The Ten Worst Hymns?

Regular readers know how passionately I have argued that too many modern Catholic hymns make one long to reach down one’s own gullet until one has puked up one’s own lungs and can in no way participate in the singing of same.

Over at First Thoughts, Joe Carter has listed his choices of The Ten Worst Hymns of All Time. For good measure, he includes music files, and you will easily discern why I completely concur with his choice as the #1 Worst Catholic Hymn, “Gather Us In,” which is not only derivative of a repetitious Gorden Lightfoot song, but contains some awful “worship” lyrics:

We are the young – our lives are a mystery
we are the old – who yearn for you face.
we have been sung throughout all of history
called to be light to the whole human race.
Gather us in the rich and the haughty
gather us in the proud and the strong
give us a heart so meek and so lowly
give us the courage to enter the song.

Just typing it makes me shudder and go all Sideshow Bob Stepping on a Rake: ghururhhghgurhg

But “Gather Us In” is not the only derivative Catholic Hymn. “Here I Am, Lord,” at communion brings one into the parking lot singing, “who was bringing up three very lovely girls…” and you keep the Brady Bunch earworm all the livelong day.

And there’s another song, and I can’t believe that didn’t make Joe’s list, that cannot go unmentioned, David Haas’ “We Are Called.” It begins, “Come, live in the light…”

And if you want to know how it sounds, well, it sounds just like Styx’s “I’m sailing awaaaaaaay…”

Oh, it’s truly wretched. I would link you to an mp3, but I really like you much too much for that.

Anyhow, go check out Joe’s list.

Oddly enough, it was just about this exact time last year that Deal Hudson was making the same sort of list with the same sort of songs, and asking people where they stood on Catholic Hymns. Then again it’s a subject that cannot be revisited too often; we must continue to complain until they stop it.

I can’t remember the last time Mass began with my own favorite: Praise to the Lord, the Almighty the King of Creaaaaaaaation!

UPDATE: Mark Shea has much more

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • AnnieM

    Someday, maybe during my lifetime, Vatican II’s directives on music for the liturgy will be implemented. The rebels hijacked the Mass back in the 1970′s and it has gotten worse by the years. OCP should be shut down! Some of their song writers have admitted that they use Broadway Show tune codes to write words and music! The bishops should have addressed the abominable music years ago, but they “don’t have time!” We switched to the Extraordinary Rite several years ago, and with many chant Masses from which to choose, plus beautiful REALLY OLD Latin chant hymns, we never have to wonder what new ditty is going to be on the song menu. There is never a question that we are a Mass to worship the Trinity, not to feel good about ourselves or to wax nostalgic about some hymn that was played at a wedding or funeral. We know several Protestants who joined the Church, and they are disgusted with the folk songs and other drivel that is sung-they experienced that in their former churches. They too prefer the Latin Mass, and the beautiful motets that are hundreds of years old. Adoremus Bulletin addresses the liturgy and music in every issue; would be worth subscribing to it. Don’t get me started on guitars…or pianos, even worse! Neither support congregational singing unless they are amped up to drown everyone out. And for Bender: The CHURCH determines what is appropriate for the liturgy; first and foremost, the “song” should reflect the words of the liturgical prayers, which is exactly what the sung introit, gradual, offertory and Communion do! These are the recommended songs for the Mass; hymns are a distant 3rd or 4th.

  • Greg

    I think the absolutely WORST hymn is “We Are The Church” by Avery & March (1972).

    No. 2 in my book is “Here At the Table of the Lord”

    No. 3: “Let There Be Peace on Earth” – this is still being sung at Mass!

    No. 4: “They’ll Know We Are Christians By Our Love” – sounds like a native-American war chant, especially with the organ.

    No. 5: “Allelu, Allelu, Everybody Sing Allelu!”

    I can tolerate most St. Louis Jesuit songs and still have a fondness for them. I think mainline Protestants have a better grasp of hymnody than Catholics do and use them to tie their traditions to worship. This is something the contemporary Church in the U.S. has ignored, much to its detriment.

