Before I expound further on this topic I thought it would be appropriate to set the scene with a brief background of what my experience has been with church music.
If you, like me, were born in the late 60s, you will probably relate to this. If any pre-Vatican II folks are reading, I wish you would chime in with your experiences and observations.
My earliest memories of Mass, as I mentioned in my last post on this topic, are of John XXIII, the university parish, even though I was baptized by Bishop (not then he wasn’t, but it sounds nice to say!) Shea at Immaculate Conception and have been a member there my whole life. John XXIII (now St. John XXII) was brand new in 1970 which is about when my memory begins, and it was very modern, with hard yellow plastic chairs and banners hanging from the dropped ceiling panels. And the music was new and modern too. At some point I “borrowed” a songbook–mimeographed sheets of paper in a green plastic three-ring binder—which I still have [edit:or did, until my house burned down], although I’m not going to dig through the boxes in the garage looking for it right now! But I do remember the following songs were included: Sons of God (my favorite), Of My Hands, Men of Faith, All That We Have, They Will Know We Are Christians, and (I swear to God I am not making this up) Blowin’ in the Wind. Judging from the difficulty I had finding lyrics to share here, most of these went by the wayside years ago. The only ones I still hear are All That We Have and They Will Know We Are Christians, and those rarely.
Around the time I started first grade, we started going to I.C. regularly once more. I was exposed to two distinct sources of liturgical music: what I heard on Sundays and what I heard at daily Mass (yes, we went every day back then!) at St. Joseph. My earliest memories at I.C. are pretty grim. Valiantly, our organist attempted to adapt to the New Order by pounding out Gonna Sing My Lord and Kumbaya. We continued to sing a lot of the old hymns like Now Thank We All Our God, God’s Blessing Sends Us Forth, Holy God We Praise Thy Name, The Church’s One Foundation (that was my favorite), Oh God Our Help in Ages Past (I could go on, but you get the picture). There were other songs in the hymnal that were the popular songs of the day, and I’m sure I could sing them if I saw them, but absolutely the only one that comes to mind right now is Prayer for Peace. I have not heard that in years, although it stuck around long enough to be subjected to the curse of inclusive language (more on that soon, I promise!).
In the meantime, I was exposed to another kind of music at St. Joseph. Early on, I remember the “Hi, God!” albums, with the Rev. Carey Landry’s compositions predominating: Great Things Happen, The Spirit is A-movin’, What Makes Love Grow, Only a Shadow. I’ll bet you remember them and that you haven’t heard them at Mass in twenty years or more. Later we used soft-backed hymnals with a bird on the cover that were, I believe, a precursor or perhaps a first installment of the Glory and Praise series. From these, I remember especially Blessed Be God Forever, I Believe in the Sun, Welcome In, For You Are My God. At some point another series was introduced–there were tapes from which we learned the song, but the only words were mimeographed in folders and included such gems as Come Along with Me to Jesus (sung in a round), Thank You Lord for Giving Us Life, and If I Were a Butterfly. (Would you believe that song has its own Facebook page?)
Besides the songs geared especially for children, we also sang from a regular missalette, so thankfully we were still being exposed to some traditional hymns like Immaculate Mary and Hail Holy Queen and To Jesus Christ our Sovereign King and O Come O Come Emmanuel. Sister Georgeanna and Sister Janice were so dedicated in their attempts to make sure we sang at Mass, often keeping us in the cafeteria afterwards to practice.
And as I look back and can see that the songs from the 70s weren’t particularly good songs, while it may be fun to be snarky, it’s important to remember that people were doing the best they could without much guidance to come up with new songs for the new liturgy. And as for me, even if the songs were “bad” I loved singing them and remember them fondly. If something like I’ve Got That Joy Joy Joy Joy Down in My Heart or His Banner Over Me Is Love (complete with hand gestures) keeps kids engaged in worship to the point that they are still interested enough in the topic to make fun of the songs when they grow up, that’s something, isn’t it?
P.S. Well over ten years ago I wrote an X-Files fanfiction story which I entitled But Then Comes the Morning, after a song I have not heard sung in Mass since the 70s. I have seen it excoriated in lists similar to the one I wrote about in my last post. Yet TO THIS DAY I get emails from people who only found that story because they were googling that song, which they remember fondly from their own childhoods. They are always hoping that since I quote briefly from the chorus at the end of the story that I might know all the lyrics (I remember only snippets).
To be continued . . .
Ahhh the memories! How about Leaping the mountains, bounding the hills, see how our God has come to meet us…..that was always on I liked singing.
