I would like to suggest churches throw away the weird, impossible-to-sing but seemingly liturgically correct songs in favor of something classic or simple or just plain beautiful. And dare I even suggest that maybe we start listening to what’s going on in Christian music circles in general — not just Catholic circles — to hear the really great new spiritual music that’s out there. Some of it is jaw-droppingly inspiring. I’ve got a whole playlist of it, if you want to come over and listen. Stuff that brings me to tears every time I hear it, and other stuff that fills me with a come-and-get-me-God kind of conviction. Good stuff. Unfortunately, most Catholics are still struggling with that last verse of “Lord You Give the Great Commission,” so they never get to Laura Story’s “Blessings.”
And although this will send some progressive or contemporary folks into convulsions, how about we pull out one of those really basic old standards from days gone by. The ones even little kids can sing because they’re so easy; the ones older Catholics can sing because they’re engrained in our DNA: “Holy God We Praise Thy Name,” “Hail Holy Queen,” “Immaculate Mary,” “Praise to the Lord.” I dare you. Put one of those into rotation next week and stand back and be amazed at how many people will suddenly start singing. Why? Because they know the songs, because they don’t have to be opera divas to hit the notes, and because sometimes it’s just nice to belt out “How Great Thou Art.”
“Praise to the Lord” is a staple at my parish in Queens, along with “O God Beyond All Praising,” which has become, it seems, our default recessional. I love the second verse:
Then hear, O gracious Savior,
accept the love we bring,
that we who know your favor
may serve you as our king;
and whether our tomorrows
be filled with good or ill,
we’II triumph through our sorrows
and rise to bless you still:
to marvel at your beauty
and glory in your ways,
and make a joyful duty
our sacrifice of praise.
But this weekend, I heard something haunting and wonderful: “Bless the Lord, O My Soul” by Ippolitov-Ivanov.
It was sung at our 11:30 choir Mass during the offertory. Turns out, it is a gift from the East: a little ditty composed for the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom.
Give a listen, below.