Thursday, February 14, 2013


It’s Lent!  And time to start breaking the bindings of our seasonal missalettes to the song section immediately following Christmas.  Always an interesting time of year.  (I am about to rant a little.  If you are not in the mood, stop reading.)
Keeping strictly with the Vatican II documents which states that the words to the music that we sing should be in harmony with the faith of the Church, sometimes I scratch my head and wonder, “what the get out is this song saying?”  Yet we blithely carry on singing anything put in front of us like a pig that will eat any slop chucked down in front of him.


For example, the song, “Hosea.”  What exactly does this line mean?  “The wilderness will lead you to your heart where I will speak.”  When I spend enough time teasing out a possible interpretation (Jesus went to pray in the wilderness - The wilderness of our Lenten practices – will my bean burrito will lead me to Jesus?) then I suppose it can mean something.  But – really?  Is the best we can do?
Then there’s the song, “Ashes,” a perennial favorite.  There seems to be a lot of Pelagianism here, but perhaps I am being too sensitive.  It just sounds a little bit too much like I’m going to do this on my own, that I don’t really need God, He is just a crutch.  In the meantime God, here are some ashes that I offer you (as opposed to bread and wine.)  I know, I know, it is really saying we are offering ourselves (apparently the worst part of ourselves) until we have something better – but once again, really?  This is the shining example of what we as human beings can muster?
Then there are all the “I, me, me, I, I, I, me, me, myself, a little bit of us, but mostly ME,” songs.  Then again the whole book is chuck full of these.  For example, “Jerusalem, My Destiny.”  “I have fixed my eyes on your hills . . . MY destiny . . . I cannot turn away . . . this is OUR journey . . . I have found . . . I find a glimpse . . . I leave the past . . . I have met . . . I have found . . . I awoke.  I, I, me, I-monster”  I’m sure Jesus had SOMETHING to do here.
Then there is, “Lord, Who Threw Out These Forty Days?”  Well, of course nobody has.  They are still here.


Anonymous said...

Interesting thoughts, and considering I'm a former choir director, I share most of them.

However, you're the Pastor and the Music Minister works for you. Maybe you two should discuss it?

Hannah said...

Lol! What is up with the bear on your plate? Where do you FIND these things?

Fr. V said...

"As you did hunger bear and thirst, o teach us gracious Lord, to die to self and only live by your most holy word."

Matthew K said...

Although not particularly prominent in Lent, the ditty "As A Fire Is Meant For Burning" really burns my toast.

"Not to preach our creeds or customs..." Why not preach our Creed? Isn't that what we profess to believe? Then how exactly are we to spread the Good News?

MaryofSharon said...

No, Fr. V., it's not just you; it is altogether too warm and fuzzy for many of us. Amen to all of your observations. Why do we keep singing these songs? To use your colorful words, there are many of us "pigs" who gag as we choke down the "slop chucked in front of us" simply out of dutiful and respectful obligation to do the best we can to actively and cooperatively participate in the Mass. For us, having to sing songs like these works at cross purposes with actually being able to "actively participate" in the Mass in our minds and hearts. Surely, it wouldn't be better for folks in the pews (and in the sanctuary?) to passive aggressively stand silent and with arms crossed?

I'm convinced that these obscure, saccharine, and theologically and liturgically problematic hymns are contributing to the exodus of young people from our ranks and explain why young Evangelicals, in their search for the sacred and the timeless, are passing by the Catholic Church and going to Orthodoxy or traditional Anglicanism.

What I find even more frustrating about songs like Hosea is that we are singing the words of God. It may be appropriate to sing such a song in a meditative performance, but it simply doesn't make sense for us to sing God's word to us when we are supposed to be worshipping Him.

You are in good company in your assessment of "Ashes" as an example of Pelagianism. See George's Weigel's commentary, "Heretical Hymns" , where "Ashes" is the first song on the chopping block.

(Great to add a little humor to your rant! "Who threw out these 40 days?"!!! Ha!)

Seriously, though, I hope and pray that priests like yourself, with strong musical and liturgical sensibilities, might be able to shepherd us toward signing songs that will draw us more deeply into the heart of what is really happening in the Liturgy. It would be of inestimable worth to your congregation, and would offer an occasional sacred respite for the rest of us who live nearby.

Can you offer any suggestions to lay people who share you sentiments and observations? How do we continue to have the right attitude about the Mass and those who don't share our views on music when we find the music so counterproductive to our prayer? Is there a way we can make a difference without becoming whiney, cynical, snobby, or uncharitable? Music is such an intensely personal and sensitive matter. Is there a way we act and/or speak to pastors and church music directors that would be both charitable and effective?

Mara Joy said...

I can't believe that "Ashes" STILL hasn't been officially banned... (so the bishop has time to make lists of things we can't do, like have a refrain Gloria, or require us to do songs with refrains at communion, but he can't just make a "black list" of blatantly heretical music that is commonly done in the diocese????)
"We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew..." UM, NO... we DO NOT CREATE OURSELVES... God already did that!!! How is that anything except heretical?

And yes, Father, given that directions like this apparently aren't going to come from higher up, well.. you're next on the list!

Maria J. said...

"Lord, Who Threw Out These Forty Days?"

I'm impressed- that single line (and the hunger bear picture) just ruined the song and simultaneously stuck it in my head as a holy earworm! Guess what spelling will be going through my head as we hear it during Lent?! Now, as I go humming about my housework, I'll be trying to come up with alternative lyrics to fit the title.

MaryofSharon said...

Thanks to you, when I went to Mass on Monday and sang "Lord, who threw out these 40 days?", and I almost busted out laughing, particularly when we sang the part about the "hunger bear"!

I was more than a little relieved to go to St. Sebastian today and find that there was no music at all. No heresy, no hyperfocus on ourselves, no images of stuffed animals on plates in my imagination, not even any songs I might even really want to sing.

Actually the silence was beautiful and sacred. We could use a lot more of it.