The Joy of Children

Children don’t have to be reminded to be joyful.  Children find joy everywhere, effortlessly.  Think of all the viral videos of babies laughing at everything from funny faces to paper tearing.  Too bad that we grow up and away from joy and into worry and distress.  Joy ceases to be an everyday thing.  It becomes something to be found in only the most extraordinary events–a wedding, the birth of a child.   And yet if the joy of the Lord is meant to be our strength, surely adults need it as much or more than children do?
Read more here.

Sunday Snippets: A Catholic Carnival

Linking up with This and That for the weekly roundup of Catholic bloggers.  Not much to round up for me this week though I am afraid . . .
Question of the week:  What is your favorite hymn or song you hear at Mass?
What a question!  Anyone who has been reading this blog for long knows that I am much more likely to be talking about the songs I didn’t like and the ones I didn’t hear.  Yesterday I was privileged to attend a Diocesan Mass for married couples, and the prelude included The Gift of Love, which was played at our wedding.  On the Feast of the Assumption, we sang Holy is Your Name, which I have loved since I first heard it at our parish’s Anniversary Mass several years ago.  But I didn’t hear either of these much-loved songs at my own church, sadly.  Although many consider the poetry bad and the tune overused, I do get happy when we sing Joyful, Joyful We Adore Thee.
As for the roundup part of this post . . . I’m not sure what I was doing this week, but it wasn’t blogging.  All I have to share this week is my Five Favorites posts, but it’s particularly appropriate for Sunday Snippets since I wrote about some favorite saints!
Thanks for reading and I will try to have more content this week.

That Liturgical Music Thing Again

Y’all, sometimes I just have to get things off my chest.  And I haven’t ranted about church music in a while.  So, for those of you who like such things, enjoy this mini-rant.
I sang in the choir at the 7 p.m. Mass at Georgetown all four years.  (We had Masses practically ’round the clock on Sunday, including a 30 minute one known as “[Father] Freeze’s Breeze” and a “last chance” one at 11:15 p.m.)
When I was a Freshman, the choir was student-led.  So when we were taken over by the University’s choir director the following year, we chafed a bit under her direction.  One of the things she did not like was our pianist’s habit of playing what she called “traveling music” at points where no talking was going on, like after the Offertory procession, for example.  We liked the pretty music and did not appreciate her point:  that there were times in the liturgy where silence is desirable.
Well, apparently the choir director at my parish doesn’t appreciate it either.  Because he’s instituted a bizarre practice of singing TWO Offertory songs.  As soon as we finish the first one, our cantor steals a quick look at the altar and if the preparation of the gifts is ongoing she quickly announces another song.  Which we dutifully begin to sing.
But there isn’t time for two songs at the Offertory, not really.  So one of two things happens.  We don’t sing the whole song (and y’all already know how I feel about THAT), or Father stands there twiddling his thumbs and frankly looking impatient to get on with things already while we finish.
This singing serves no liturgical purpose.  Especially since we never sing songs that are about offering our gifts or ourselves anyway.  It’s filler, pure and simple.  And why does the Mass demand filler?  When you run out of Offertory song, there are the optional prayers and responses:  “Blessed are You, Lord, God of all Creation . . . ” and “Blessed be God Forever.” (Did these get changed, I wonder?  In our parish, I’ll never find out.)  Then there are the quiet prayers as the priest washes his hands, which always fascinated me as a child: “Lord, wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sins.”
Everyone knows how much I love to sing.  Even when I can hardly stand the songs.  But can’t we just have some quiet time to pray?

Liturgical Music II – The 70s

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 . . .