It’s Only Rock ’n Roll (Music for Mondays)

What does this morning’s music have in common? Basically it’s only rock n’ roll, but I like it. Heck, maybe I just feel like playing air-guitar and singing some of my favorite secular tunes. Follow along with me and see if we can pull some Catholic perspective out of the following songs. Keeping in mind, of course, that these are just one person’s impressions. Your mileage may vary.

Stevie Ray Vaughn, The House is a Rockin’. Not much to explain here. It’s Spring and Our Lord has risen, and we feel like partying here at YIM Catholic! If the house is a-rockin’, don’t bother knockin’. No invitation needed, just come on in!

Kick off your shoes start losin’ the blues
This old house ain’t got nothin’ to lose
Seen it all for years, start spreadin’ the news

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Rolling Stones, Gimme Shelter. I can hear some of you sigh and mutter, there Frank goes again. You know what? I need shelter, and I find it in the Holy Mother Church. Which means my soul won’t fade away either. This song works for me. And do you know the difference between the Beatles and the Rolling Stones? The Rolling Stones are still together and making music, basically ’til death do they part. I like that ideal.

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Bruce Springsteen, Brilliant Disguise. Look out for the false self. In light of the scandal imbroglio, perhaps many have been tempted to think the Church is a sham, a house of cards. Better look hard and look twice. Recently, and grudgingly even the “respected” news sources have to contend with the truth that the entire Roman Catholic Church isn’t the only game in town when it comes to abusing children. Just lonely pilgrims we are, but as for me, Jesus I Trust in You. Bruce concludes this tune with this wise line: God have mercy on the man who doubts what he’s sure of. Amen.

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Sarah McLachlan Sweet Surrender. Sarah, on the other hand, really has the right idea, I think (see the lyrics below).

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It doesn’t mean much.
It doesn’t mean anything at all.
The life I’ve left behind me
Is a cold room.

I’ve crossed the last line
From where I can’t return,
Where every step I took in faith
Betrayed me

And led me from my home

And sweet
Sweet surrender
Is all that I have to give

You take me in
No questions asked
You strip away the ugliness
That surrounds me

Are you an angel?
Am I already that gone?
I only hope
That I won’t disappoint you
When I’m down here
On my knees

Next up, Jack Johnson Better Together. I only recently came across this Jack Johnson fellow and really like some of his work. This song in particular works well as I pondered the Divine Mercy novena prayer for the reunification of Christ’s Church here on earth. See the lyrics below…

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Love is the answer
At least for most of the questions in my heart,
Like why are we here? And where do we go?
And how come it’s so hard?
It’s not always easy,
And sometimes life can be deceiving,
I’ll tell you one thing, its always better when we’re together.

Rush Limelight. Only three guys, but big, big sound! Yes, I am asking you to consider the universal dream, the real relation and the underlying theme. Guess what I think those are. See the lyrics below and have a listen.

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Living on a lighted stage
Approaches the unreal
For those who think and feel
In touch with some reality
Beyond the gilded cage.

Cast in this unlikely role,
Ill-equipped to act,
With insufficient tact,
One must put up barriers
To keep oneself intact.

Living in the Limelight,
The universal dream
For those who wish to seem.
Those who wish to be
Must put aside the alienation,
Get on with the fascination,
The real relation,
The underlying theme.

Living in a fisheye lens,
Caught in the camera eye.
I have no heart to lie,
I can’t pretend a stranger
Is a long-awaited friend.

All the world’s indeed a stage,
And we are merely players,
Performers and portrayers,
Each another’s audience
Outside the gilded cage.

For Chants Such as These (Music for Mondays)

It’s Monday, and looking very gloomy in my neck of the woods. Pop music? Not interested. Blues? I feel them, but no. I need something a lot more holy than that today. Spring may have sprung, but it still felt like I was in hibernation this morning. Here are a few selections that fit the bill for my frame of mind.

First, the Regina Caelorum (the Marian antiphon from the Presentation of the Lord until Good Friday). Here is an English translation:

Hail, O Queen of Heaven enthroned.
Hail, by angels mistress owned.
Root of Jesse, Gate of Morn

Whence the world’s true light was born:
Glorious Virgin, Joy to thee,
Loveliest whom in heaven they see;
Fairest thou, where all are fair,
Plead with Christ our souls to spare.

V. Vouchsafe that I may praise thee, O sacred Virgin.
R. Give me strength against thine enemies.

Let us pray: We beseech thee, O Lord, mercifully to assist our infirmity: that like as we do now commemorate Blessed Mary Ever-Virgin, Mother of God; so by the help of her intercession we may die to our former sins and rise again to newness of life. Through the same Christ our Lord. Amen.

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Remember the Gospel reading yesterday when Jesus brought Lazarus back to life? Rejoice O Bethany. And the rest of these are in English, so I can follow along.

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And now for a couple more that are in English (whew!). First, the Polyeleos. The citation from Wikipedia reads:

The word “polyeleos” also refers to a large chandelier used in some Orthodox churches, particularly in monasteries. It is in the form of a very large circle (also called a corona or horos) with many candles on it, and is often adorned with icons of numerous saints. The polyeleos is suspended by a chain from the ceiling. During the chanting of the Polyeleos psalms (134 and 135), all of the candles are lit and it is pushed with a rod so that it turns back and forth during the singing, adding to the joy of the service. This practice is still seen in the monasteries of Mount Athos and in other traditional Orthodox monasteries throughout the world.

