Because most philosophies that frown on reproduction don't survive.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018

All I Ask

We are in the midst of the crazy season here, which means theater. I just finished my turn as Peggy Grant in our community theater's production of The Front Page, and this weekend my three oldest are participating in the local parochial school's night of scenes. Friday is a two-show day, which is its own form of chaos, and I've compounded that by accepting a request to sing at a wedding on Friday afternoon.

Now, wedding singing is not actually stressful. You cantor the psalm and the alleluia, you sing hymns chosen by the bride and groom, an Ave Maria if they want to light a candle to Mary. And you get to watch a wedding which has no emotional involvement for you, to admire the dresses freely, and to mist up at the vows simply because marriage is a beautiful thing. And all of this from the peace and remove of the choir loft. All in all, I enjoy it.

And yet. Here is a hymn selected for this Friday's wedding, freely chosen, I assume, by the bride and groom.
Refrain: All I ask of you is forever to remember me as loving you. 
V1. Deep the joy of being together in one heart and for me, that's just where it is. 
V2. As we make our way through all the joys and pain, can we sense our younger, truer selves? 
V3. Someone will be calling you to be there for a while. Can you hear their cry from deep within? 
V4. Laughter, joy, and presence: the only gifts you are! Have you time? I'd like to be with you. 
V5. Persons come into the fiber of our lives and then their shadows fade and disappear. But...
 This, a musical commemoration of the Last Supper, is "All I Ask of You" by Gregory Norbet, OSB, and the monks of Weston Priory, not to be confused with the infinitely more tuneful and emotionally compelling song of the same name by Andrew Lloyd Webber, OBE. The Right Honourable The Lord Lloyd-Webber, Kt, however, not having chosen a vocation that compels him to the service of God, makes no pretense about crafting music suitable for use in the liturgy of the Mass. Mr. Norbet, a Benedictine at the time of the writing of this song, must be held to a higher standard.

The guidelines for wedding music at our parish are: "With all due respect to other styles of musical expression, only liturgically appropriate music may be used at weddings. Popular and secular music, such as Broadway, film music, top 40 songs, and taped music (previously recorded music) are not appropriate for liturgical use in Church during the wedding ceremony." What then, makes this particular song liturgically appropriate? The tune is not distinguished, and the lyrics cross the line from banal to "bad Google translate from Japanese anime theme song".  And yet: it is printed in a missalette compiled by Oregon Catholic Press, an accepted source in our diocese for worship aids.

So we must search for responsibility higher up. What editor at OCP listened to this hymn, read the words, and thought, "This is a shoe-in for Catholic worship! Parishes will certainly benefit from having this hymn in our collection, and the words express an accurate and suitable expression of our Catholic beliefs"? Last year's editor, apparently; All I Ask of You is not included in the 2019 Breaking Bread missalette, soon to be found in the pews of our parish. However, our bride and groom are getting married before Advent, when the old missalette is still in force. And All I Ask of You is #490 in the 2017-2018 Breaking Bread. Perhaps OCP has turned over their music editor, and may the tenure of the new tastemaker of Catholic liturgy be orthodox and appropriate.

To drill down to the level of personal responsibility: why am I, the person on the spot from whose throat the lyrics will be issuing, singing this dreck? To be succinct: because I'm being paid to do it. The song is not openly heretical and has been approved, I assume, by our music director and our priest. The bride and groom must like it at some level, and it won't invalidate their marriage. I will register a protest to our music minister that this song should be on our list of acceptable wedding hymns. All I can do otherwise is to offer it as a sacrifice for the bride and groom and to ask God that their marital love will not be limited to the confines of their "younger, truer selves".


J.C. said...

Get thee, and your family, to a Latin Mass!!! Regularly and as soon as possible. It will absolutely change your lives. Peace.

mandamum said...

I think some (most?) of us are called to stay and become well-modulated voices for doing things properly in the Ordinary Form.

That's good news if OCP has turned, or is turning, a corner - hooray!

Agnes said...

Oh dear. This made me laugh in spite of sympathizing with your predicament. Bad Google translate from anime theme song indeed - and the Benedictine monk being held to a higher standard that Andrew Lloyd-Webber...

In my country, church music guidelines are both more strict and more lax in some sense. We don't have a guideline that lists all the music suitable - but at least, no one is even thinking of using blatantly secular music. At the same time, there are many accepted songs whose lyrics are just so much nonsense if you actually listen to it more than preceiving a string of moving and soulful words.