Church Music: sacred and… not so much

I received the latest issue of Sacred Music today.  May I recommend that you subscribe?  HERE  There is so much good, artistic and sacred music that we could use in our liturgical worship.  Alas, so much of what we hear is unworthy of both occasion and place.

Speaking of lousy music in church, I received this from a reader.  It isn’t often that you see a parody song actually written out.

15_08_31 I am the bread of life verse

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. ppb says:

    Very entertaining parody! One of the ironies of this supposedly folksy, popular idiom is that it’s too rhythmically and melodically complex for congregational singing. You might need a percussionist who specializes in interpreting Bartok or Morton Feldman in order to figure this out!

  2. Scott W. says:

    Someone should notate “Make Me a Channel of Your Peace” and stick “cha-cha-cha!” between the phrases.

    Make me a channel of your peace, cha cha cha!
    Where there is hatred let me bring your love, cha cha cha!

    And so on.

  3. Cantor says:

    Scott W.: Thank you! Finally – written notation for our maraccas section!

  4. Southern Baron says:

    In my old parish, which juggled quite a lot of sensibilities perhaps as well as possible, I sang in the choir. We sang a good dose of Palestrina; we also sang a good dose of this stuff. Sometimes within the same Mass. Guess whose meter was harder to count.

  5. Muv says:

    Scott W, here is the jazzed up version of “Make me a channel of your peace.” Different words, but the same tune in disguise. Fab backing band.

  6. TC says:

    A member at Catholic Answers forums said that some parish was holding a “ban a hymn” fundraiser, one could bid to have a hymn banned for a year. Would that this fundraiser catches on all over!

    If I had the money I’d put in a bid to ban anything that is in copyright.

    [GREAT idea! I’d want to make the list, however.]

    Fr. Z's Gold Star Award

  7. The Cobbler says:

    If we’re going to post all the funny Catholic things making their way around Facebook now, then let’s not pass on clerical Star Wars parody:

    Hey, here’s one that’s apropos in this comment thread:
    “You wanna buy some Gather hymnals?”
    “*waves hand* You don’t want to sell me Gather hymnals.”
    “I don’t want to sell you gather hymnals.”
    “You want to go home and rethink your life.”
    “I’m going to go home and rethink my life.”

  8. capchoirgirl says:

    Scott W.–Ha!

  9. RichR says:

    I love it when parish choirs sing “Sing a New Song Unto the Lord” week after week. Really shows you how much people think about the words they’re singing.

  10. RichR says:

    Oh yeah, and for those parishes where half the parish loves Latin and the other half loves Latin chant, there’s songs like this:

  11. RichR says:

    Oops, I mean half the parish loves Marty Haugen and the other half loves Latin

  12. benedetta says:

    When you’re in the mood to sing a parody, it certainly is nice to have the score in front of you!

  13. mburn16 says:

    Hmm. I find myself alone in a strange land. “I am the Bread of Life” is actually probably in the easier half of hymns to sing for me. Probably among the more theologically sound hymns too, since it comes almost entirely from direct scriptural quotes.

    There’s certainly far worse to be had.

  14. Scott W. says:

    Probably among the more theologically sound hymns too, since it comes almost entirely from direct scriptural quotes

    One can set theologically sound lyrics to death metal music if one really wanted to; it doesn’t make it appropriate for worship. The problem with these hymns is that they are set to the background of sappy, effeminate, secular-therapeutic culture and the music itself in spite of the correct lyrics have a trivializing effect.

  15. APX says:

    You know that wonderful hymn “Sing a New Church into Being”? I’m sure many of you remember it from the entrance hymn for that Giant Puppet Mass thing. I had no idea the tune is an actual traditional hymn. The first time they sang it at our Latin Mass I started to feel a sense of panic that our organist was playing the wrong hymn. Now when they sing it, I have images of giant puppets racing through my imagination and have to resist singing “Sing a new church into being”. A great April Fool’s joke, but not for regular Mass.