  • Steve

    The Catholic church has a vast collection of sacred music. I would propose that most people of the 70′s, 80′s and 90′s who heard nothing but the banal Haun, Haas etc, at Mass, have never heard most of the beautiful hymns that were used in the Catholic church prior to 1970. Get a copy of the Adoremus hymnal to see what you’ve been missing. Hey, even the words are what they are supposed to be, and have not been infected with PC, which is destroying what common sense is left, by design of course.

  • Anne B.

    “Next time you hear something along the lines of:

    We are God’s people, God’s people on Earth
    The people God calls God’s own

    check out the author. It’s probably Farrell.”

    When I hear stuff like that, all I can think of is Daffy Duck and …

    “pronoun trouble.”

  • KarenL

    Anyone who thinks that “City of God” is to the same tune as “On Top of Old Smokey” is tone deaf. The latter is built around the Do major chord for large chunks of its melody. The prior is some wandering thing.
    I find the Eucharistic lyrics–the *unbowdlerized* lyrics, that is–of “I am the Bread of Life” to be inspiring. A lot of the icky stuff is really just rough draft garbage that was never worthy of publishing, but hey, the editor’s friend wrote it and they were so proud of him/her for dribbling it out that instead of sticking it on the fridge they gave it a page in their latest hymn book.
    A pox on all the people who think that a hymn or carol text–or a Mass part!–just ain’t good enough until they personally have fiddled around with the words of it. Also on all the hymns that are about us, us, us. “Gather Us In, for we are so special, we’re smarter than God, just ask us and see!” ;-)

  • soon to be ex-episcopal priest

    I’ll add that the 1982 Hymnal is getting a little stale for both traditionalist and progressive Episcopalians. I know the rainbow stole wearing mother at my old parish would love to introduce some of the pelagian and “inclusive” stuff that Catholics suffer. It’s just a bit too much to inflict on the folks right now while she is getting them used to same sex marriage, lesbian bishops, the Planned Parenthood curriculum for the youth group and the new Marcus Borg authored series in the “Rector’s Forum.” I’m sure some of it will make the cut in the next hymnal. It will be no picnic hearing the congregation with a median age of 68 try “All Are Welcome” for the first time. It’s a venial sin I’m sure, but I really would like to be there to hear it!

    BTW, were any of you ever subjected to that “We are Angry, Gentle People” song? Reading the above about the guitar accompanied “Let there be Peace on Earth” uncovered my repressed memory of that being sung at the cathedral after we invaded Grenada (or Panama) or maybe Kuwait. Anyway, it too was just plain wrong.

  • Elizabeth M Mylod

    How about the hymns where we are God? i.e. I myself am the bread of life; you and I are the bread of life… ???

    One hopeful thought – with the Anglicans coming into our church we might see an improvement of our music.

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    No, I was not subjected to that (thank Heaven!)

    I do remember that, during the first Iraq war, a female priest lectured us all about the evils of “worshipping” the (first) George Bush; “Remember”, she told us, “George Bush is NOT God!) Oh nos, really? I’m shocked—shocked!

    Yes, songs like that, and “Halleluja”, are just plain wrong in church.

  • KeriA

    I’ve given up even complaining about the poor music. I’d be happy if they would just fix the poor theology (i.e., heresy) in the music. For example: “Sing a New Church” – What’s the matter? The one founded by Jesus on Peter the Rock isn’t good enough for you? Or how about “Precious Body Precious Blood Here IN Bread and Wine” – I always thought that transubstantiation meant that the bread and wine cease to exist. This song is about the heresy of consubstantiation. Or may “Ashes” (“to create OURSELVES anew”) – Yeah, we can do that, God has nothing to do with it. It’s gotten so bad I don’t bother to sing most of the modernist hymn so I don’t have to worry about heresy.

  • Mary Elizabeth Williams

    Lord of the Dance is not a hymn; it was a processional song that arose -it’s anonymous – in the mid to late Middle Ages as an accompaniment to mystery plays. It works if you have a good musician to lead it. If you are anywhere in the vicinity of an Anglican Use parish or society, try their liturgies. The Anglican Patrimony includes a wide range of really beautiful music and appropriate words.

