Introduction: The Pharisees brought to Jesus (Jn 8:4) a woman caught in the very act of adultery. Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen wrote: “Caught in the act! What sneaking, spying, and rottenness are hidden in their words! Some faces are never so happy as when regaling a scandal, which the generous heart would cover and the devout heart pray over.” In today’s world, we have many bloggers who claim to be the world’s greatest Catholics. These folks become giddy with delight when they discover scandalous behavior. But here at Watershed, we try to provide positive ways to serve, honor, and glorify our Redeemer—rather than spending hours creating memes and parodies about Church scandals; and the following article is in that spirit.
ODAY, I WILL SPEAK of two hymns which are loved by everyone—except for purists! The first is very famous hymn called “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross,” which first appeared in 1707AD. It was written by Isaac Watts, who—although he was not a Catholic—wrote many hymns adopted by Catholics, such as “Joy to the World” and “Our God, Our Help in Ages Past.” This hymn appears in reputable Catholic hymnals; for instance, it is hymn #72 in the London Oratory Hymn Book and hymn #687 in the Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal.
Notice how vocal parts are added with each successive verse:
A Congregational Tune: If the tune sounds familiar, that’s because it is a Brébeuf “common melody,” which we recently spoke of. Most of the hymns in the Brébeuf hymnal are ancient Latin hymns translated into English by Catholic priests and bishops. This hymn is an anomaly, since it is written by a Protestant and became so popular that it was actually translated from English into Latin in 1876. It seems odd to translate a hymn from English into Latin, since the collection by Clemens Blume (d. 1932) contains more than 10,000 authentic medieval Latin hymns.
Contradicting Meter: Purists don’t like “When I Survey The Wondrous Cross” because two sections contradict the meter: (1) all the vain things; and (2) sorrow and love flow. However, this is not unheard of in hymnody. A very popular hymn “Abide with Me, Fast Falls the Eventide” contradicts the meter in the very first line. So does “God Father, Praise And Glory” on the word mankind. And the popular confirmation hymn “Come Holy Ghost, Creator Blest” contradicts the meter on the word comforter.
Controversial Text: The second hymn which is “loved by everyone except purists” was written by Father Frederick William Faber (d. 1863), a disciple of Cardinal Newman. The committee that assembled the Brébeuf hymnal had discussions about this text, because some believe it to be somewhat horse-and-buggy or sappy. However, in the end it was included because everyone loves singing it:
Tradition Speaks: That hymn by Father Faber is included in many Catholic hymnals. It is #40 in the Roman Catholic “Crown Hymnal” (1912) by Father Kavanagh. It is #58 in the American Catholic Hymnal (1913) by the Marist Brothers. It is #120 in the Saint Jean-Baptiste de La Salle Hymnal (1913). It is #240 in the Catholic Hymnal (1920) by Father John Hacker. It is #183 in The Catholic Hymn Book (London Oratory, 1998).
Mercy Is God’s Greatest Work: If we get to Heaven, perhaps we will find out what our Redeemer was writing on the ground which caused everyone—except the adulteress—to leave “starting with the eldest” (John 8:9). Here at Corpus Christi Watershed, we try to support music directors, instead of constantly dwelling on Church scandals, creating memes, composing “parodies” which are supposed to demonstrate how much smarter we are than everyone else, and so forth. Please consider supporting us—we need your support! It can become discouraging to see “Catholic” bloggers write 150 articles per day about evil in the Church…yet never lift a finger in real life to make things better. Father Valentine pointed out that the Old Testament says: “Mercy is God’s greatest work.” My personal belief is that we will not be asked—when we die—how many memes we created which dwell on the sins of others, nor how many Facebook arguments we “won.”