Tuesday, March 07, 2017

Singing My Way Through Catholicism


Wednesday March 8  this year marks the 64th    anniversary of my baptism at the Church of St John the Evangelist in 1953.

Part of Catholic culture at the time of my birth was to name children after great saints This was my parents choice rather than dedicate me to Troy Donahue or even "Bing Crosby" one of my father's idols. Family lore tells that I was entitled to be called "Alexander" in the custom of my father and grandfather as a first born son. However,Irish Catholicism won the day and I was named in honour of St Anthony (of Padua) and St Gerard (Majella). Both these men have been associated with working among the poor and being pretty passionate about most things in  life except sex.. Pity most of the popular images of such men portray them as insipid blokes with total disinterest in the world around them.

My parents initiated me into a Catholicism that continues to be a core community of faith and challenge in my life. At the heart of this community are relationships that have nurtured and sustained my questions, my passions and my spirituality. Finding these relationships has been a life long journey from the Irish clericalism that dominated my Primary education through the machismo of life at a Christian Brothers College listed as one of Catholic Institutions with more than 20 claims of child sexual abuse,   and finally the exposure to a global vision in a community of Capuchin Friars.

This anniversary also falls on International Women's Day. I acknowledge the women in my family history, those who educated me, my friends and work colleagues. My women mentors in faith have included  Margaret Oats, "Mum" Shirl and, Dorothy Day.

I have been Catholic across three countries three states, four Archdioceses one religious order, numerous professional associations, groups and everything Catholic!!!

I remain in the Church because I cannot be elsewhere. I have a right by baptism to membership and participation in this community. Its ambiguity and its weakness are part of my reality and give me a context for personal conversion and commitment to maturity.

Peak experiences include:
  • Suffering Catholic Trauma at my first communion mass with the anxiety of the host getting stuck in the roof of my mouth
  • Endless childhood confessions admitting to sins I could barely pronounce
  • Induction into the Guild of St Stephen by the famous Guilford Young at our first National Conference for Altar Boys (as we were in those days !!)in 1964.
  • Taking vows of poverty chastity and obedience  with the Capuchin Friars and then discovering that two  out of three wasn't a pass.
  • Falling in love with Bing Crosby instead of Julie Andrews
To celebrate this anniversary I have compiled a list of 64  hymns and bits of religious music  that have influenced my faith and spirituality across a lifetime. The choice has been partly limited by the availability of the music on youtube and an attempt to cover at least every decade of the rosary of my life.I chose an alphabetical ordering as this offers a great mix of eras and tastes as well as being an easy reference. As with living in reality there may be the odd broken link despite my best efforts to ensure order and success.

Readers are welcome to sing-a-long to their favourite and add comments and stories of their memories of these and similar hymns that nurtured the Catholic baby boomers.

All Creatures of Our God and King is one of those majestic pieces that sounds best in great Cathedrals and is usually dragged to death in the local parish. Naturally this comes from the Franciscan influence in my Catholicism and I got to sing it in Capuchin and other parishes all over the country.

Allelu Folk Mass is part of the work of Ray Repp who was one of the first 'folk" style church musicians beginning his publications in 1966.His settings and songs were a regular feature of my weekly singing at Nazareth House Brisbane in 1973. This clip gives you access to hours of happy listening to an era now lost in the archives of most parishes. if you haven't done so go back and read the bio. No wonder I felt the vibes singing his songs!!

Amen was one of those great anthems that we never really got the swing of. We played it twice with no hand clapping and quickly moved on to the Our Father. The 70s could have been so moving!!

Ave Verum was last sung with the parish choir at the now burnt out Church of St Joseph's in Collingwood.

Be Thou My Vision  Rop tú mo baile in its original Gaelic.It remains one of those stirring  hymns where the old English phrasing sits comfortably.

Bring Flowers of the Fairest is one of those songs from my primary school days. Once a year the girls got to have their 15 minutes of Church fame with the crowning of the statue of Our Lady. This somewhat romantic ritual included the less than workplace health and safety practice of the lucky lass. wrapped in yards of coloured cloth climbing a less than sturdy ladder to plonk a wreathe of flowers on Mary's head.

