Monday, April 21, 2008


When I was first in the seminary the music book de jour was the “Glory and Praise” hymnal; the yellow one with the sunset and dove on the cover. (Until I hid them.) Fr. H. and I were so appalled at the content of those books we sat down one day and tried our best to come up with a song to make fun of them and point out how insipid some of that music was. Here at least are the words to that song.

Here we are together in this space,
Standing together, hand in hand, face to face.
Let’s join together now,
Put division on a dusty shelf.
Let’s pray together
Cuz’ you’re my other self.

The only problem was that some people liked it and wanted to use it. So we tried harder.

Where is Jesus now?
Look both high and low.
Just where is Jesus now and where did He go?
Do you know what you’re lookn’ for
Do you know where Jesus is, is, is?
He’s in you and me,
That’s where Jesus really is. (Kazoo interlude. Repeat)

Some folks thought it would be a good song for kids. No matter how inane we tried to be it simply sounded like a modern hymn being produced at the time.

That being said I realize some of the music that I like from ages past is equally as sappy in other ways, perhaps a bit over sentimental (though still better theologically.) I find it sad that these old tunes are no longer being used and so have some sympathy for those who actually do like the current heave of music. They should not have to go through the banning of tunes as others have. So let there be a compromise! Let us find new uses for these modern ditties so some in this generation will not feel as alienated as prior ones have.

It would be too easy to make fun of this music, as did a friend of mine. He uses the songs in crass ways in order to show his disdain of them. One example would be “Blest Are They” which he re-wrote for his answering machine.

Blest are they who call this number,
I am not in my room.
Please leave your 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.

I want to take this project a little more seriously. For example, so much of our hymnody has predictable and simpleton melodies that do not seem to live up to the dignity we are trying to foster in the liturgy. Take, for example (sorry if you like the tune) “Sing to the Mountains.”

Maybe we could take this song and give it a different use. It would be a great prelude to mass, much more useful, and add to the dignity of the celebration if we just changed the words some. Change the title to, “Ring Tones Annoys Us.”

Ring tones annoys us
‘Specially yours.
Turn off pagers, phones, and toys.
This is no place for that mess
It’s time to pray the mass.

On a more serious note, we have an overabundance of “I” songs. Theses songs incessantly put the singer (I, me, I, me) into the role of God. How many of these can we have before we become confused about who God is and who the creature is? Perhaps some of these can be reworked also. “On Eagle’s Wings” could be “On Legal Things” and used at a Red Mass. A Red Mass is generally said once a year for judges, prosecutors, attorneys, law school professors and students, and government officials. The Mass requests guidance from the Holy Spirit for all who seek justice, and offers the opportunity to reflect on what Catholics believe is the God-given power and responsibility of all in the legal profession. Much could be done to diswade Catholics from illegal acts by singing, “And they will bring you up on legal things, jail you in the county jail, make you to pay a hefty fine and scold you with a list of demands."

Finally, there are way too many songs that refer to the Eucharist as Jesus the fun time snack. Let us rework at least some of them to be more useful to us. For example, with talks on chastity to youth, “One Bread, One Body” could easily be reworked into, “One Bed, One Body.” What an effective and clear message that our youth needs to hear.

Those are my ideas, perhaps you have more. Let us work together to save this body of music.


Rev. Daren J. Zehnle, J.C.L., K.C.H.S. said...

I couldn't agree more, Father.

What I've noticed lately is that most of the songs in "modern" hymnals are actually waltzes. Take a listen... On second thought, don't.

I shouldn't be at all surprised if so many Catholics no longer believe in the Real Presence because of the theologically questionable lyrics out there today. Remember, it was Arius who first used music to spread his heresy.

I'm not saying this was the intent of the authors. I'm not saying they intended to write heresy. What I am saying is that they weren't careful enough, and pastors haven't been either.

You're also very right that too many of the songs we sing today sing about us. I'm tired of singing about us. Can we sing about God for a change?

Keep up your good work!

Adoro said...

I remember that hynmal! And this is likely to be one of your most popular posts ever...just get ready for all the comments!

Not sure if you're of the most prolific "song" writers, hailing from MN, is in fact not Catholic. He was Catholic at one time, having converted, but decided to leave the Church because it's not "inclusive" enough among other issues he has with core teachings. Apparently his belief in Jesus in the Eucharist is not enough for him. And....this is something he revealed in his very own words which I have read myself.

It explains a LOT. We are using music written by a dissident who doesn't have a clear understanding of the Church, disagrees with the Church...and the words reflect his beliefs. And we're singing them every week. Arius has nothing on this guy...he was just a role model.

OK, end of that rant. On to the next. These are my personal favorite lyrics for a particular song:

We are the young
Our morals a mystery
We are the old, who couldn't care less
We have been taught throughout all of history
But we just love this liturgical mess!

Anonymous said...

Do you know where Jesus is, is, is?! (Kazoo interlude)

I just spit coffee on my monitor! LOL! Ow, ow, sides hurt!

I was waiting for a post like this!

