Sunday, October 10, 2010


I just love cartoons and this one teaches too!

And this from the blog, "The Hermeneutic of Continuity" concerning the hymn, "Blessed Assurance!" What he says is very important for musicians and choir directors to understand. We need to look at the words of songs to make sure the theology and/or doctrine is Catholic. We have borrowed heavily from Protestant metrical hymns, some of which are magnificent, but others of which are polemics against Catholic teaching. I would never have thought "Blessed Assurance" to be one of these because I love the singable tune and it is in our hymn book too. I wonder often about Luther's great hymn, "A Mighty Fortress is our God" and what hidden or overt message is in it concerning the Protestant Reformation. It's in our hymn book too, as is "Amazing Grace" and the worst of all, "Be Not Afraid" and "Eagle Wings." With the new Translation of the Mass, we'll have to be very careful about the new hymn book we will purchase for the parish. It will be fully Catholic, trust me!

From Hermeneutic of Continuity:

I was surprised to hear the other day that the hymn "Blessed assurance, Jesus is mine" is sung in some Catholic Churches. It is apparently popular among devotees of a more charismatic kind of worship. Although at a push, the hymn could be interpreted in a Catholic sense, it is certainly not intended to be so understood. "Blessed assurance" is a watchword among evangelical protestants, referring to the certainty of predestination and certainty of the gift of perseverance for those who are among the elect.

As Catholics we do believe in predestination, in the sense that God has prepared eternal bliss for those whom he foresees, in his infinite wisdom, will merit eternal life. Here on earth, we are not certain of our "election" or of final perseverance. Such supposed certainty is a sin of presumption. We pray with confidence to our heavenly Father, knowing his mercy but not taking it for granted.

Hence, the Council of Trent condemned the following errors:

If any one saith, that a man, who is born again and justified, is bound of faith to believe that he is assuredly in the number of the predestinate; let him be anathema. (Council of Trent. Canons on Justification. canon 15.)

If any one saith, that he will for certain, of an absolute and infallible certainty, have that great gift of perseverance unto the end,-unless he have learned this by special revelation; let him be anathema. (canon 16.)

We do not have a "blessed assurance" but a blessed hope.


Gene said...

Thew words to "A Mighty Fortress" have been changed in the Catholic hymnal. I never undertsood why, unless it was just because Luther wrote it. It is, theologically, one of the great hymns of the faith. I suppose the last verse could be interpreted as contra- Rome, but that seems like a stretch: "That Word above all earthly powers, no thanks to them abideth. The spirit and the gifts are ours, through Him who with us sideth. Let goods and kindred go, this mortal life also. The body they may kill, God's Truth abideth still, His kingdom is forever."

But, there are such powerful lines:
"...the Prince of Darkness grim, we tremble not for him. His rage we can endure, for, lo, his doom is sure. One little word shall fell him (ein wortlein willst im fehlen)." It is a hymn with real guts.

Luther never considered himself anything other than a Priest who got in trouble with the Church. He never called himself "protestant," never rejected the Church, and never, as far as I can determine (I wrote a thesis on Luther) used the term "sola scriptura." He was devoted to the Virgin and, in a letter to Melancthon in the 1520's
he countered Melancthon's railing against the Real Presence by writing, "no, Phillip. Christ said 'this is my body.' Luther never abnandoned his belief in, or teaching of, the Real Presence. Catholics need to be aware of this. He merely did some theological "logic chopping" with reference to how the Real Presence is conveyed, which is unfortunate. Indeed, Luther's errors seem minor compared to some of today's Priests and Bishops who support abortion and homosexuality, and who teach what amounts to neo-protestant theology in seminaries. In fact, Luther stacks up pretty well against the likes of Hans Kung, Schillebeex, and a few others.

It was John Calvin, 25 years later, who did irreparable damage to the theological and doctrinal connection between the Church and Luther with his tightly constructed, carefully argued, and logically consistent (if in error)polemic against the Catholic Church and the Real Presence in his "Institutes of the Christian Religion." His TULIP (Total depravity; Unconditional salvation; Limited atonement; Irresistable grace; Perseverance of the saints) theology drove an iron wedge between Catholicism and protestantism which, only now, is beginning to loosen. I attribute this almost exclusively to the ministries of Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict who have, through the love and compassion of John Paul and the powerful and unyielding theological voice of Benedict, opened the eyes of many protestants to the Truth and Grace dwelling in the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apsotolic Church.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

Thanks for the comments on Luther. In fact Pope Benedict is somewhat enamored with his theology on certain issues. I like the hymn, but for many Catholics is sounds like we've become Protestant. In fact our choir director looking at the readings for the last Sunday in October was going to select A Mighty Fortress is our God until she realized that the last Sunday of October is also Reformation Sunday. So she's postponed using it until the following Sunday I think. But your comments are very good indeed.

