Jesus Goes Mainstream II (Music for Mondays)

"Jesus Christ and the rich young man," Heinrich Hoffman.

“Jesus Christ and the rich young man,” Heinrich Hoffman.

One week down, and 6 weeks to go before Pentecost. I’m still exploring Jesus in mainstream culture through song. Last week, I took us from the late 1960’s up until the early 1980’s.

This week, I dip back into the 1970’s briefly before vaulting back up into the Eighties and Nineties again before getting a toehold in the 2000’s. And all of these songs are well known and I would wager that most of you remember them.

First up is one of my favorite classic rock tunes that I forgot to share last week. See? There are more songs that reference Our Lord in the mainstream than even I can keep track of!

ZZ Top (1973), Jesus Just Left Chicago. From their album, Tres Hombres, I forgot this one from the 1970’s last week. I always liked this song too. The idea of Jesus riding a bus from Chicago to New Orleans is cool, not to mention realistic. And with beards like these, the band might be mistaken for monks from Mt. Athos (smile).

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John Cougar Mellencamp (1985), Small Town. What can I say? I like small towns, especially when I was “taught to fear Jesus, in this small town…”

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Mr. Mister (1985) Kyrie Eleison A reader suggested this one. What ever happened to these guys? They had a monster hit album in 1985 and then…poof! I didn’t even know that this meant “Lord, have mercy” until I became a Catholic—but I always liked this song. Hey, lookee! A live performance,

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U2 (1987), When Love Comes to Town. Remember what I said about U2 last week? They’re an undercover gospel band. This is from their live album Rattle and Hum released in 1988. Performed the first time in 1987 with special guest, and blues legend, B.B. King.

I was there when they crucified my Lord
I held the scabbard when the soldier drew his sword
I threw the dice when they pierced his side
But I’ve seen love conquer the great divide

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Lenny Kravitz (1993), Are You Gonna Go My Way. Lenny Kravitz singing as Christ. See if you can see any resemblance. The original video has imagery to help, but it can’t be embedded here. But live is better anyway.

I was born long ago
I am the chosen, I’m the one
I have come to save the day
And I won’t leave until I’m done

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Carrie Underwood (2005), Jesus Take the Wheel. I never watch American Idol, because I live under a rock. But I can get twangy with the best of ’em, and this is one of the best I’ve heard in a while.

Jesus, take the wheel
Take it from my hands
Cause I can’t do this on my own

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I wonder what I’ll dig up next week? Maybe I’ll head back to the Enlightenment era to see what I can find. See you here next week.

Jesus Goes Mainstream (Music for Mondays)

True enough, Elvis Presley loved gospel music. And though he never shied away from singing of his love for the Lord, did anyone else? I mean besides Johnny Cash. Did the culture at large recognize Jesus in song?

Well, that is what this first MfM post of Eastertide is going to focus on: pop songs about Jesus. Many of them were mega-hits, others were one-hit-wonders. Some you’ll remember easily, others probably not.

Eastertide is roughly seven weeks long, extending from the Easter Triduum up until the Day of Pentecost.  I’m willing to explore this over the next seven weeks if you are. To begin with, here are some modern songs that the mainstream culture created and embraced that relate in some way to the Son of Man.

For some of these, you might have to go directly to You Tube. First up is my all time modern favorite,

The Doobie Brothers (1972), Jesus is Just Alright. Yep, this is my favorite tune about Jesus that went mainstream. Wikipedia has the whole story: Jesus Is Just Alright” is a gospel song written by Arthur Reid Reynolds and first recorded by Reynold’s own group, The Art Reynolds Singers, on their 1966 album, Tellin’ It Like It Is. The song’s title makes use of the American slang term “all-right”, which during the 1960s was used to describe something that was considered cool or very good. Well, the Doobies version of this tune is the Gold Standard, in my book anyway. Even when it’s updated for 1996…

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The Velvet Underground (1968), Jesus. Yes, this is Lou Reed singing. That’s right, the same fellow who sang “Take a Walk on the Wild Side.” This song is a prayer, pure and simple.

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James Taylor (1970), Fire and Rain. The third stanza begins with, “Won’t you look down upon me, Jesus…” You can claim that this song has no effect on you. And I would believe you just as much as I would believe that Ayn Rand didn’t hold grudges (which means not at all!).