Christ be Our Light has been one of the standards at St Mary's in Exile.

Christ The Lord Is Risen Today One of the great numbers form the Living Parish Hymnal that made up my choral work in Geelong.

Come Back To Me This became a classic in my collection for for Lent from  the days when Gregory Norbett was a member of the  Monks of Weston Priory

Come To The Water A beautiful clip of a choral movement. A classic John Foley hymn from the St Louis Jesuits. It was the gathering hymn for my Dad's funeral mass. 

Dominique. Long before Janet Mead rocked the charts, the anonymous Singing Nun was in the charts. Jeanne Paule Deckers  life is one of tragic love and  the upheaval that marked the 60s. Stay on this channel to check the 1982 release of this one.

Dona Nobis Pacem. My first public performance of this great piece from the pen of Mr Mozart himself was at my first profession ceremony in the chapel of Nazareth House Brisbane in 1974

Dream Lady No collection like this would be complete without a reference to St Mary of the Cross,.  This piece was written by another Australian hymn writer, Kevn Bates SM. He gets uncluded because he also comes from my birth city of Geelong in Wathaurong Country.

Faith of Our Fathers Bing Crosby was the second most important man in our house after Dad. His "White Christmas album was a sacred relic brought out for the season. Among the tracks was this version of the classic patriarchal hymn. Local Catholics will of course recognize this tune as the popular O Bread of Heaven from the Living Parish Hymnal.

Faith of Our Fathers  The mothers, sisters, aunts and parish housekeepers were all left in the back row for this one. Testosterone  with incense. Watch this rendition from Dublin carefully. You will notice the nice young man behind Mr Patterson does not open his lips once. I bet the producers had a word or two to say to him. In his \defense he may have been a Presbyterian!!

Filipino Mass Songs In 1979 I spent a month in the Philippines where the music and passion of a people living under a repressive martial law sang boldly and loudly of their faith.

Frank Anderson msc is here because almost every Australian parish has sung one of his songs at some stage.

Glory and Praise to Our God is now one of the standards that we sang even though it was canned by Thomas Day when he wrote Why Catholics Can't Sing.

God of Mercy and Compassion was in the Lent  pages of  the Living Parish Hymnal

Hail Glorious St Patrick comes from my six year stint as a primary student at St Patrick's in Geelong West.

Hail Mary Gentle Woman comes from the great Catholic warbler, Carey  Landry. From 1972 his songs became a staple in schools parishes retreat centres and I bet the members of the Australian Catholic Bishops Conference even sang along at one of their gatherings.So, what happened to Carey when the St Louis Jesuits arrived? Well, he upped and married his travelling companion, Carol Jean Kinghorn and they have been singing happily ever after as hospital chaplains.

Hail Queen of Heaven is one of those "Are you really Catholic" hymns. You can tell that young Regina singing in this clip failed the test. She is reading the words!!! 

Hail Redeemer King Divine is another one of those "real men" hymns from the Holy Name Society. My Dad used to take me along to this religious testosterone gathering every month at Ss Peter and Paul's Church in Geelong West. Love this version with its images of Christchurch Cathedral prior to the 2011 earthquake.

Here I Am Lord is one of those contemporary obligatory songs for major events. To be sung properly it should alternate between a soloist and the community. However most Catholics like to be God in this one.

Holy God We Praise Thy Name is another great anthem that rang out from the Holy Name Society gatherings in my childhood parish.

I'll Sing A Hymn to Mary probably rubs shoulders with O Purest of Creatures for the most sung Marian hymn from the Living Parish Hymnal

Jesus In Your Heart We Find comes from the Year of Faith collection of James McAuley and Richard Connolly.

Jesus Remember Me from the Taize Community.

Jesus, My Lord, My God, My All Another great sing-a-long from the Living Parish Hymnal

Joy is Like The Rain is one of the now archived songs of the 60s that most of us have agreed never to inflict on unsuspecting congregations again. However, listening to the story behind the song from one of my favourite feminist theologians gives me second thoughts.

Kyrie Eleison One of the beauties of Catholic singing is that you get to learn several languages including Greek.