  • Ellen

    One year our pastor tried an experiment. He offered a late afternoon Mass on Sunday. The Mass was to be a silent one (no hymns). I went to the first one. Bliss. Then a parishioner who insisted we MUST SING, took it on herself to lead songs. She couldn’t sing worth anything, and I quit going to that Mass.

  • Jay Everett

    My worst hymn is “Mary did you know?”. What do you think? Certainly she knew after all she talked it over with the Angel and said “Let it be done to me”. I agree with all who say we need some silence at Mass. How can you hear God if you do not listen? We have a choir (next to the sanctuary) that is so bad that people joke about the singing as they leave Mass. To get away from the lousy singing go to daily Mass…..

  • Fr. Matt

    I am just ROTFL reading these comments.

    I agree with Patricia. Additionally, if my parish used Gather, I’d be tempted to go into hock replacing it as quickly as possible. I was in parishes in the 90s where Gather was used almost exclusively, and I detest most of the “hymns” printed in it. As for Worship, it’s much better, but you’ll want to avoid #517… the tune is just aweful, and “loud boiling test tubes…” Are you kidding me?

    I suppose we could add “Table of Plenty” to the list of abhorent tunes…. The refrain goes “…this journey is our destiny…” Oh really? I thought the goal par-excellence was Heaven. Silly me!

    Let’s just stick with the old Latin tunes. Or look in the “worship aid” for songs with no printed music. The music isn’t printed because the songs don’t need it. Once upon a time “everybody” knew them.

  • Fr. Matt

    @ Ann B. I’ve heard people refer to “Godself” to avoid any pronouns at all. I guess it’s just a phobia designed to vaguely reject the fact that Jesus revealed God as Father in the name of political correctness.

    Maybe that’s what happened to all the “good” hymns.

  • Maria

    What happened to making a joyful noise? All I hear is a bunch of whining here. My husband is in our church choir and sings most of these songs. He makes them sound good because he puts his heart into it. Of course he was raised Baptist and converted, so he injects a little more soul into the music than most of us cradle Catholics who grew up singing some rather (let’s face it) boring hymns. So next time you hear one of the hymns on this list instead of groaning or wincing or whining, just open your mouth and your heart and sing to the Lord!

  • http://MozillaFirefox JOHN R PERRY

    Does the name Michael Joncas ring a bell? He has composed the best “modern” hymns. “I Have Loved You”, “Gloria”, “On Eagles’ Wings”, Etc. Need I say more? These are modern classics!

    [We all do well to be on our guard against the "dictatorship of relativism," but it is also well to note that things such as opinions on music are subjective, and there is some wiggle room in the subjective. I am glad for you that you like these songs. In my own humble opinion, the melodic phrasing of "I have loved you" (which I think is actually "You are mine") is preposterous, but hey, some people like the Beatles, and some like the Rolling Stones. I just think a church with two thousand years of glorious music in its archives can do better (both to history and to modern sensibilities) and can create singable, reverent music. You like the Joncas Gloria, and I'll say it's probably the "best" of a rather unimpressive lot, and suggest that in the case of the gloria, the holy holy and the angus dei, we have a tremendous store of excellent music that goes unplayed and unsung simply because it's "older" and that (and here I am being more objective than subjective) is a terrible shame and a loss -admin]

  • Jan

    Once again, we are showing our best sides. It doesn’t seem possible that Catholics can even agree to politely disagree about our personal likes and dislikes in music, and there is way too much legalistic crap going on here.

    Why don’t some of you visit a small parish in the country once – pick one with an average of 75 people or less at the one and only Sunday Mass that is celebrated. Go and listen to a quiet guitar accompany the congregation and then get off your damned high horse of legalistic bullsh*t regarding VII directives. Come and ask my fellow parishioners if they can sing when I play guitar or scrounge up a piano player. The world is not black and white, and adapting to local customs is fully within the bounds of the directives.

