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Friday, 11 January 2008

Bless me, Father...

... for I have sinned.
Why is "Shall We Gather at the River?" suggested as an appropriate hymn for this Sunday's Mass by the various "helpful" liturgy planning guides? As near as I can figure, because the word "river" is in the title, and the word "river" also appears in the gospel.
That is the only reason.
No, not even the same river is referenced, one is a metaphor about end times, eternal life, hope; the other about an actual historic event
The Gospel is about beginnings, about initiation, about baptism; the hymn text about the end, about death, about the next world.... yeah, as near as I can figure it's one single word.
River.
On the other hand, the Lowry is a great, genuinely "folk" style hymn, (albeit one with an actual composer,) using the tune, (and the catch-phrase title,) would be authentic inculturation.
It is superbly, perfectly "American."
But is it Catholic? or really, is it suitable for THIS Catholic liturgy?
I can't say yes.
So I did what I often do.
I.... shhhh..... altered the text.
I found a text about John's ministry and fudged the meter to fit the Lowry tune.

So no, not really , no sin, no crime .... this time.
But I've done it before and skated perilously close to copyright violation.
I'm not talking about instances like this where an unobjectionable but generic, utterly unspecific text is put forward for a specific holy day.
I'm talking about unCatholic, non-Catholic lyrics , and even of writing whose theology is clearly opposed to Catholic doctrine and thought, (not to mention hymns that Deceive With Truth by emphasizing the lesser truth while omitting the greater, (talking about communities of love that share "Christ's communion bread," rather than acknowledging that He IS our Communion Bread, for instance. Or saying that the Church's mission is not to preach Her creed. Or.... well, you get the idea. No doubt you can all supply examples of texts you have asked to profane the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with.)
Because of lax to non-existent vetting of hymns by editors of erstwhile "Catholic" hymnals, far too many inappropriate texts have found their way into our hymnals and been allowed to insinuate themselves into the popular Catholic culture.
So, I Catholicilize them.
It may be wrong, but I have no intention of stopping.
In fact, I have a project in mind:
I would like someone with actual skill at this (I am neither poet nor theologian,) to write versifications of the propers for the Requiem Mass to fit the most requested "funeral" hymn tunes.
Wouldn't a lyric that asked for God's perpetual light to shine on the deceased, on the souls of all the faithful departed, that could be sung to Amazing Grace be a nice change from.... Here I Am, Lord?

Anyway, I can't ask for absolution for a sin I intend to commit, I guess...

2 comments:

Brian Michael Page said...

What I can't seem to understand either is the feast is Our Lord's Baptism, yet the common practice is to sing about our OWN baptism.

BMP

Anonymous said...

Yes, I would think our (low Mass style) hymns would at least reflect, say... the manifestation all Three Persons of the Trinity at the Jordan?

(Save the Liturgy, Save the World)

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