Wednesday, May 22, 2019


Recently at Mass we sang, “Be Not Afraid.”  In these posts readers have picked up on a disdain for songs in which a congregation is asked to take on the role of God speaking to His people, which is something that this song does as exemplified in the first line, “You shall cross the barren desert but you shall not die of thirst” or as in the first line of the refrain, “Be not afraid, I go before you always.”  

So, as I am singing along it occurs to me to change the words.  What if the song were more about my trust in God than playing God speaking to someone else?  The song then goes like this:

I might cross a barren dessert,
but I will not die of thirst.
I will wander far in safety
though I do not know the way.
I shall speak His words in foreign lands
and all will understand.
I shall see the face of God and live.

Be not afraid,
He goes before me always
I’ll follow Him
and He will give me rest.  (Rough attempt)

Instantly it song switches from being advice such as Mom might have given you:
“As Mom said, ‘Strive to do your best and you will go far,’”
to a song about doing my best:
“I will strive to do my best and go far just as Mom said.”
Or better, it is like changing the words to 1 Corinthians from “Love is patient, love is kind.  Love is . . . “ to “I am patient, I am kind . . .” in a homily.  It makes love less about being some mysterious thing “out there” that we hope to catch like a cold and more like something we are to become.

The song becomes so much more empowering strangely enough.  One might think it would be more empowering if one were in the person of God announcing that you are going to give the protection, but stating that you believe that you have God’s protection to march forward makes it immediate - like professing the faith, “I believe in one God, the Father the Almighty!”

If I could (and it were legal), I would change the words to this song in our books.  I would also suggest to hymn writers (I know, you don’t want my advice) to consider this when choosing texts for future ecclesiastical music.  Place people in awe of a great God rather than in His person and inspire us to deeper faith.


Anonymous said...

I agree, Father.

It is difficult for me to sing hymns at Mass that are all about us, instead of being about Him. And so many seem to be this way.

I think we are called to nobility, humility, and most of all, worship of God. When we sing songs such as, "All Are Welcome", it isn't about that at all - it is about us being "nice" to one another, and who we are, and on top of it, it sounds like a kindergarten marching song. It is certainly no "Holy God We Praise Thy Name."

Surely we can do better than this!

God bless you and everyone at St. Sebastian - Sue from St. Bernard

Anonymous said...

You're right Father. I get inspired by the words of the late singer and songwriter Rich Mullins
"...Our God is an awesome God
He reigns from heaven above
With wisdom, power, and love
Our God is an awesome God..."

No rewrite necessary on this one.

Dr. Steve said...

It would be great to change the words to "Be Not Afraid" and many others as you suggest, but a lot of people won't utter the "Him" because it is "just so sexist".

Anonymous said...

If people applied their various pet peeves about liturgical music to the Psalms, I wonder how many would remain? 125? 100? 75? Not to mention The Messiah. I would suggest leaving the liturgical judgment about liturgical music to those qualified.

Anonymous said...

To Anonymous (5/27/19) - I strongly disagree. The music we hear, play, and sing at Mass is part of our prayer and worship to our Creator. He deserves the very best, not mediocre or unharmonious melodies, and nonsensical or unfaithful lyrics which do not reflect on the glory of God. It is not about us - it is about Him. And we can do far better. Peace to you and all here.