    And AnnieM, when it comes to knowledge of things churchy, it’s probably not the best idea to get in-your-face with Bender.

  • Raybo

    I offer this to all you posters and your Anchoress cheerleader. Is this all you have to do ?? God bless us all.

    [People are surely allowed to talk about what others might call "frivolous" things, are they not? And to express their opinions, to which they are entitled? And to amuse themselves or debate, or even grouse a bit when they've put in a very full work day and wish to opine and relax? God bless us all, indeed. -admin]

  • TeaPot562

    I prefer that at least some of the hymns chosen for Sunday Mass have (if possible) some relation to the readings for the day. And a minute or so of silence after Communion would be nice, also. It is not necessary for sound to fill in every second when no words are being spoken.

  • Nancy

    I am Chair of our Liturgy Committee and am one of the main songleaders at our small town parish in flyover country. Our resources are very limited, but we have some faithful organists, guitar players, and singers. We have trouble covering every Mass, but we hear wailing if we don’t and wailing if we do. Some prefer no music, some think we don’t sing enough old stuff, and some think we sing too much. One of my organists has been playing for 43 years and her hands shake the entire time she plays these days.

    I try to mix it up a bit….mix the old stuff with the new stuff. Some Sundays I am successful, other Sundays, I am not. I appreciate reading everyone’s opinion, though. It is sort of like what I think the Church office hears on a regular basis. God bless them.

    I’m a convert of over 20 years and when the Bishop laid his hand on my head at my Confirmation, Here I Am Lord (I the Lord of sea and sky) was being played by a college guy on a guitar with some students singing. It was a pivotal moment in my life that I shall never forget. Actually, it was one of the most beautiful moments in my life.

  • mjc

    Just a few thoughts after slogging through all 119 comments…..

    119! Music does play an important role, doesn’t it? I always thought “to sing is to pray twice” was a good early Christian way of describing getting both our right brains and our left brains into worship.

    As a cantor, I was just reintroduced to “Lord Who At Thy First Eucharist.” What a wonderful theology in the song, although I probably read the word “Unity” in a much more liberal sense than most of you posting here. But…. most of the old stuff (People’s Mass Book from my childhood) is so boring musically. All those nice quarter notes and gentle hills, like a roller coaster at 10 mph and eight feet off the ground. I’ll take a seventh chord and a little syncopation any day.

    Take a look at our Christmas songs. Most are written for children, with children’s lyrics and childish theology, especially Silent Night. But why is that so bad? You can’t have Christmas liturgies without the 9 favorites — you just can’t.
    Nothing wrong with it for me, though. Just use the starting point to keep learning about Jesus and how we (yes, WE) respond to Him.

    And that’s my main point of writing; most of you, like myself, are very interested in how the sausage is made, even if we disagree. Most people in the pews are not, and that’s not a bad thing. Where many of you see doctrinal impurity, I see creativity and response to God. I think that its just as sappy and stilted to demand silence and reverent monotony as it is to demand hand clapping and joyful noisemaking. Both need to be nurtured, explored, listened to. Ultimately, the sour nature of some of these posts get replaced with the good natured ribbing that family members often use. I pray for that, when we brothers and sisters stop calling out who the real Catholics are and aren’t, like the apostles arguing which was greater. Jesus couldn’t/wouldn’t answer them, either. God bless.

  • KeriA

    TeaPot562: Excellent point about silence after communion. Here’s what we get stuck with – If we’re lucky, we have congregational singing of 2 songs until the priest is done. Unfortunately, once a month we get stuck with the “school mass” where they have some untrained choir from the school sing. Then we’ll do one normal from-the-book song wait for the priest to sit down in quiet, and then a “solo” by the choir while we twiddle our thumbs. Of course when that ends some start clapping like they’re at some concert. Now what did the Pope have to say about that….?

  • Nancy

    Tea Pot….we faithfully pick music that reflects the readings and we also stop singing once everyone has received Communion. There is no meditation song, just silence (sort of, we do have the occasional screaming baby…a whole other topic of discussion).

