Church Music, the good, the bad…

church music

Palm Sunday, I go to early morning Mass and the entrance hymn is an old friend! It’s an old, (1840,) Methodist hymn, “All Glory Laud And Honor!!

Now I admit, the blessing of the palms and the reading of the Passion we’re moving, and the homily was first rate!

But, as good as it was, two hours later I’d have to really think to remember the homily! But that hymn.

Four hours later I was still humming it!

I couldn’t get it out of my head! Not just the tune, the words, echoing in my brain.

Even now as evening hastens on the chorus impresses itself upon me!

A Methodist Hymn, doctrinally sound, but a Methodist hymn all the same.

With the exception of a hand full of Latin hymns and a few Marian songs, you’ll only hear them if you go to Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, modern Catholic Church music is, at best, forgettable, at worst heretical, and universally unsingable.

I couldn’t fail to notice that even on that powerful old anthem, the cantor and I were singing a duet.

Most Catholic Church music is simply a recycling of insipid folk rock, left over from the 1960’s.

We’re talking stuff Peter Paul and Mary wouldn’t touch with a ten foot pole!

Remember, Peter Yarrow wrote that beautiful hymn, “Morning Has Broken,” I used to hear that occasionally at Mass! And the late Dave Brubeck wrote an amazing “Pie Jesu” for Pope Saint John Paul II, so “church” music doesn’t have to be banal!

I’ve agonized watching caters struggle with tortured harmonies and award lyrics.

If a professional can’t sing this stuff, how can we expect the congregation to??? Is it any wonder Catholics don’t sing?

I grew up protestant, mostly Methodist and Presbyterian, we had great music.

One of my favorite hymns growing up was “Faith of Our Fathers

Little did I know it was a Catholic hymn!

I thought it was about protestants facing persecution from Catholics. Turns out it was quite the opposite, English Catholics persecuted for the Faith! Wow!

This great hymn had been co opted!

To my point, I was ruminating all day about that great old hymn.

When I was a child in my Presbyterian Sunday School, we learned to sing the Gospel before we could even read, “Jesus Loves Me,” “Jesus Loves the Little Children.”

It’s not just in church, we’ve always learned through song, many of us first learned our ABC’s through a song.

This teaching method is ad old as the scriptures themselves, the Acrostic psalms are organized alphabetically, with a section for each letter of the Hebrew alphabet.

All the verses in each section began with the same letter.

Remember the Psalms were sung; Jewish children learned their faith and their alphabet at the same time!

John Westley, an Anglican minister started the Methodist Church.

He was, by all accounts, a fiery preacher, but his brother, Charles was a hymn writer without equal!

His hymns taught the faith to millions, Methodist took off among the illiterate poor of England!

John couldn’t be everywhere, but the hymns of Charles Westley, sang Methodist across the world!

Song are a powerful tool for evangelization.

Martin Luther turned a German beer dining song into an anthem that turned the world upside down, “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”.

Wesleyan songs along with not a few powerful Catholic hymns sang to my soul as a young boy!

I remember singing them at the top of my lungs while swinging on my back yard swing set!

I internalized the content of these great old hymns!

As I indicated earlier I’m a convert to The Catholic Faith, and over the years since, I’ve watched the Church borrow from Protestantism, mostly the wrong things, discipleship programs, fund raising, etc. But we cling to our insipid, banal , just plain bad folk music!

I have always loved the music of Bach, he wrote church music that reinforced the sermon!

There’s powerful, single music out there that is doctrinally correct and orthodox!

Music that teaches the faith! Music that can reinforce a good homily, or overcome a bad one! Music that can teach the faith and set the faithful on fire for the Gospel!

I have a modest proposal!

Recover our Catholic musical patrimony! Recapture those great anthems of the faith stolen from us by protestants or relegated to the musical dust bin, in favor of bad folk music!

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