Anonymous said...

It's very enlightening to relook at the lyrics in the hymns.
Learning why a particular hymn is inappropriate is an easy and helpful way to learn fine points about Catholic doctrine and how others deviated.

Thanks pin for the Luther lesson.
I'll have to go back and study 'Be Not Afraid' has been a pal to me, but I'll drop it if it's non-Catholic and find a replacement.

Not everything or everyone is as they seem after closer inspection.

Fr. Allan J. McDonald said...

I should clarify that "Be Not Afraid" and "Eagle's Wings" are written by Catholic authors and are contemporary. The problem is with the congregation singing in the first Person for God in both of these. The same is true for "I Will Raise you up!" The musical quality of the first two are happy, peppy type of lyrics like "The Addams' Family" but not of the genre that evolves from chant which is foundational to Catholic sacred music.

Anonymous said...

You may not want to post this.
I heard "Eagles Wings" during Holy Communion today.
If I ever heard it before, it was years ago, so long ago that it was essentially new to me.
Now I understand why it doesn't belong in the context of the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass;
and I understand why folks like it.
It's doubtful that your choir director is the one who selected it.

Gene said...

Catholic authors, even the worst, can't come close to the abominations in the various protestant hymnals, such as Fanny Crosby's touching line: "My spirit pants for thee." Indeed.

Then, in some of the sing-songy metrical hymns (generally gospels), there appear intuitively powerful and theologically correct devotional moments, as in (from "Lily of the Valley"):"He all my sins has taken, and all my sorrows borne/ in temptation he's my strong and mighty tower./ I have all for Him forsaken and all my idols torn/ from my heart and now He keeps me by His power."

Good hymnmology/theology is able to combine these intuitively powerful moments with proper Christology, thus keeping them from degenerating into the merely sentimental or just plain disgusting.

Anonymous said...

First, let me say that I think the music at St. Joseph's is beautiful, overall, and glorifies God. It seems that in the time I have been attending St. Joseph's, we have moved away from some of the really bad touchy- feely stuff, although it still pops up quite a bit during communion. I understand, too, that it is not a good idea to change everything all at once, with respect to the congregation. I would like to suggest, though, that we stretch ourselves a bit and attempt to sing a greater variety of hymns. "Lasst uns erfreuen" is a beautiful hymn tune, and has several texts applied to it in our hymnal, but we seem to sing it over and over, as we did this Sunday in the form of "All Creatures of Our God and King." It will be a nice change of pace to sing "Ein Feste Burg" (A Mighty Fortress), which is based on Psalm 46. A good choice not to sing it on Reformation Sunday, though.

An alternative for some of the not so great communion hymns could be "Picardy" (Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence), a beautiful old French tune whose text predates the Reformation.

Gene said...

And put the original words back in "A Mighty Fortress..."

Anonymous said...

Yeah, put the original words back!

Anonymous said...

Considering the Trent edict I suppose "Que Sera, Sera" is more appropriate than "Blessed Assurance". A thought Pinan will likely endorse in his 'Day-ous primus' doctrine.

Seriously, I think there is such a body of writing and music there should be no problem removing the objectionable and distracted in favour of the correct. Meanwhile, it should not be difficult to teach the sentimentality of happy songs to beloved tunes can still be enjoyed as long as it is understood they are in error.

Also, I am not clear on why singing in first person the words of God is different than reading them aloud as long as they are in context and not construed as evidence of 'Blessed Assurance".


Gene said...

For clarification, RCG's reference to my "Day-ous Primus doctrine" has to do with my belief that Doris Day was the most beautiful and talented of all the screen gems of her time and long after, even to the present. She is a certain affirmation of God's love for us and the perfection of the Creation.

As to "Que Sera, Que Sera," that is, at best, dangerously Calvinistic in its implications. At its worst, it is Stoicism.

Anonymous said...

I watched the video again and had a question about something the female robot said. Did she mean that only certain instruments and tunes are acceptable? Or did she mean only that the lyrics must be doctrinally correct and the tunes and playing somehow appropriate, and can that be determined objectively?