  • Rhinestone Suderman

    Elizabeth Mylod, yes, I hate the “We are God!” hymns! And there seem to be so many of those, these days! No matter how heartfelt the manner in which they’re sung, or how many fond memories they might inspire in (some) of the congregation, or how nicely the musicians play them (and they usually don’t) the fact is. . . they’re just wrong.

    Because, in the Catholic liturgy, the music isn’t there just to entertain, but to be a part of worship. To do this, it must harmonize with it, and not preach things that are at odds with Catholic teaching, such as “We are all God.” It also shouldn’t require only expert, trained musicians to play it decently (how many churches are going to be able to swing that?).

    Nor is it snobbish, or mean-spirited, not to enjoy such music on an asthetic level (apologies, again.) In the world, we can get away from music we don’t like by reaching for ear plugs, or turning off whatever machine is spewing it out; in church, you can’t do that. You have to sit and listen to the “My, aren’t we swell!” hymns; to the woman trying, embarrassingly, to sound all bluesey and soulful, as she belts out “Alleluia!” into the microphone, or the guy who wants to relive the 60′s by playing “If I had a hammer” on his guitar. Or to the humpteenth rendition of “On Eagle’s Wings,” which is a pretty song, but not really one that’s easy to sing along to, or which bears reptition every Sunday, Or—-or—or—-

    Given the level of controversy on this, some Catholic parishes might actually consider the Orthodox church approach to music, at least for a brief trial period. (Repeating myself here:) No instruments, but the human voice itself (sorry, guitar players, pianists, flutists, trombonists, organists, etc.); all singing to be chanted, led by a simple choir, who consider this an act of serving the church, and don’t go in for self-indulgent solo performances, or contemporary songmeister styles.

    The Anglican hymnal had the great good fortune to get contributions from English poets, and musicians such as Vaughn Williams. The Episcopal hymnal, sadly, isn’t as good these days.

  • Gina N.

    Personally, I loath, detest and abominate
    “Amazing Grace.” I don’t think it is even doctrinally correct. Additionally, the original word was “wretch.” “Which saved a wretch like me.” Now we dance around that word because, though absolutely accurate, it is not PC, and I don’t mean personal computer.

    If we must sing Protestant songs, how about “How Great Thou Art.” Better yet, how about some Catholic hymns. Sure they are not all great, but there are tons to choose from. Some Thomas Aquinas would be nice. How about “Holy God We Praise Thy Name?” How about Marian hymns? They are getting short shrift. I know Jesus likes His Mom and would probably like to hear us praising her.

  • Paul Snatchko

    Dear Jan (#23),

    I disagree with you about “Gift of Finest Wheat.” I think it’s a beautiful hymn that always helps me during Communion to focus on the blessing of the sacrament.

    FYI — it was commissioned for the Church’s 1976 Eucharistic Congress in Philadelphia.

  • B. Durbin

    Wow, popular topic.

    I am a musician; I love music. I learned to sing with many of these songs at one of the few Catholic churches with a musically “ept” choir, and one at which the congregation sang along. I’ll just make a few notes on the songs in question:

    #10 Pescador De Hombres— if you can’t sing in Spanish, this loses out.
    #8 On Eagles’ Wings— I was taught this by a very strict choirmaster and it bugs the heck out of me when people can’t get the triplets and double-dotted notes right. And yes, it’s a funeral song in my life.
    #3 City of God— Really fun when you have competent harmony; pretty grating when you don’t. And nobody ever does the third and fourth verses any more.

    I’ve actually never heard of #1.

    Now, as to those folks who prefer the pre-Vatican II music, I might if I’d ever heard it done well. Or competently. But the primary church I get that music at no longer has hymnals in the pews; it has Power Point slides overhead. With cheesy graphics. Yeesh.

    Other bits:

    King of Glory (The King of Glory comes, the nation rejoices) is a lot of fun to accompany with recorder and tambourine; it is an old Israeli hymn.

