HE EXCITEMENT brewing over the next World Meeting of Families (WMOF) intensified a few weeks ago when Pope Francis confirmed that he will be attending the event. This will be the Holy Father’s first visit to the United States of America, and preparations are well underway. Our local church here in Philadelphia is already being energized by the plans for what organizers hope will be a very memorable week of activities.
Local coverage here in Philadelphia has been largely positive, calling to mind the memories of John Paul II’s historic visit to our city in 1979. Plans for the coming World Meeting & papal visit have also stirred up memories of the Eucharistic Congress held here in the bicentennial year 1976. Although I wasn’t alive to experience either of those events, I have listened many times as people—both Catholics & non-Catholics—have recalled the impact that one or both of those occasions had on their faith. We are hopeful that this World Meeting of Families will have the same sort of profound & lasting impact, not only in Philadelphia, but throughout our nation and the Americas.
Just over a week ago, the staff for the World Meeting rolled out the official hymn for the event, entitled Sound the Bell of Holy Freedom. You can go to the WMOF homepage to view the LYRICS of the hymn. You can also go to YouTube to listen to a VIDEO recording. Take note, also, of the WMOF 2015 Icon, pictured above.
The text of the hymn was written by a priest from Saint Norbert College, Fr. Andrew Ciferni, O. Praem. The hymn tune has been given the appropriate name PHILADELPHIA, and its meter is 87.87.87 (like PANGE LIGUA, ST. THOMAS, GRAFTON, PLEADING SAVIOR, etc.). Its composer is a very capable artist named Normand Gouin, who formerly served as music director of Old St. Joseph’s Church in Old City, Philadelphia (America’s “most historic square mile”). Recently, Norm took the position of Assistant College Chaplain & Director of Liturgical Music at the College of the Holy Cross in Worcester, MA.
Gouin has a number of excellent published compositions for the sacred liturgy. Two of his best pieces are given an excellent review HERE. Among his compositions are several commissioned works, together with a few collections of choral antiphons appropriate for certain seasons (Lent, Advent, Easter, etc.). His Mass of Ss. Peter & Paul is one of the finest & sturdiest settings of the new translation of the Roman Missal I have encountered.
The idea of having an official hymn for a massive event like the WMOF makes sense, just as in the case of World Youth Days and similar occasions. In fact, it makes eminently more sense than the incorporation of hymns into Mass, since the native home of hymns, in the Catholic tradition, is not the Mass, but devotions & other non-liturgical settings. Popular religious hymnody has a great power to draw people together, to catechize, and to foster genuine piety. Hopefully this new hymn will serve those purposes well.