Sunday, May 22, 2011

That Old Time Religion

Last month, I wrote about the one-hundredth anniversary of our church building. On June 5th, our parish will celebrate the rededication at a special Sunday Mass. A committee has been planning this event for some time. I was assigned several tasks, the biggest being to assemble a booklet to commemorate the occasion. The booklet has been completed and sent to the printer. I am fairly pleased at the way it turned out and hope others will be also.

As music ministers, my wife and I were asked to meet with members of the committee this morning to discuss music they want played at the rededication Mass. In view of the recent Ecclesia Dei commission instruction urging bishops and priests to respond generously to Catholics requesting the traditional Latin Mass, I thought it would be interesting to celebrate the rededication liturgy much like the dedication Mass would have been celebrated back on May 28, 1911. That idea was shot down very quickly when the committee members showed us a list that began with the words, “No Latin.” I felt like Charlie Brown being instructed by Lucy to go out and find a nice shiny aluminum Christmas tree. So much for celebrating old traditions. Oh well, I am sure our pastor could not have been prepared to say Mass in Latin on short notice anyway.

The committee chose three hymns (or songs, depending on who you ask): The Church’s One Foundation, because it has the words church and foundation, Christ Be Our Light, because it has the words, building and walls made of stone, and Be Not Afraid, because . . . . well, I don’t know why – maybe to assure everyone the building is still sturdy.

Our history does not reveal what music may have been sung at the original dedication one hundred years ago, but a program printed in the local newspaper listed four selections sung at the laying of the cornerstone in 1910. One was Like as a Father Pitieth His Children, a hymn based on Psalm 103:13. I found several hymns online with that title. The problem is figuring out which one they may have sung in 1910. One is by F. H. Cowen, and another by William J. Kirkpatrick. The most likely selection is the one by Italian composer, Luigi Cherubini who was known for his sacred music. I am opting for Cherubini because of the large population of Italian immigrants in our parish at the time, and the fact that the next selection in the program was O Italia, Italia, Beloved.

Also on the program 100 years ago was Veni Creator which we will be singing the following week for the Pentecost Sequence. The final selection noted was The Radiant Morn Hath Passed Away, with words by Godfrey Thring and a melody referred to as St. Gabriel. I have listened to renditions of both Like as a Father, and The Radiant Morn on the Internet. They are both very beautiful hymns and I think it would be interesting to have our choir learn them, perhaps to sing as a prelude to the Rededication Mass. Time is running short, however, and we do not yet have the music.

I was amused by the sentence structure in Psalm 103:13, and therefore also in the hymn. I envisioned the translator thinking, “Okay, is this a simile or a metaphor? I think it’s a simile, so I should use “Like”, . . . or should it be “As”? Which sounds better, “Like a father, or As a father? Let’s see. One is a preposition and one is a conjunction. Which one do I need here? Oh, I don’t have time for this. I’ll just put them both in. Like as a Father . . . ”

Just for the record, my NAB omits the “Like” and says more plainly, “As a Father . . .”. Nothing like a little Bible humor to end the day. (Or is it, Nothing as a little Bible humor . . .?)