Paul Nichols‘ illustration notwithstanding, sometimes the critics of contemporary music can be a bit cartoonish themselves.
In surfing the various conservative sites that just can’t bear to link to the source material, I ran across a critique of “Gather Us In” that struck me as a limp and arbitrary imitation of fisking. Complaining about the emphasis on the first person reference in singing, Bear-i-tone writes:
Here we have the first mention of the true subject of this song: Us. There are 27 or 28 mentions of “we” “our” or “us”. By comparison there are seven mentions of “you” and “your” which is presumably God. Or Edison.
Almost as over-indulged as the complaints about the Mass of Creation are the complaints about the improper focus in contemporary hymnody. The Voice of God complaint has pretty much been scuttled as a serious argument (here, among other places), as we find a good bit of it in the Lectionary: psalms, gospel acclamation verses, and the antiphons.
Some traditional-leaning Catholics have to find something on which to hang a complaint, so the logical approach seems to be to attack prayers of petition, out of context, of course.
For whatever other problems the text of “Gather Us In” may have, it is at root, a prayer of petition. The assembly asks God to do several things in context of the Eucharistic gathering. Do conservatives have a problem with asking God for stuff? If the four-to-one ratio is bothersome, let’s look at a traditional classic. Anybody recognize these words?
- I confess to almighty God,
- and to you, my brothers and sisters,
- that I have sinned through my own fault,
- in my thoughts and in my words,
- in what I have done, and in what I have failed to do;
- and I ask blessed Mary, ever virgin,
- all the angels and saints,
- and you, my brothers and sisters,
- to pray for me to the Lord our God.
Word count: God (2), non-Divine persons and their qualities (13).
Are twenty-seven mentions of “we” or “our” or “us” too many for one part of the Mass? Don’t go near the Roman Canon. Would you believe it has forty? If you count the third-person references to other earthbound people (and I exclude the long lists of saints) the actual count of non-Divine persons or references is closer to fifty.
Watch out what you sing and pray for at a Catholic Mass. It may come back to bite you later.