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This one reminds me of St. Romanus singing of the unapproachable light: Now Christ, Thou Sun of Justice

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Introducing Ollabelle (Music for Mondays)

Since hearing them last year on Pandora Radio, I have been a big fan of the largely invisible musical quintet “Ollabelle.” Here’s their Wikipedia page, which has about as much info as I’ve found anywhere. The notable member, perhaps, is Amy Helm, daughter of The Band drummer Levon Helm, though I’m not really a music junkie, so Glenn Patscha, Byron Isaac, Fiona McBain, or even Tony Leone may be somehow more important. Anyway, what is it with these people? There’s nothing overtly Evangelical, and certainly nothing Catholic, about their story, but tell me they aren’t “religious”!

Sorry in advance for the poor video quality, but these people have been flying under the radar—

What could be more Lenten than a song called “Get Back Temptation”?

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Do you have “Jesus on the Main Line”? Ollabelle does.

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Listen to this cover of Bruce Cockburn’s “Soul of a Man” (with a momentary change of scene) and tell me these people don’t know something about the Holy Spirit.

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And how about my favorite Ollabelle tune, “Down by the Riverside,” one of the great Negro Spirituals?

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Let’s finish with a “band of angels” in “Gone Today,” taking Ollabelle to heaven, where I say they belong.

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A Dirty Little Secret (Music for Mondays)

I have a confession to make, a secret to make a Catholic blush. It’s not about what I watch or say or do, it’s about what I listen to. Sometimes! Just sometimes! When I’m out walking and I have Pandora Radio on my iPhone and have my ear buds plugged in, I listen to a wide variety of music. I have a station called Stile Antico Radio (mostly 16th-century polyphony, very Catholic). I have another called Folky Stuff (self-explanatory) and another named for my favorite guitarist, Knopfler Radio. So I listen according to mood. My dark secret?

I also have a station called David Crowder Radio. For those unfamiliar with the man (pictured here), he’s an evangelical Jesus Rocker. OK, there it is, my secret’s out: I really dig loud, soaring Christian Rock. Now, don’t all jump ship at once.

It’s Monday, so open your hearts and let me give you a taste, but beware: It’s habit-forming and pretty soon you’ll be using valuable confession time telling the priest about the sinful joys of Hillsong United, Darlene Zschech, and Third Day.

Let’s kick off this MFM segment with a quiet start from Casting Crowns and “Praise You in This Storm.”

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Let’s kick it up a notch with David Crowder live, singing “Oh Praise Him!”

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Before the big finish, let’s hear from Third Day, with “God of Wonders.”

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Time to put your hands in the air, brothers and sisters! It’s time for music from Australia’s biggest megachurch, Hillsong United. The song is “Hosanna!” C’mon, Catholics, you can say “Hosanna!”

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For just one night before I die, I want to be crazy enough to go crazy in one of these arenas when Darlene Zschech, Hillsong’s diva, sings “How Great is Our God!” Hold me down, brothers and sisters!

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Now you can take me home, Lord, now you can take me home!

Because I Yearn (Music for Mondays)

As each week goes by, I accumulate clips of music to post on Mondays. I checked last night and found only one clip stored since last Monday. But what a clip. What a coincidence. Yesterday in choir, we began practicing a piece for Lent, “Sicut Cervus Desiderat” by Palestrina (left). That’s the music I set aside.

Here the piece is performed by the Westminster Cathedral Choir. The text is from Psalm 42: “Like the deer that years for running streams, so my soul is yearning for you, my God. My soul is thirsting for God, the God of my life; when can I enter and see the face of God? . . . ”

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Because of “Godspell”

Posted by Webster
Throwing down the gauntlet to my Catholic brother and fellow YIMC blogger, Frank Weathers— The year was 1970, when you were—what—six years old?! That’s when “Godspell” opened off Broadway, five years after Vatican II, one year after Woodstock. It totally rocked my world. And you were in what, kindergarten? How could you understand, Frank?

I was one year into an alternative spiritual trip that left the Episcopal Church in the rear-view mirror. Just then, this hippie-dippie musical inspired by “Hair” and based on the Gospel of Matthew arrived on the scene. And, despite all my alternative yearnings, something inside me said, You will never stop being a Christian!

Have you even heard (of) the songs “Prepare ye the way of the Lord” or “Day by Day”? No, I didn’t think so. So how can you understand what that time was like?

We were all looking for God, Krishna, Allah, Yahweh, Whatever His Name (we didn’t really care, it was all good). But even when I might have seemed farthest from my Christian roots, I couldn’t help loving “Godspell.”

I saw the touring production that left New York for Boston in, what, 1971? I saw the movie in 1973. Although I would take another 35 years to find the Catholic Church, there was something about this musical that sank its teeth into me and never let go.

Strangely, I thought of “Godspell” this Saturday afternoon at confession. In giving me my penance, Father Barnes referred to the opening prayer in the liturgy for the Second Sunday in Advent:

God of power and mercy, open our hearts in welcome. Remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy, so that we may share his wisdom and become one with him when he comes in glory—

As I went for a walk after confession and pondered my penance, I thought of the lyrics to “Prepare Ye the Way of the Lord.” Which, by the way, are hippie-dippie simplicity at their best (worst?): Prepare ye the way of the Lord, Prepare ye the way of the Lord . . . (and so on). How do we prepare the way of the Lord? How do we remove the things that hinder us from receiving Christ with joy?

That’s question enough for this Advent season. Over and out!


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