I always assumed that pastors gave us modern music and wreckovations because they thought that was what the people want. I'm not so sure about that anymore. I think it's because the traditional stuff is part of a world where guilt might actually be appropriate, and no one wants to hurt anyone's sacred FEELINGS.

Fr. V said...

Thank you Father.

Adoro and Spark - LOL!!

Anonymous said...

Okay you two! Now I can't get the song nor the 'waltz' tempo out of my mind! This is just wraong!!! LOL
Lillian Marie

Have you ever tried planning your speach for a presentation with a waltz on your mind? It's insane!

Anonymous said...

can someone please explain to me why Protestants seem to have a better appreciation for some marvelous "Catholic" works?

Handel's Messiah
Ode to Joy
works by Bach

Secular institutions training musicians still teach the basic parts of the (Tridentine) Mass settings as part of the history of music. They can't avoid sacred music. Why do we? Why do non-catholic musicians know more about Mass settings and sacred music than the vast majority of Mass attending catholics?

Odysseus said...

Great! I am never going to get that Legal Things song out of my head!

Adoro, you 'remember' that hymnal? That IS my hymnal. No joke.

-Let us rework at least some of them to be more useful to us.-

Some? Rework?

NO. Kill them all and let God sort them out!

Anonymous said...

Woo Hoo! Good call Adoro! An angry mob is forming!

Anonymous said...

So we could actually be singing "R.C.I.A., it's fun to come to the R.C.I.A." (Y.M.C.A.)

or even

"I've Got You Saved" (I Got You Babe).

okay, maybe stretching the last one a bit. LOL

(this is what happens when waltz meets work.... stop the insanity!!) LOL

uncle jim said...

wow ... am in the throws of such a 'discussion' with some music ministry people currently - and i tell you it is an emotional experience. the personal 'feelings' about music and particular lyrics is as broad an area as it is long.

"we need more contemporary music - we're losing the young people."
"we need more traditional music - we're losing the young people."


and the "I" thing - that is one of my pets, too. these pieces should be written in the "we" and then if "I" choose to use it in "my" personal prayer time, "I" can transpose the phrasing to reflect the "I".

i don't know why, but i'm reminded of a story i heard from a protestant pastor. while in seminary, the instructor insisted the students used the 'authorized version' of the bible - the King James. "if it was good enough for Jesus, it ought to be good enough for us."

i wonder what jesus would sing today.

Adrienne said...

~~via Christus Vincit

"as written by the friend of a local friend of mine"

Sung to Eagle's Wings

I dare you to ever listen to this song with a straight face again...

Of Beagle's Things

You who dwell in the kennel of the Lord
with your Alpo and Kibbles and Bits;
Sometimes it's Eukanuba;
sometimes it's Gravy Train.

And he shall speak to you of beagle's things,
rubber toys and chewy things;
Make you to sit in his lap
and pat you on the top of your head.

His collar, his wormer, his visit to the vet;
I want to take care of my pet.
When we come back from "walkies",
he'll get his doggie treat. (to refrain)

The barking, the baying, the howling at the moon;
I hope that he stops it real soon.
It can be most annoying
when he's out of control. (to refrain)

Adoro said...

Rob ~ You have my heartfelt are in Purgatory and without the grace of death!


Uncle Jim ~ Sooo....they think that Jesus taught from the New Testament writings of the KJV? I've heard that before. It must have been easy to be Jesus...all he had to do was pick up the gospels and read from them when he gave the sermon on the mount...King James style, with the deuterocanonicals, (about which he preached and which he referenced) removed from it.

* sigh *

OK< back on topic...we should remove "we" and "I" and be saying "YOU" as we're at Mass to worship GOD, which has nothing to do with US until we LEAVE TO GO OUT INTO THE WORLD, CARRYING GOD WITH US!

Our music needs a huge overhaul. When Protestants have better liturgies and better music than we do, well, it just shows how far we've fallen.

At least we got Jesus, though.

Anonymous said...

The really sad thing is reading some of the spoof lyrics I can immediately put them to the real music.

The hymns that refer to the Eucharist as bread do really annoy me, but I try to offer it up and not get too distracted at the mass.

Mary B

Anonymous said...

Regarding Father Daren's comment.

Our Pastor put a note in the bullentin last week regarding a parishioner's suggestion that we use individual cups for the wine during Communion.

Father wrote about the Real Presence and what we as Catholics believe transubuation (hopefully, I spelled it right).

I imagine that parishioner might not have fully understood the Real Presence vs a symbolic breaking of the bread and wine.

Mary B

Anonymous said...

At one time the parishioner reported on by Mary B would have been instructed that the reason we don't have individual cups is due to the integrity of the "one bread / one cup" principle of Eucharistic faith. Frankly, now that we have taken the fraction rite down a notch by removing the pouring of communion cups, and cluttered the altar with multiple communion cups begin at the preparation, there's no logical reason to not go the extra step and have individual cups. With the loss of a fully significant fraction rite and the scattering of sacred vessels across the altar throughout the Eucharistic Prayer all cogent arguements again individual communion cups are rended impotent; thus the parishioner at Mary's church has a great idea that should be explored.