    I sympathize with Ms. Farrell; I have written some music myself and have avoided putting pronouns to God. However, I have done so to keep some hack from changing it later and screwing up the meter. (I’m going back to those Mass parts and adapting them to the new translations, FWIW.) I really love her melodies, though.

    My choice for worst hymn? Rain Down by Carey Landry. “Rain down, rain down, rain down your love on your people…” It’s not even a children’s song. The very talented chapel choir at my college did all things possible and couldn’t make it better than mediocre. (We’d been hired to help with a retreat and didn’t get to pick the songs.)

    Final note: To all those who complain that the choir is treating it like a performance, well… some may be, but some of us find it the best sort of worship. Sorry if we go a bit over the top. :)

  • Jan

    Rain Down by Carey Landry.

    Just a little f.y.i – Rain Down is by Jaime Cortez, (another very nice and talented man) not Cary Landry.:-)

    It’s actually not bad if you have a really good pianist playing it like a jazz piece, but then it sounds more like it’s for a bar than a church.

  • Jan

    That’s okay Paul – actually, the rest of the song isn’t so bad, but I really just can’t take that ‘satisfy the hungry heart’ line.

    I actually like a lot of the music that’s been mentioned; even if it has no proper place in a church, it might still be fun to play or sing.

  • Robert McDevitt

    Dear Pathetic Whiners, All you commenters have missed your calling. You should have been “critics”. That is, arrogant jerks who somehow have gotten the notion that your sense of taste has evolved to a higher state and now you are gracing the faithful with your musical insights. This is same sophmoric type of thinking that would take ten songs, all different in style and content, then decide which one is “best”. Pray to grow a brain and realise that the songs you hate, someone else loves; and the songs you think are really, really significant, are someone else’s version of an audio landfill. Opinions, everyone has them, and yours are just as biased, absurd, and meaningless as the next persons. As musical director, cantor and musician in a small parish for many years, my advise to you all is: Just shut up and sing to the glory of Our Lord, and be glad YOU won’t be judged by your musical contribution to the Body of Christ.

  • Robert McDevitt

    So, You removed my comments because…….??? Can’t handle the truth?

    [I just found your "truthful" post in the spam filter where things often end up. I don't find anything particularly brave about it. It's merely rude, which obviously you already know, since you think it is a post I need to "handle". I'll post it, because I don't mind letting you reveal yourself if that's what you want to do, but please be advised that I don't much cotton to people coming into my site and demanding that their posts be displayed, or who think that a properly civil exchange consists in entering the site like a belligerent 14 year old. I'm sure you can do better. And yes, sometimes things end up in the spam filter, all the time. Ask Sally, Bender and Zach, whose posts I also found in there.-admin]

  • Texan99

    Are there seriously churches singing a hymn with the line “a robot took away his job”?

    How about “Wind, Wind, set me free,” which is basically “B-I-N-G-O”? Kind of catchy, of course, or the Bingo song wouldn’t be so memorable. I have to admit that my congregation really sings out when this stuff is on the program, and I appreciate anything that wakes them up and makes them less a passive audience.

    But the weak-tea pantheism in most of the lyrics is amazing. “We are the hands of God, He basically is helpless without us, what is God, really, but all of us together in perfect harmony, I’d like to buy the world a Coke.” I’m sorry to be so snide, I know there are worse things than music that makes people focus on fellowship, but really. I don’t see any reason for worship music to be vapid. The Psalms aren’t vapid. Jesus wasn’t vapid.

    [Many of the lyrics have been forged in an attempt to be as "sensitive" and politically correct as possible, without "offensive" pronouns or doctrines. Those lyrics end up saying nothing; they're filler, and they're awful -admin]

  • Sally Thomas

    Favorites from our small country parish, where we often do things a capella, because our nice lady organist does not like to drive in weather:

    Holy God, We Praise Thy Name

    Tantum Ergo (almost always sung a capella at Holy Hour, because the nice lady organist does not drive on Thursday nights)

    O Salutaris Hostia (ditto)

    Glory Be to Jesus, which I lifted from the 1982 Episcopal hymnal (I’m an ex-Episcopalian, and before that an ex-Methodist, so I’m always pushing Charles Wesley, too) and have taught to First Communion classes two years running. Our choir o’ four (occasionally six) does it in harmony, a capella, during Communion, and we’ve done it so much that now people know it.