  16. APX says:


    You’re likely not singing the hymn how it’s written. It has 32nd notes in it! We didn’t see 32nd notes in our music until the very end of grade 12 band! And I’m an oboist! All we see is black on a bit of white paper!

  17. WYMiriam says:

    Does anyone else here remember the “Society for a Moratorium on the Music of Marty Haugen and David Haas” [SMMMHDH]? (I signed up for membership as soon as I saw the name of it.) :-)

    Mburn16, much as I’d like to agree with you on “I Am the Bread of Life” and its use of Scripture as a basis for the lyrics, I can’t any more. Suzanne Toolan’s original lyrics included the line “No one can come to me unless the Father draw him.” Her song was emasculated (I think perhaps in the mid-1980s) and now this line reads “no one can come to me unless the Father beckon” — it’s not entirely politically correct because of that pesky word “Father”! — but it is most certainly no longer scriptural. “Drawing” someone to oneself and “beckoning” to someone are two entirely different concepts and the latter destroys the meaning of what Jesus said.

    On the other hand, mburn16, there is indeed “far worse to be had” in the matter of music sung at Mass. One of my sisters alerted me to this [pagan] thing that was sung once at her parish:

  18. VeritasVereVincet says:

    It has cue notes and ties because they put all five verses under the same line of music to save space. I’m more annoyed that the PC police mutilated it by changing all the “he”s and “him”s to “you”s.

    One can set theologically sound lyrics to death metal music if one really wanted to; it doesn’t make it appropriate for worship.

    It does make it pretty funny though.

  19. WYMiriam says:

    (my computer finally let me see the whole score, and it makes me laugh to see the last five bars!! I can sing them!!)

  20. Minister Itinerans says:

    It would be impressive — and amusing — to see someone try to write a fugue with this tune as the subject.

  21. RafqasRoad says:

    I attended our eveni’ng mass this Sunday past and the recessional hymn (whose name escapes me, so I am counting on the more observant among the readership to help me out here) could have been swapped out for ‘Golden Brown’ by the Stranglers right down to the 5/4 time signature. Is it a sin to sing the words of the latter quietly in protest with prayed appologies to our Lord in the Tabernacle beforehand? Also, the Power of Your Love featured in the same song lineup.Now we need a parody of ‘On Eagles’ Wings’; is Fr. Z., or another equally talented librettist up to the challenge? I’ll leave off here before I risk making an ass of myself. Backs out of the room quietly singing ‘Dance, dance wherever you may be…’

    Now this is good English Hymnity!!!

    How my soul aches for the psalms to be presented this way at Mass even once. If the English can get it so right and by extension the Anglican Use and Anglican Ordinariate of the Catholic Church, why not the NO??? Oh what could be but isn’t!

  22. JonPatrick says:

    Yes Anglican Chant can be wonderful – if only we had that instead of the insipid stuff that passes for chant in most Ordinary Form masses.

  23. BigRed says:

    Last Easter our Communion hymn was “Lord of the Dance”, a song I detest anywhere in the liturgy but find its use at Communion just unspeakable. When I spoke to my pastor about this he put it all on the choices the music minister makes and pastor implied he did not care to override the MM!!!???. I have become testy over his offhand, casual attitude on this.

  24. mysticalrose says:

    I would vote to ban Behold the Lamb (Show tunes anyone?!) and Servant Song (clearly designed to lull you asleep at the Offertory) if I had the choice. The former has literally been sung in every parish often since. I. was. born. Enough already!

  25. Susan G says:


    I can’t sing songs like this at all. Anything where the lyrics want the congregation to sing in the voice of God rub me the wrong way. Song during mass, should be prayer- and I do not pray in the voice of Christ. The only other time, apart from the reading of Sacred Scripture that words are spoken in the voice of Christ are at the Consecration- and that is by the priest alone in personae Christi.

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