The sky won’t fall because of our songs

In the first portion of fellow contributor Nathan Knutson’s article “Renewal” commentor Jacob Flaherty addended to Nathan’s litany of anthrocentric hymn/song titles the Paulist Father Ricky Manalo’s “In these days of Lenten journey.” Mr. Flaherty quotes some lyrics and then opines:

Nowhere, in this entire text is a prayer of adoration, petition, contrition, or thanksgiving offered. It is merely a horizontal conversation between ourselves which begs the question, why are we telling each other what we’re going to do when the whole goal of our worship should be greater union with God through Jesus Christ.

Having just this last Saturday night accompanied Fr. Manalo in an impromptu recital of some of his songs (and my second occasion of having met and shared very pleasant conversations with him) I really have to say that Mr. Flaherty’s analysis is a prevaricated and unfortunate misunderstanding of the function and purpose of this and other fourth option songs that can rightfully be employed at Mass beyond as a “closing song.”

I would ask, in this particular case and song, what precisely is the difference between “we” hearing what disciplines we are called towards during Lent coming from a homily orated by an ordained cleric and the global “we” (of which the cleric is also numbered) singing those same mandates provided us by Jesus Himself and Tradition? Mr. Flaherty lists the absence of words of adoration, petition, contrition and thanksgiving as omissions necessary for a hymn’s efficacy, and thereby deficient towards “union with God.” Honestly, if the lyrics of Manalo’s song aren’t a clarion call towards that very union by exhortation to realize the Lenten disciplines and thereby act in persona Christi, and not as he characterizes it a “conversation among ourselves,” then one of us is seriously missing the connection between worship and missio.

By Mr. Flaherty’s deduction, should we then dismiss for use the Anima Christi prayer, despite its adorational nature, because it essentially exhorts the intercession of our Lord to compel the true “me” to abandon egoism? Doesn’t Fr. Manalo’s lyric remind us to abandon ego for the corporate good?

I’ll wrap this up. The obsession some of us display with problematic anthrocentrism, “Vox Dei” or open-ended theology in certain texts wearies this older yet no wiser church musician. It, to me, smacks of the incredibility of the boy who cried wolf, or Chicken Little’s prophesying “the sky is falling.” The problem, Chicken Little, lies not in our stars nor in the words of faithfilled priests writing good songs and good homilies, but in our prelates and ourselves for failing to act towards a neighbor in need next to you in the pew, or in the streets of a Filipino barrio as if s/he were Christ Himself. (Mt.25)