Laudate Dominum I have thrown in a few of the Latin chants from the Taize community

Lead Kindly Light was rarely sung in my youth but it is a standard as an adult from the  inspiration of John Henry Newman..

Litany of the Saints is a chant that has featured in all my choral experiences from the plainchant to the newer settings such as this.

Lord of the Dance gets a mention not only because it comes from the great Sydney Carter, but also because it featured in Travelling to Freedom, the 1971 replacement for the LPH.

Make Me A Channel of Your Peace was never written by St Francis, but lets not let the facts get in  the way of  the Peace Prayer of St Francis. I've sung it in lots of places and sang along  with the TV when it featured at Diana's funeral.

Missa Luba One of the great musical discoveries of my youth was this mass Setting. I still love singing it

Music from Papua New Guinea For two year I worked as a volunteer in the Diocese of Daru-Kiunga in Papua New Guinea. here is a set of images and hymns from their 2012 anniversary celebrations.

Now Thank We All Our God  was there in  the Living Parish Hymnal but I couldn't resist  giving the Mormons a chance to feature.

Now the Green Blade Rises A wonderful Easter song which I learnt from the Travelling to Freedom collection

O Sacrament Most Holy Another one where the Living Parish Hymnal opens automatically.

One Bread, One Body a contemporary standard loved and sung in many parishes.

Only A Shadow The Catholic version of shadow boxing religion from  Carey Landry. I have spared listeners from Carey on this one as there is a passable version from Daniel O'Donnell.

Our Father How could I not include the  song that still crops up in the most unexpected liturgies. And I got to meet the good lady many years later but didn't get her autograph!!

Pange Lingua Gloriousi It usually only got an airing on Holy Thursday but that was enough to have it firmly planted in the memory bank.

Peter Kearney  has been called a pioneer in contemporary religious song. His earliest hymns 'Fill My House' and 'The Beatitudes' published in 1966 became internationally known. From 1982 Peter made music his work. As well as writing and publishing he has toured in all Australian states and overseas in Ireland, the United Kingdom and the USA to present his workshops and concerts.I have sung Peter's material for years in many settings.  See his bio.

Priestly People For a brief time before SLJ (St Louis Jesuits) everyone in Catholic parishes sang the music of the gifted Lucien Deiss.

Shalom Chaverim got in as the most popular Hebrew text in Catholic parishes in the 1970s.

Sons of God is one of those 60s songs that most of us have left behind in the archives of  forgettable songs of the era.

Soul of My Saviour is in the top ten selection from the Living Parish Hymnal

Spirit of God was blown all over Churches and schools in the 60s and 70s. I just love the reference to Sr Bubble .

Sr IreneO'Conner also predated Sr Janet Mead, but never broke into the charts. Irene was a member of the Franciscan Missionaries of Mary with an aunt, Majella Tracey.I sang some of Irene's songs in my days as a Capuchin Friar.

Sweet Sacrament Divine Concert performances of these classic hymns from my childhood days overwhelm the memories of our local parish choir.

Take Our Bread has been sung to death and should now be quietly put in the dusty cupboard in the sacristy or vestry if you are reading from the USA.

Tantum Ergo That preconciliar Latin just gets in you and  every verse comes back from Sunday arvo Benediction.

The Lourdes Hymn Another great classic that sorts the real from the wannabees. If you need to read  the words you aren't really Catholic.

The Rose A Catholic hymn? It's presence in the list is again personal. In  the late 1970s a friend's sister was tragically gunned down by her police co-workers in an accident. The rendition of The Rose sung at her funeral haunts me to this day.

The Spirit of God From the work of the great Lucien Deiss.. Check out the other examples of his work on the sidebar of this clip.

Ubi Caritas another beautiful chant form Taize.

We Stand for God Another one of those "if you are really Catholic" hymns. Another anthem of the old Holy Name Society from our family parish of Ss Peter and Paul's in Geelong West.

Wherever You Go A lost treasure from the Monks of Weston Priory.


Yahweh, I Know You Are Near is now consigned to the "naughty corner" of Catholic hymns.See this instruction from  Rome in 2008.

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