I can remember going to Mass at UT only a few times when I was little. My dad didn’t care for it much because it was so outside the bounds of tradition – but my mom liked it. She thought the guitar playing was a nice touch. It was quite a contrast to our services at Holy Ghost, that’s for sure. I still miss those songs from the Glory and Praise Songbook though. I have searched for a copy of the yellow book we used at St. Joseph’s but haven’t been able to find one yet. That “leaping the mountains” song was a favorite of mine and I still remember most of the words. Guess I’ll be singing that in my head today at work. 🙂
God’s blessing sends us forth
Strengthened for our task on earth
Renewed in soul and renewed in mind
May God with us remain, through us the Spirit reign
That Christ be known to humankind
God’s news in spoken word
Joyfully our hearts have heard
O may the seed of God’s love now grow
May we in fruitful deeds
Gladly serve others needs
That faith in action we may show
We by one living bread
As one body have been fed
So we are one as we share this food
How gracious to behold
All people of one fold
Who ever seek each other’s good
Grant in this age of space
Triumph of your truth and grace
Lord you alone are unchanging truth
Bring us unto your side
Preserve and ever guide
Your ancient Church in ageless youth.
First two verses aren’t too bad–except for the inclusive language. But age of space? Lord have mercy.
“Age of space?”
Surely you’ve seen the 6th or 7th verse of “A Mighty Fortress Is Our God”
…a rather more recent addition I suspect.
That’s the one that mentions “guns and nuclear might.”
Back in high school, we’d snicker whenever we got to that one.
LOL. I’d forgotten all about that one. Pretty bad.
Fun to stumble on your reflections on what I’ve always thought of as the decline and fall of church music.
When sitting in chirch, and having completed any silent introductory prayers, I often indulge in a rather depressing game: flip through the hymnal or the back of the missalette and try to find ANY decent songs written after about 1970… ANY at all.
I was thrilled to discover that “Lift High The Cross” was copyright 1974. So there’s some hope.
But otherwise there’s very nearly nothing… Nothing!
I grew up singing that ghastly Kumbayah pablum myself and I still cringe to enter a new church and see the guitars come out.
True story: I’d go to an early mass in New York with a few dozen people and no instruments at all …and a packed mass in Atlanta with hundreds of people and a 12 piece band. Sure enough, our little church with 20 or 30 people in it, and no musicians at all, made a bigger, louder, more prayerful joyful noise singing such rousing hymns as “praise to the Lord” or “God’s blessing sends us forth” than an entire cathedral full of people, and more than a dozen instruments, trying to get through those milquetoast ditties written last week.
Thanks to whoever posted the lyrics to “God’s blessing sends us forth” A good one, from back in the days when there were good ones, I was looking for that.
We sand Life High the Cross on Sunday! I did enjoy belting that one out. Sadly, it doesn’t seem to matter what songs we sing at our church (although most of what we sing is dreadful). People won’t sing anymore. I miss grade school, where we practiced songs before and after Mass and were all expected to sing.
Is this site still happening?
I was looking for the words to that song that has been given here “God’s Blessings Send us Forth…”
I remember it from the 70’s (by the tune) and recently I was asked to sing “Beautiful Savior”. Is that the same tune??? Wow…
LOL, yes, it is very much still happening. 🙂 I know the lyrics of that one by heart so this is your lucky day: God’s blessing sends us forth, strengthened for our task on earth, refreshed in soul, renewed in mind. May God with us remain, through us his Spirit reign, that Christ be known to all mankind.
God’s news in spoken word, joyfully our hearts have heard, Oh may the seed of God’s love now grow. May we in fruitful deeds, gladly serve others needs, that faith in action we may show.
And yes, it’s that same tune!
Thanks for answering me!!!!
As I read about your life, I realize that you must be very busy.
I homeschooled all five of my children…
It keeps one very busy.
I also like Gregorian Chant.
Good night for now
Thanks for this reflection, which I just stumbled across while searching for the lyrics to God’’s Blessing Sends is Forth.” We sang in Mass all over the world (Dad was in the USAF), and learned music from many traditions. Though some of the post-Vatican II songs are a bit trite and lacking in substance, they bring back fond memories for me and my siblings of raising a joyful noise wherever we were living and participating in Church life. And I agree with several of the observations here — Catholics like to hide behind the instruments. When we sing traditional songs a capella, more voices are raised in unison — such a joy to hear!
So glad you enjoyed it! Thanks you for your kind comments. “God’s Blessing Sends Us Forth” has always been a favorite!