EADERS WILL ENJOY this interview with Fr. George Rutler, author of Stories of Hymns: The History Behind 100 of Christianity’s Greatest Hymns. Fr. Rutler was interviewed over the telephone by the president of Corpus Christi Watershed. The topic of conversation was not limited to hymns:
When speaking about how to solve the liturgical crisis, Fr. Rutler said: “I like that old saying: God so loved the world that He did not send a committee; He sent His Son. My experience has been that the less people know what they’re doing, the more meetings they have.” He talks about Aristotle and the concept of beauty. When talking about the patience needed to improve music at the average parish, he said: “We must avoid what the English call ‘ghastly good taste’—being overly fussy and focused on aesthetics in an unhealthy way.” Regarding some of the ways the religious texts were changed for political reasons after the Council: “These are art forms; it would be like putting a moustache on the Mona Lisa.” A very important section is when Fr. Rutler talks about singing hymns and the life of virtue.
Before being published by EWTN in 2016, this book was published as Brightest and Best: Stories of Hymns (Ignatius, 1998). Here are some reviews from the 1998 release:
“Father Rutler here considers nearly 100 hymns of fine artistic and theological quality, giving interesting information about the texts, the music, and the composers. With hymns assuming so large a role in today’s worship, Fr. Rutler proposes to enrich both the selection and the understanding of an ancient form that still has a great deal of life in it.”
—Msgr. Richard Schuler
Former Editor, Sacred Music
“Father Rutler’s ecumenical selection of hymns and his illuminating comments on the history of each are a great restorative to the liturgical devastation of the past decades. As usual, Father Rutler not only entertains, but instructs.”
—Robert R. Reilly
Music Critic, Crisis Magazine
“This is a classy book with the hymns and the marvelous scholarly annotations by the inimitable Father Rutler. Indispensable to every library.”
—William F. Buckley, Jr.
Harpsichordist and Founder of National Review