The Human to Angel Conduit

I noticed a comment on a social media thread seeking musical suggestions for the funeral of an infant:

I don’t quite get a song about angels for this kind of service, though it’s a lovely hymn. Angels are an entirely separate order of creation from human beings; despite the powerful draw of lore of popular culture (e.g, the character Clarence in It’s A Wonderful Life), human souls do not become angels in heaven, and I am not sure I’d want to encourage equivocation on that point.

The next comment included:

I doubt that anyone thinks a human soul could *become*
an angel, I’ve never heard that suggested.

Which suggests that one church person isn’t at all connected with popular culture of the past century or so. The premise of the Capra flick repeats often in movies of lesser vintage and quality.

On the other hand, at least one Christian minister makes a case for it here.

I suspect that the pre-Clarence popular image of angels goes back centuries. At least to Raphael. It makes the angel a bit more palatable to people than the Biblical reality that they invoked fear and concern.

I once worked with an associate pastor who was devoted to angelology. He had more bits of information about those beings than I thought were possible. He definitely did not advocate for the baby look.

Rolling back to the idea of funerals and their music, one of the superior points of post-conciliar reform is that infants now merit a funeral Mass. The liturgy has a particular option for a Psalm they don’t offer for “adult” funerals, the 148th, and an alternate text for the Song of Farewell:

I know that my Redeemer lives:
on the last day I shall rise again.

R. And in my flesh I shall see God


R. On the last day I shall rise again.

I shall see him myself, face to face;
and my own eyes shall behold my Savior. R.

Within my heart I hope I cherish:
that in my flesh I shall see God. R.

I find it interesting that the more conservative musicians in Catholicism run to hymns as a given for the celebration of Mass. Not the Psalms, like the 42nd, or the 134th. My thinking is that automatic selections like “O Sanctissima” or “Adoro Te” run the risk of programming music as decoration–muzak, if you will–for the setting of more important stuff.

And hymns, if one must choose metered music, there certainly must be some text in the new Office for the Dead to pick at.

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
This entry was posted in Liturgical Music, Order of Christian Funerals. Bookmark the permalink.

1 Response to The Human to Angel Conduit

  1. Liam says:

    FWIW, a number of the folks in that thread would prefer Requiem Propers over hymns as “given for the celebration of Mass”….

    For psalms: don’t forget Psalm 138…

    The New Yorker celebrated St Valentine’s Day yesterday by running “I’m A Cherub and I Look Nothing Like A Fat Little Baby”, the final sentence of which is: “So, by all means, call the next baby you encounter “cherubic.” Just, when you do, be sure you mean a biblically accurate four-faced creature with flaming eye wheels.”

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s