Pick A Good Song For The Fourth

dotCommonweal wades into open book territory with a “liturgy post” on a topic discussed here before: the music selections at Mass on or near a national holiday. In a very posse-like way, two things have happened. Comments are now into the 30’s, quite high for that web page. Also, the thread has lurched into variations on the theme of how bad the St Louis Jesuits are. (As a side note, PDQ Bach could do wonders with that theme.)

Michael Iafrate at catholicanarchy.org approves of my suggestion on that thread; he blogged about it last year, Lloyd Stone’s 1934 text that is set to Finland’s national anthem:

This is my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for lands afar and mine.
This is my home, the country where my heart is;
Here are my hopes, my dreams, my sacred shrine.
But other hearts in other lands are beating,
With hopes and dreams as true and high as mine.

My country’s skies are bluer than the ocean,
And sunlight beams on cloverleaf and pine.
But other lands have sunlight too and clover,
And skies are everywhere as blue as mine.
Oh hear my song, O God of all the nations,
A song of peace for their land and for mine.

A bride once requested this hymn at her wedding. What do you think of that?

I will confess I’ve delegated the music for tomorrow morning’s Mass to our organist and  one of our better cantors. This hymn isn’t in our books, so they’ll probably use “America the Beautiful” for the end of Mass instead.

Just as an aside, when I visited the children’s ward at my Tuesday night ministry, I asked them the significance of tomorrow’s holiday. One child knew tomorrow as the “Fourth of July,” and two kids guessed that this was significant because it was Jesus’ birthday. One child knew the words to the national anthem pretty well, though. I was impressed. My chief patriotic song of the session was this classic. Wikipedia tells this tale:

Its lyrics were written by Woody Guthrie in 1940 on an existing melody, in response to Irving Berlin’s “God Bless America,” which Guthrie considered unrealistic and complacent. Tired of hearing Kate Smith sing it on the radio, he wrote a response originally called “God Blessed America for Me”. Guthrie varied the lyrics over time, sometimes including more overtly political verses than appear in recordings or publications.

Whatever song you sing tomorrow, be you patriot or radical, celebrate the freedom God has blessed for us. Even if you aren’t an American, please know that our beating hearts share with your beating hearts hopes and dreams for freedom and goodness.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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4 Responses to Pick A Good Song For The Fourth

  1. Gavin says:

    I really don’t like patriotic hymns at Mass. On the other hand, people who pick songs such as “let there be peace on earth” for patriotic days seem to be deliberately avoiding patriotic occasions. My stance is that I pick music that corresponds with the readings and propers. Not for other occasions. For preludes/postludes, I don’t have a problem with playing patriotic music, so long as we’re talking the actual DAY! July 1 is NOT any special holiday, for example. If Mass falls on July 4, September 11, whatever, I’ll play a patriotic piece before or after Mass. And if I really wanted to use a patriotic hymn, the only one I’d use (besides a general “yay countries!” song like you posted) is “America”. Nothing else is actually a hymn… it’s just ABOUT America (You will never hear me play “America the Beautiful”).

    That isn’t in the GIRM, but it should be! :P Have a good Independence Day!

  2. Peter Parley says:

    I guess you’d have to put me down as a patriot and a radical — really, are the two in opposition?

    Happy Fourth!

  3. Talmida says:

    If you were attending mass in England, would you sing along with God Bless the Queen (“send her victorious, happy and glorious, long to reign over us…”)? If you were attending mass in Canada last weekend and told to turn to page XYZ of your hymnal and sing O Canada (“God keep our land glorious and free..”), would you have participated? Would you have felt excluded?

    I think singing patriotic hymns might well make Catholics from out of country feel like strangers in a building where they ought to feel at home.

    That being said, it’s a lot of fun to belt out O Canada in a high-roofed church with a big crowd of people who only seem to raise their voices on Canada Day and Christmas. Of course the difficulty is in getting them to follow along with the words in the hymnal instead of singing the Hockey Night in Canada bilingual version.


    Happy Fourth, neighbours — er, neighbors.

  4. “Lift Every Voice and Sing” is a good one, too. “America the Beautiful” only as a recessional and only as all verses, so we love mercy more than life. No “God Bless America” or “God Bless the USA” because they aren’t really prayers or hymns, they are actually jingoistic showtunes.

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