Saturday, July 21, 2007


Why doesn’t Johnny understand what the Eucharist is anymore?” I was going through our parish hymnal under the category, “Communion”. What follows is the first line of each song going page by page.

You satisfy the hungry heart with gift of finest wheat

Let us break bread together on our knees

Come and be filled here at this table

In the breaking of this bread

Behold, behold the Lamb of God (chorus)

Bread for the world:

Seed, scattered and sown, wheat gathered and grown, bread, broken and shared

This body will be given for you.

One bread, one body

I received the living God

To be your bread now, be your wine now, Lord come and change us.

Jesus, the Bread of Life

All you who are thirsty, come the water!

Bread of life, hope for the world

One bread, one body, one Lord of all.

Taste and see, O taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

See this bread: take and eat

When we eat this bread

Shepherd of souls refresh and bless Your chosen pilgrim flock.

If you were not versed in theology and Scripture within the Catholic tradition what might you deduce that the Catholic Church believes about the Eucharist from our own hymnals? Some early Protestant reformers made community music rehearsals mandatory because they knew how important this art form is. We are basically singing our theology, a clever way to remember it. What will we most likely remember from these songs if we are not savvy in Church teaching? That we are eating bread.

In contrast, here is a list of first lines from the eucharistic section of an old Catholic hymnal.

Dear Jesus I have longed for you since I was very small

Dearest Lord, I love Thee

Oh Lamb of God! O sun-white fleece!

God-head here in hiding whom I do adore

Jesus, food of the angels

Jesus, Jesus come to me

Soul of Christ, be my sanctification; Body of Christ, be my salvation

Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all!

Hail, true Body of the Savior

O Saving Victim

Soul of my Savior, sanctify my breast! Body of Christ, be Thou my saving guest!

Down in adoration falling

The contrast is amazing is it not? And that was without getting into the Latin hymns.

Is it wrong to use words such as Bread and Wine when referring to the Body and Blood of Christ? Absolutely not. They are used so in Scripture. Is it wrong to use the words bread and wine exclusively so that people become confused? Absolutely.

If you were giving people directions to your house you would be very exact. “You will want to take the Cleveland Road exit. Not the exit to Cleveland, but the Cleveland Road exit.” We are explicit so that those we love do not become lost.

Today many people are lost about the true meaning of the Eucharist. Perhaps we are in a time when using perfectly good words are not good enough. Now is time to be very explicit in our terminology and in the music we choose to sing when referring to the Blessed Sacrament so that others may find the path to truth.


Odysseus said...

Wow, I had never looked at it from that angle. Now I have another reason to hate the music at mass! :)

Anonymous said...

so, then, 'bread of life' is out?

Beth-lehem becomes the house of what?

Actually, you've really caught my eyes & ears ... how easily we drift off into murky waters.

Anonymous said...

If you go threw our hymnals you will see that many of the songs used are written or published by Protestant people. No surprise to me that people are confused.
If people truly believed in the real presence of Our Lord at Mass they would not dress the way they do, chew gum before receiving our Lord, or talk threw half the Mass.
For years I have been so sad as how people come to Mass and spend that precious hour with Our Lord.

I teach PSR and have for many years. When I asked the 17 or so children in my room, about 8 years ago, how many believed in the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist, only one person said yes. On the other hand when teaching this year I asked the same question and all but 2 people believed, but still not going to Mass on a regular basis.

I know for myself I will make
sure I watch the words I use. Thank you Father.

Anonymous said...

I too teach PSR and taught religion in a Catholic day school. I was suprised at the number of children at the Jr High level that did not know some of the traditional Catholic prayers or the mysteries of the rosary. Many had to be reminded that the bread and wine changed to the Body and Blood of Christ at the consecration or they didn't think about it at mass and were not very reverent going to and coming from communion. Children have to be taught not only by the teachers at school but by their parents, who are their primary teachers. However when many parents don't take their children to mass on a regular basis because sports schedules etc make their Sundays to busy, how do we expect the children to value their faith. They are being taught by example it's not that important.

Cathy said...

Right on, Father!
Bread, bread, wine, wine, me, me, me, me, me, me, me, us, us, us, me, ain't we great?
Enough already.
I like hymns that adore and raise our hearts UP to God, not try to lower Him DOWN to us.

Uncle Jim,
Not sure if Father posted an update or you missed it, but he does mention that "Bread of Life" is not an incorrect term, and then goes on to state why we shouldn't so exclusively call it "Bread" that we forget what (or Who) It is.

Marty Haugen (he who unleashed most of those ditties on us) is in fact a member of the Unitarian Church, inventor of the Theology of I'm Okay, You're Okay.
'Nuff said, eh?

Anonymous said...

Yes.. and all without even getting into the Latin hymns.

I watched a young man sing on a Protestant televangelism show last eve while at work, oh heck, sing is not the right word -- he flew to Jesus with all his heart and breath -- and that's the one word that made me stand still for a moment, so that I could hear Love Incarnate serenaded: "Jesus." Had I never heard of Jesus before, I'd have wanted to know him from that man's utter adoration.

And I just know we Catholics can sing "Jesus," 'cause we used to. So let's get into those Latin hymns, too. :-)

Anonymous said...

It seems like we have done such a disservice to our Church by trying to "please" everyone and have a "feel-good" mentatlity.

This has also shown up in movies - for example, Sister Act. Although I enjoy the movie, it has forever distorted my idea of how "Hail Holy Queen Enthroned Above" should be sung. Before the movie, it was very pius & when I hear it, I always have the hip-hop beat & bee-bopping choir director in my mind.

We've become a "show" (kick-up the beat & pack 'em in), all the while trying not to offend anyone. As anon & ma beck stated, if we borrow hymns from other religions, why would we not expect the meanings to be different? We do not believe in the same things with relation to the Eucharist.

Although I am part of a Catholic Charismatic group, which I thoroughly enjoy, the reverent Masses bring such a holiness to my life.

Adoro said...

Yeah, I'd noticed that but you lined it up in such a way that it's completely undeniable. If a Protestant came into one of our churches, those songs would both make him feel at home becuase they seem to emphasize his own beliefs in the symbolism alone of the bread and wine.

Or, if a Jack-Chick like Protestant came into our church, they would believe more firmly that we also believe they are symbols only and he would thus assume we worship bread and wine.

"Gather us In", another terrible song, not only references "bread and wine" in a really hokey way, but it's completely....all about ME!

Personally, I like a parody I once read. I'll forward it to you if you'd like.

"We are the young, our morals a mystery.
We are the old, who couldn't care less
We have been warned throughout all of history
* something about * this liturgical mess."

Uh, sorry, can't remember all of the last line.

Fr. V said...

Off the subject,

I was not exposed to a good deal of modern music until I went into the seminary. Unfortuantely my first exposure was seminarian's parody's like the one you mentioned Adoro.

One I can't get over is "Blest Are They"

Blest are they who call this number
I am not in my room
Please leave you name and your telephone number
I will get back to you.

Rejoice and be glad
Wait for the beep, your message will keep.
Rejoice and be glad
I will get back to you.

Can't take the song seriously since then.

Anonymous said...

Hey, thanks a lot! Our contemporary choir (which I'm a member of)is singing Blest are They at communion this Sunday so if I sing the wrong words it's all your fault! Actually I'll probably start laughing and they will think I'm crazy. OK they already know I'm crazy!!