Sunday, May 22, 2005


I’m doing research for a spec script about the 17 Carmelite martyrs of Compeign. The story is that these women – ages 27 – 78 – offered themselves as a holocaust to stop the Great Terror. This is the same story that was novelized by George Bernanos, and made famous in the opera Dialogues of the Carmelites.

(And I know some of you are out there thinking that this kind of project is just more unhealthy fodder for my macabre obsession to be the first one to authoritatively predict the next wave of Church persecution. Yeah, well, I’ll be the one smugly laughing when we’re all getting lined up and blind-folded. That’s right…)

Well, the story goes that as the first, and youngest, Carmelite ascended the scaffold, she intoned the Te Deum, and all the other nuns quickly joined in the chant.

O GOD, we praise Thee: we acknowledge Thee to be the Lord. Everlasting Father, all the earth doth worship Thee.
To Thee all the Angels, the Heavens and all the Powers,
all the Cherubim and Seraphim, unceasingly proclaim:
Sanctus, Sanctus, Sanctus, Dominus Deus Sabaoth.
Holy, Holy, Holy, Lord God of Hosts!
Heaven and earth are full of the Majesty of Thy glory.
The glorious choir of the Apostles,
the wonderful company of Prophets,
the white-robed army of Martyrs, praise Thee.

The nuns sang it in Latin, of course. And all the rabble standing around for the barbarous entertainment, halted in their jeering, and fell silent. They all knew the Te Deum, and that the nuns were singing a song of glory and triumph.

And so, I got thinking… What will be our song at the scaffold?


Yet another reason to be sullen and irritated at the iconoclasm of the post-Conciliar weirdness is that we won’t even have a nice hymn to die together by.

Can’t you see the last ever liturgy committee meeting unfolding as we’re all lined up and bound? Somebody will shout to the rest of us, “Hey does everybody know Gather Us In?

Like the good-natured suffering sheep we are, we’ll probably all shrug, “Might as well give it a try.”

So, the martyrdom procession’s music minister will start singing,

Here in this place, of something and something,
Now is the darkness gathered away.
Here in this space our fear and our dreaming,
Something and something the light of this day.

(She’ll pathetically try and raise her hand up so we can all join in)

”Gather us in, the lost and the somethings.
Gather us in the blind and the lame.
Call to us now and something will something,
Ta-ta-ta-tum in the something ta – ay.”

“Hey! That sounds stupid,” complains one martyr to be. Like the weeds that never die, the music minister still has a few minutes left to be patronizing, “God judges the heart, not the voice.”

Meanwhile, the lambs getting readied for the slaughter are getting scared. Somebody tries again, “How about Be Not Afraid? We all know that don’t we?”

A bald-headed guy at the end of the line shakes his head. “We used the Gather hymnal at our Church.” The lady next to him nods, “We just added those. Now, we have the old Glory and Praises stacked in the pews because they both don’t fit in the hymnal racks.” The lady from the Diocese of Arlington sniffs, "We use the red Ritual hymnals."

The thirty-something lady closest to the scaffold looks back at her fellow oblates with pleading, “Can’t we sing something, PLEASE?”

So, then, a voice somewhere in the middle of the crowd starts a high-pitched wail,

"And I will RAY-HAY zhim up…."

And the others join in, screeching and straining,

"And I will RAY-HAY zhim up…."

An overweight, gray-haired lady in sensible shoes, and soon to be a martyr, makes a face, “I’m not going to die singing sexist language!”

And the other, weary martyrs nod, and then, continue with submission,

”And I will RAY-HAYZ YOU uh-up on the lah-hast day.”

And then, as we start to sing the refrain again, the persecutors will shoot us all down on the spot for our horrible music. And this will wreak havoc with our beatification processes, because it won’t be clear if we died for Jesus, or to spare our persecutors having to listen to our dreadful music.

Just watch.


Anonymous said...

Gee, I don't know where to begin. Your blog was sent to me as an anecdotal piece of church humor. On that basis it is reasonably funny. If however, you meant to indict the sad state of the use of hymns as part of the liturgy, then this situation is no laughing matter.

In many ways, the Latin Hymns were superior to today's music because of their lyrical beauty, grandeur, and historical significance. Your sarcastic treatment of today's renditions is right on. However, if done properly, some of today's regurgitated music can enhance the liturgical experience.

Unfortunately, having traveled so far down the path of the Folk Mass, we have a long journey back

Anonymous said...

Excellent post! I noticed that Gather Us In was not sung at Pope Benedict XVI's inaugural Mass.

Der Tommissar said...

Mocking the ouevre of Hagen and Haas? Well, "Gather Me In" for that!

Anonymous said...

My priest friend prefers the term "Haagen-Daas" to refer to the insipid and profane "liturgical" music of today. Bring back the Latin chants!!!!

Anonymous said...

Oh please... Using such blanket statements is rediculous. Ever look to the bottom of much of this music? It's right out of SCRIPTURE. If thats trite, then I'm speechless. If latin is what you want, fine, but Vatican Documents on the Liturgy want the communal prayer to be in the vernacular.

So that leaves it to the PASTORAL MUSICIAN to chose what is worthy of use in liturgy. The Church calls us to bring forth from our storehouses treasures of the past, BUT to move forward and utilize music of today.

Peace and blessings,
A PM who can't wait to sing with gusto and conviction Gather Us In this Sunday-

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