The Best of Hymns, The Worst of Hymns

First Things reenters the liturgical music fray today with its Ten Best Hymns. It’s a follow up piece to the Ten Worst.

Note they confine their affirmation to “hymns only, and not anthems, hymns being defined as those sacred songs that are written in poetic meter.” They miss the fact that in their first post, nine of the ten pieces listed are actually in the traditional Catholic form of propers. In other words, not hymns.

Note also the choices of the voters: mostly American choices in the first list; only two in the second. Should we question the patriotism of the First Things staff? Or their America-centric perspective? Or the general embitterment of the American Right?

That said, good catch on today’s numbers three and four, even if these were from the British Isles. We did #3 last week at the Loras College Conference for Thursday’s morning prayer.


About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in the Pacific Northwest, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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10 Responses to The Best of Hymns, The Worst of Hymns

  1. Todd, good point that did require distinction. But, I can’t concede that 9/10 of the “worst” can be deemed legit propers. Just as with the Psalter, such suitable song’s text should adhere fairly closely to the exact proper’s, while paraphrases place the song as the 4th option in licit use. Philosophically, I’m comfortable with endorsing a paraphrased “proper” over an unrelated hymntext, all other considerations being equal.
    When I’m given permiision to use two arms from my doc, I’ll finish my article at Cafe that will, hopefully, clarify my own methods of choosing repertoire.

  2. Liam says:

    As I noted in the original hit-seeking column, I had a big problem with their failure to consider the texts on their own merits, and particularly the texts that closely hew to Scriptural psalms and canticles cannot be in the “worst” level.

  3. Eb Hurley says:

    A Deacon taught us that a hymn/song that is “Worst Hymn” to one could be deeply meaningful and uplifting another at the same Mass. This simple connection makes it easier to sing songs that annoy us.

    • Liam says:

      Of course, by the same reasoning, that means we should also understand that songs that may be deeply meaningful and uplifting to us could interfere with the worship of another at Mass.

      • Mike says:

        Much like homilies. Should we then stop priests from preaching? I mean generally, of course: there are a few who should go further and just stop talking. ;-)

      • Liam says:

        Homilies are required on Sundays and solemnities.

        Hymns are not required.

        Maybe there’s a difference in that.

  4. Daria says:

    Just checked out the “worst” list, and had to comment: did you notice how “Here I am, Lord” is sounds like a slow motion version of the old Brady Bunch theme?

  5. Kathy M. says:

    I just listened to the songs on the “best” list. I haven’t looked at the worst list. I generally disagree with the folks who disparage modern church music and I don’t usually sympathize with the editorial slant of First Things. But my reaction to the best list was: wow, I love (most of) these hymns. What gorgeous music. There’s probably a lesson in that. It’s good to remember we have things we love in common, regardless of political spectrum.

  6. Jimmy Mac says:

    I’ll give you bad hymns —-

    (Hint: they are NOT recommended by the American Diabetes Association)

    Immaculate Mary
    On This Day O Beautiful Mother
    Bring Flowers of the Rarest
    Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above
    All Hail to You, Mary

    Sorry, but my blood sugar level is already too high to include any more of this kind of treacle.

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