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Norman Greenbaum (1969), Spirit in the Sky. I bet you never saw this video. I said once before that I used to think this was T-Rex. Norman’s “one hit wonder” jams! Listen to that guitar and these lyrics, and try to keep still. I dare you.

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Marvin Gaye (1970), Wholy, Holy. This song was eclipsed by several other great songs from Marvin’s smash hit album What’s Going On. I’m sure you remember the title track, as well as Mercy, Mercy Me. The second stanza of this song includes the following,

Jesus left a long time ago, said he would return
He left us a book to believe in
In it we’ve got an awful lot to learn…

And it will take an eternity to appreciate it all. I’m game, how about you?

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Stephen Schwartz and John-Michael Tebalek (1969), Prepare Ye (The Way of the Lord). And certainly, we can’t forget the musicals from this era. Up first, Godspell. Wikipedia again: It started as a college project performed by students at Carnegie Mellon University and moved to La MaMa Experimental Theatre Club in Greenwich Village. It was then re-scored for an off-Broadway production which became a long-running success.

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Tim Rice & Andrew Lloyd Webber (1973),  Superstar. From the Tony Award winning musical Jesus Christ Superstar.  This is the most famous song from the musical.  Here we have Judas and the Soul Sisters vs. the Angels.

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Donna Summer, (1980), I Believe in Jesus. Who says we stopped singing about Jesus in the 1970’s? They must have not have been paying attention. Donna Summer, the woman who launched her career with Hot Stuff, from her album Bad Girls,  gives us the right stuff with this song just one year later.

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Depeche Mode (1989), Personal Jesus. I’ve shared this one before too. Consider that prayer is a lot like making a phone call to God, or as I told my daughter this morning, like sending Him a text message (and you can do it as often as you text your friends). Yep, Dad is weird.

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U2 (1997), If God Will Send His Angels. If you need a modern group that doesn’t shy away from Jesus, look no further. As far as I’m concerned, Bono and the boys are an undercover gospel group.

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Because My Boys Needed to Know About Hildegard of Bingen

I received a note the other day in my e-mail inbox informing me of a movie that would soon be released on DVD. I noted the title of the film and realized that it was still playing in one of the theaters in our town.The movie I’m referring to is Visions: From the Life of Hildegard of Bingen.

Now, my plan was to take my wife with me to this film, but she and my daughter were engaged in another endeavor. [Read more…]

For Lessons on Lying from “The Catechism Made Easy” (with a Little Help from the Rolling Stones)

The subject of “lying for Jesus,” as Mark Shea puts it, has been rolling through the Catholic blog-o-sphere in light of the tactics used by the Pro-Life group Live Action.

I even posted a little piece comparing many of the commentators to characters from J.R.R. Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. I dubbed Mark Shea as “Faramir” because that character said, “I would not snare even an orc with a falsehood.” Mark states his case based on what the Catechism says about lying.

Below, from the handy, dandy YIMCatholic Bookshelf, is a selection I found in a book titled The Catechism Made Easy: Being a Familiar Explanation of the Catechism of Christian Doctrine. Written by Fr. Henry Gibson, formerly a prison and reform school chaplain, the title page includes these simple words from St. Paul’s letter to the Corinthians,

“Except you utter by the tongue plain speech, how shall it be known what is said? For you shall be speaking into the air.” —1 Cor. xiv. 9.

Ouch! See? I told you being a Christian is hard! Published in 1882, we’ve forgotten a lot of this great stuff written by our Catholic forefathers. This is from the section in Fr. Henry’s book about the Eighth Commandment, with practical examples included at no additional charge.

Oh no, not again!

The Eighth Commandment. What it forbids. False Testimony, Rash Judgment, Lies, Calumny, Detraction, and Talebearing—Obligation of Restitution. What the Eighth Commandment commands.

Q. What is the Eighth Commandment?


A. The Eighth Commandment is “Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor.”

The next sin which we speak of—that of telling lies— is one against which I am particularly anxious to warn you, both because it is, unhappily, very common among children, and because it is the root of many other vices. To tell a lie, is to say what we believe to be untrue. If we believe that we are speaking the truth, and happen to be mistaken, it is not a lie; on the other hand, if we say what we believe to be false, and it turns out to be true, it is really a lie in the sight of God.

