. Augustine Gospel Choir, part of an historic black Catholic church in Washington, D.C., sang Richard Smallwood's 1996 tune, "Total Praise." The gospel musician wrote the song, one of his most popular, during a difficult time in his life. His mother was beginning to show sings of dementia and a family friend was diagnosed with cancer.

Smallwood said the song came to him in a dream. 

“I felt left by God,” he told the Washington Post in July. “I was trying to write a pity-party song, but God pulled me to do a praise song. God said, ‘I want your praise no matter what the situation you are in, good or bad.’ It’s about trusting him.”

"Total Praise" was used by the choir of Emanuel A.M.E. Church to begin its first service after the Charleston shooting that took the lives of nine church members. The lyrics brought the crowd inside the grieving church to its feet. 


Lord, I will lift mine eyes to the hills
Knowing my help is coming from You
Your peace you give me in time of the storm

You are the source of my strength
You are the strength of my life
I lift my hands in total praise to you

Amen, Amen, Amen, Amen

Pope Francis listened attentively during the performance on White House's South Lawn, breaking out into a smile at the very end.

The pontiff is on a six-day trip to the United States. He'll be visiting three cities -- Washington, D.C., New York City, and Philadelphia, where he'll participate in the World Meeting of Families, a Catholic conference.

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