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Hymns or Heresy?

February 28, AD2016 16 Comments

Emily - chant

This will be short and sweet. Yours truly is weary of church songs, masquerading as hymns, portraying something other than Church teaching. It’s bad enough that every Tom, Dick, and Harriet wants to see himself (herself) as a composer, leaving us with what amounts to a roller coaster ride up and down the scale. Vapid words, loosely connected in some vague way to scripture, mostly out of context,  and unpoetic poetry are like clanging cymbals in my ears.

Although I am only mildly musical,  my husband describes my voice as ‘a good voice for blending with others’ , I do have a hearing ear. Tempo, imagery, and melody do matter but, what matters more is accurate adherence to scripture, dogma, and faith.  Adding synthesized beats, twirling and whirling through the octaves, and being ‘unique’ does not a hymn make. What it does is create a song, albeit not a very good one, which fails the faith test.

Mere Songs or Real Hymns?

There are many such songs in our hymnals today. They prance around,  pretending to be hymns but are really only annoying songs. They are in our pews because of a tacit sin of omission. It goes something like this. The Church asks potential hymns to have the approval of the diocesan bishop. Only then should they appear in our hymnals.

What happens, instead, is the cart is put before the horse. Creative juices flow within the breast of an aspiring music minister and a song is born. This song (not hymn) is added to the ‘music issue’ and makes its grand entrance. The bishop isn’t told, nor does he notice, so there is no objection to this melodious piece of heresy. Voila! Inferred approval is invoked and a new pseudo-hymn is born. Consequently, the people, gnashing their teeth, are bound to sing or to stand by, silently praying for relief.

Below you will find one such song. In the past, we’ve been forced to sing about being Christ for one another, a loosely applicable notion given that we are to lead Christ-like lives. But making the jump from that to actually being the Bread of Life, broken and shared, is just too much. The allusion to the Eucharistic Sacrifice just brings my voice to a screeching halt.

Singing Heresy

Words have meaning and power; within the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it’s vital that composers adhere to Church teaching. Some concepts are simply not true nor are they acceptable. It’s one thing to dislike a song as a matter of taste; it’s quite another when a hymn fails to follow Truth.

Which songs cause you to grind your teeth? Is it a matter of taste or theology? Weigh in by commenting below.

O Lord, please spare us and bring us back to the hymns of old. If that can’t be done, won’t you please at least bring back faithful, God-centered hymns? Amen!

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 I Myself Am the Bread of Life


I myself am the bread of life.

You and I are the bread of life.

Taken and blessed, broken and shared by Christ

That the world might live.

Verse 1

This bread is spirit, gift of the Maker’s love,

and we who share it know that we can be one:

a living sign of God in Christ.


Verse 2

Here is God’s kingdom given to us as food.

This is our body, this is our blood:

a living sign of God in Christ.


Verse 3

Lives broken open, stories shared aloud,

Become a banquet, a shelter for the world:

a living sign of God in Christ.


Rory Cooney

© 1987, North American Liturgy Resources, Published by OCP Publications

Photography: See our Photographers page.

About the Author:

Birgit Jones is a ‘slightly 60,’ passionately pro-life, cradle Catholic. She and her Catholic convert husband, Rick, have been married for 40+ years. Frequent visits from their four adult children and 9 living grandchildren eliminate any fear of an empty nest. Birgit can also be found on her personal blog Designs by Birgit and her Facebook fan page Designs by Birgit where she shares the pro-life memes she creates.

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