    Hail, Holy Queen and other traditional Marian hymns (O Sanctissima, etc)

    O Jesus We Adore You

    O Lord I Am Not Worthy

    Panis Angelicus (again, we’ve just done it so many times that finally people are starting to sing it)

    The choir o’ four also does lots of things that aren’t in our hymnal, either for offertory antiphons or Communion anthems, that we at least want people to get in their ear: Anima Christi (beautiful, easy harmony), Sweet Sacrament Divine (ditto), and a number of pieces out of the Catholic Choirbook.

    With a little effort, pieces like Palestrina’s “Jesu, Rex Admirabilis” and Remondi’s “O Sacrum Convivium” are well within the reach of even a modest choir of modest talent, which I know from personal experience as a chorister of extremely modest talent. While there are certainly contemporary pieces worth singing, not to have at least a sampling of the Church’s traditional music in the cultural ear seems like a real poverty to me. And people are capable of liking it. I’m sure not everyone in the congregation loves everything we do, but people do make a point of coming up and thanking us for the music — and again, it’s not because we’re such great musicians or have such individually stunning voices. We aren’t, and we don’t. In fact, that’s at least partly why we sing so much “hard” traditional stuff in that “hard” Latin — once you’ve taken the time to learn something (and you have to do that with any piece of music, after all) it’s actually *easier* for non-soloist-quality voices to sing well.

    All that’s a digression from the topic of congregational hymn-singing, of course, but it does relate — the over-arching question is, “What is the role of music in the Mass?” And I suppose anything you do with regard to music is an answer to that question, and — ideally — driven by the desire to have every element of the liturgy point to the central revelation of Christ, especially as He is present in the Eucharist. The music, like every other element, should point, like saints in an altarpiece, towards the Lamb on the throne.

  • Robert-Paul LeMay

    One of the great blessings of living here in Albuquerque is that my paris, San Felipe de Neri, has a spanish mass every Sunday where we sing from Flor y Canto. Not only the beauty of the language but the simplicity of the words has been a spiritual comfort through all the years of no longer hearing the beautiful latin hymns. I firmly believe that there is an inherent arrogance in the english language that makes it almost impossible for me to use to either sing or pray. Perhaps we need a new hymnal as much as a new liturgy in english.

    [Avail yourself of an opportunity to attend an Anglican Rite mass someday. You will see there is no problem with English, and no inherent hautiness to it. It's a stunningly beautiful rite, and word and action -admin]

  • Ruth Ann

    Elizabeth, I have had the joy and privilege of learning quite a variety of hymns from my childhood, before V2, and on into the post V2 era. I like, even love, almost all of them. The only time I dislike a hymn is when it is overused. Isn’t variety the spice of life?

    Beauty is in the eye, or ear, of the beholder, isn’t it. Everyone’s taste is different. Personally, I don’t like someone to what I like is or isn’t beautiful.

    I’m not a musician, but I love to sing.

  • Ruth Ann

    I meant to say: Personally, I don’t like someone to tell me what I like is or isn’t beautiful.

  • Donna P

    I have just churned through 136 posts here and it is clear that taste in hymns is subjective indeed! We shall never ever agree.

    Having said that, I do wish to enter the fray and add my all-time least-liked hymn, the one I know I shall hear repeatedly in purgatory (should I make it there) alongside that brain-grating secular song, Knock Three Times on the Ceiling if You Want Me. It is Carey Landry’s, Bloom where You’re Planted, blessedly little heard in the 21st century, but a staple of the 70′s and 80′s, accented by earnest, but often meagrely-talented, guitar players (I know; I was one of them :)

    And for those who long for the good old days of O Lord I Am Not Worthy, I seem to recall that we heard the same-old, same-old hymns every week even then. While they were substantial, it did get tedious.