All lies are sinful, because they are all directly opposed to Divine Truth, which is one of the most admirable Perfections of the Almighty. Moreover, they are an abuse of that most excellent gift of speech, which God has given us to enable us to make our thoughts known to our fellow-men; whereas the liar uses his speech to conceal his thoughts and deceive his neighbor. But though all lies are sinful, they are not all equally sinful; some are much more grievous than others.

The worst lie of all is that which is told in confession by him who conceals a sin, for such a lie is a sacrilegious lie, a lie told to God himself, and is a profanation of a holy Sacrament. The lie next in guilt is that which is told to injure our neighbor’s character; for example, when a person gives false testimony in a court of justice, or when he spreads abroad calumnies against his neighbor, accusing him of crimes which he has never committed. Such lies are called malicious lies, because they are told through malice on purpose to injure others, and they are very grievous sins.

But there are other lies which are much less in guilt, namely, lies of excuse and lies of jest. These lies are sometimes called by foolish people white lies, as if that which is black in its very nature could ever become white. It is true that they may not cause our neighbor any injury, but still they are displeasing to God and hurtful to the soul. They displease God, because he is the very Truth, and as the Scripture says, “Lying lips are an abomination to the Lord” (Prov. xii. 22). They are hurtful to the soul, not only on account of the wound they inflict upon it, but also because a habit of lying is thereby formed, which is the foundation of many vices.

If a child is a habitual liar, depend upon it that, if not cured of this vice in time, he will grow up both a hypocrite and a thief, for truth is the twin sister of candor and honesty. “Show me a liar,” says the proverb, “and I will show you a thief.” Moreover, to tell a lie to excuse yourself is an act of cowardice, and shows a certain weakness of character and principle, which may well cause us to fear that so feeble and timid a soul will soon fall a prey to its evil passions and the temptations of the devil. Be always, then, my dear children, most exact in speaking the truth, and pray to God to give you a great love of this excellent virtue which is so pleasing to him. Remember that if you love and always speak the truth, you are in a special manner the children of God, who is the Divine Truth.

On the contrary, if you have a habit of lying, you are the children of the devil, who is, as our Blessed Lord says, a liar and the father of lies (John viii, 44). You must not tell the smallest lie even to save the whole world, for it is better that the world should be destroyed than that God should be offended. Much less, then, should you tell a lie to save yourself from a scolding or a beating, which are soon over, and moreover, are intended for your good. If you have done wrong, be sorry for it and own it, then you are soon forgiven both by God and your parents; whereas if you try to hide it by a lie, you are guilty of a fresh sin, and one often much greater than the fault you first committed.

Listen to these two lines of one of our own poets on this subject; they are well worth remembering—

“Dare to be true, nothing can need a lie;
The sin that needs it most grows two thereby.” -George Herbert

Yes, dare to be true. Be brave enough to speak the truth, for it is an act of true courage. Your parents or teachers may punish you, but they will respect and trust you, the Saints and Angels will look down on you with approval, God will hear and will reward you. Nothing can need a lie, because nothing can excuse it. Moreover the sin you have committed, and that seems to need it most, grows two thereby, since you offend God doubly, and thus make it far more difficult to obtain his pardon.

And depend upon it, sooner or later the liar will be found out in his lies, for, as the proverb says, “truth will out.” In conclusion, what is more contemptible than the character of a liar, whose word is never taken, whose denials are never believed, whose promises are never trusted? On the contrary, what is more noble, what more amiable, than the character of a child who is always candid, truthful, and sincere? Such a one, wherever he goes, carries with him the esteem, the confidence, the respect of every one.

The Bishop and the Soldiers

It is related in Church History that upon one occasion the emperor Maximinian, a cruel persecutor of the faithful, despatched a troop of soldiers to apprehend and cast into prison Antony, the venerable Bishop of Nicomedia. It happened that, without knowing it, they came to the house of the holy Bishop, and being hungry, knocked at the door and begged for some refreshment. He received them with great kindness, invited them to sit down at table, and set before them such food as he had at his disposal.

