Hymns Catholics Like and Dislike
In May 1995, Editor Norman Perry, O.F.M., asked St. Anthony Messenger readers to write and tell us about their favorite Church hymns. In reply, women and men from 17 states sent letters listing their favorite hymns and commenting on the music used in their parishes. This informal survey revealed mixed feelings among our readers about Church music.
People's favorite hymn, so they write, is Bob Dufford's "Be Not Afraid," a contemporary song. The American traditional hymn "Amazing Grace" comes in second.
But many people complain that Church music lacks good congregational participation and is presented poorly. They also mention unsingable songs.
"I want songs that are singable by the congregation," writes Clare Lee of Carmichael, California. "So many leaders seem to want songs that very few can sing."
Hymns are a way to express our experiences of God through sung prayer. They help us form words of praise, joy, faith, hope, mercy, justice and love as one body. Singing a hymn in church may be the closest some of us get to publicly verbalizing our experiences of God. But even when we come to Mass ready and willing, the hymns we are asked to sing are sometimes difficult.
"Too many of the songs sung require a music background," says Sal Ferara of West Melbourne, Florida. "I, like most parishioners, am not a musician. Wouldn't it be nice if we, the parishioners, were polled as to what we wished to sing?"
Author: Jennifer Reed is a graduate student in religious communication at Marquette University and holds a B.A. in psychology from Loyola College in Maryland. She was St. Anthony Messenger's intern for the summer of 1995.
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