    Finally, in the it-makes-me-humble department, I have the privilege of knowing a 12-year-old gal who has cerebral palsy and is wheelchair-bound. One of the highlights of her week is to sing at Mass. There are no hymns she dislikes. When the music starts, a huge smile lights up her face, she throws her head back and sings at the top of her lungs.


    [A great comment; thanks -admin]

  • Sandra

    I actually like some of the “ten” not maybe NOT in a Mass setting because they are SONGS, not hymns. “City of God,” “Gather Us In” and “Be Not Afraid” are okay. (Be Not Afraid was sung at my first husband’s funeral, at the priest’s (a personal friend) request, I just can’t “dislike” that song because of my memories tied-up with it.)

    But yes, ban forever the songs, “Sons of God” and “I am the Bread of Life”

  • Elizabeth M Mylod

    Give the people a good song and they will sing! While we’re at it, can we do away with cantors and cantresses blaring over a microphone?

  • Frank

    Noise is noise as far as I’m concerned.
    All that matters to me are the words.

    I don’t know the name of the worst song ever but one of the verses was “Run with your face up in the rain”.
    I may be mixing up two verses but they were all equally asinine.
    Thank you God, I havent heard it since 1980.

  • Brady

    I’ve got two for ya, horrible.

    Lord of the Dance

    Canticle of the Sun

    Somebody shoot me

  • Bender

    sometimes things end up in the spam filter, all the time. Ask Sally, Bender and Zach, whose posts I also found in there

    I think the spam filter has it out for me especially. Its always eating my stuff.

  • Elaine T

    I’m fond of I am the Bread of Life, by Tooley (?) but I can hit all the notes. And I memorized it as a child, so I sing the old, unbowdlerized words. But recently our parish has been singing it as a recessional, which makes me say ‘huh?’. It’s a Communion song, people!

    Thank you, #127, I also find Rain Down very difficult to take. And the Prayer of St. Francis, aka Make Me a Channel of Your Peace. The words are fine, but get a new tune.

    About half the time we sing a Gloria labeled as from the Mass of Light, which I rather like.

    Sometimes I make it out of bed and go to early morning Sunday Mass, where there are no musicians and the priest improvises (as far as I can tell) which songs to sing. He’ll start us with something like Let All Mortal Flesh, which I absolutely love. But I think I’m the only one singing it.

    Lord of the Dance I haven’t heard for years. I’m surprised to see someone saying it’s a medieval processional. I thought the tune was Shaker from Simple Gifts, and Sydney Carter wrote the words in the 60s (or so). Carter definitely wrote the words we know.

  • Martin Fitzgerald

    It’s pretty obvious that you guys in the US don’t have “Come as you are” inflicted upon you like we do “down under” in Australia.

  • Ben Dunlap

    If we would just sing the Propers of the mass there wouldn’t be nearly as much time on Sunday for bad hymns.

    Sadly I don’t think a lot of people, choir directors included, even quite know what the Propers are, or that there are lots of easy-to-sing choral settings of them in English. My comment is the first of over a hundred even to mention them. Even the people who mentioned the FSSP and the Extraordinary Form (where the Propers are mandatory) didn’t bring them up. Yikes, what hath liturgical change wrought?

  • Texan99

    Let All Moral Flesh Keep Silent is lovely, I think. The tune is Picardy, a French medieval melody.

  • Ben Dunlap

    OK, one person mentioned the Propers earlier in the thread (AnnieM at #101). Anyway here are a whole lot of freely-downloadable settings of the Propers; some English settings, some Latin settings, and even some a mix, I think: link

  • Adam Rasmussen

    Hmm, I actually kind of like Gather Us In, but that’s probably because it’s one of the first hymns I learned as a Catholic! I can see your point.



  • Lola Peterson

    Just out of curiosity I would like to know your ten favorites as a basis for comparison. As a young adult convert 60 years ago I was just in time for Vatican II and things have been topsy turvy ever since. Except for the Real Presence I could still be a Presbyterian w/o predestination.