When the meal was ended, the soldiers entered upon the subject of their mission, and requested him to inform them where they could meet with the Bishop Antony. “He is here before you,” replied the Saint. The soldiers, full of gratitude for his generous hospitality, declared that they would never lay hands upon him, but would report to the emperor that they had not been able to find him.

“God forbid,” replied the Saint, “that I should save my life by becoming a party to a lie. I would rather die a thousand times than that you should offend Almighty God.” So saying, he gave himself into their hands, and was conducted to prison.—Catechisme de Perseverance.

Death Rather Than A Lie

During the great French Kevolution, at the end of last century, the Catholic churches were pillaged throughout the country, and closed for public worship. The priests also were proscribed, and forced to conceal themselves in private houses, or even to seek shelter in the thickets of the forests or in the caves and fastnesses of the mountains. It happened about this time that a young girl, named Magdalen Larralde, of the village of Sare, on the borders of Spain, fearing to have recourse to her own parish priest in his place of concealment, was wont to cross the mountains whenever she desired to approach the Sacraments, in order to seek spiritual assistance from the Capuchin Fathers at Vera, on the Spanish side of the Pyrennees.

One day, on returning from the convent, she fell in with an outpost of the French army, which was then stationed along the frontier, in consequence of the war which raged between the two countries. The soldiers immediately seized her as a spy, and dragged her before the general, who questioned her as to the object of her presence in Spain. Magdalen answered simply and without a moment’s hesitation that she had been to confession.

The officer, touched by her youth and innocent bearing, and anxious, if possible, to save her, quickly replied, “Unfortunate woman, do not say that, for it will be your sentence of death. Say, rather, that the advance of the French troops frightened you, and drove you to seek shelter on Spanish ground.”

“But then I should say what would not be true,” answered the girl, “and I would rather die a thousand times than offend God by telling a lie.” In vain did the general urge and solicit her to yield; her firmness never gave way, and she was conducted before the tribunal at St. Jean de Luz. Before her judges, Magdalen again, with unflinching courage, refused to save her life by a lie. She was, therefore, condemned to the guillotine, and, as she walked to the place of execution, her step never faltered, and she ceased not to invoke the assistance of God, chanting aloud the Salve Regina in honor of the Queen of Heaven. —The Month.

The Imposter Struck Dead

St. James, Bishop of Nisibis, was one day travelling through the country, when he was accosted by a beggar who appeared to be in deep distress. On approaching the Saint he implored him with earnest supplications to bestow upon him an alms to enable him to bury his companion, who, as he said, had just expired by the roadside. The holy Bishop readily gave him what he asked, and went on his way praying earnestly for the soul of the deceased.

The beggar, laughing at the thought of having succeeded so easily in imposing upon the Saint, meanwhile ran back to his companion, whom he had left lying upon the ground at a little distance, pretending to be dead. On coming to the spot he called out to him to get up, as the trick had been successful, but he received no answer. He approached nearer, and took his companion by the hand in order to arouse him, but what was his horror at finding that he was really dead!

Immediately with loud cries and lamentation he ran after the Saint, and, throwing himself on his knees before him, acknowledged the deceit which they had practised, and implored his pardon and intercession. The servant of God having first reproved him for his sin, betook himself to prayer, and the unhappy man, who had provoked God to deprive him of life, was restored at the prayers of the Saint and became a sincere penitent.
—Butler’s Saints’ Lives

If those three examples weren’t enough on the sin of lying, how about one from a secular source? Here are the “Glimmer Twins” and the gang from their 1978 album singing about the problem of prevarication,

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Asia On Our Minds (Music for Mondays)

Image credit: Jakub Hałun

Image credit: Jakub Hałun

In this edition of MfM, we showcase some songs from mega-hit artists and from one-hit wonders. Superstars and no-name acts too. It’s all a big smorgasbord but all related to the posts we’ve been doing here lately. Last Saturday’s post on John C.H. Wu, picked up the journey were Wu Li left off. And yesterday the story of Lou Tseng-Tsiang hit the stands, as well as Allison’s post on the readings. And today, Allison’s prayer for a friend, who doesn’t even know she has a friend named Allison. [Read more…]

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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