The Deacon's Bench

Yesterday, I linked to a First Things post about the “10 Worst Hymns.” A friend and longtime reader wrote to me this morning, disappointed:

I think lists like this could be a turn off for some Catholics of my generation (30s). FWIW, it didn’t sit well with me.

Like it or not, hokey as these songs probably are, this was the music Catholics in their 30s grew up with. These songs mean something to us. Don’t just bash them — and in the process egg on some of the haters in the com boxes (some of whom are schismatics).

Instead of singling out the bad, why not highlight more of the good?

He’s right. Why not highlight the good instead of the bad? With that in mind, below is a random and totally subjective list, in no particular order, of my personal favorites: 10 relatively new hymns (from the post-Vatican II era) that I particularly like. Feel free to add your own.

Laudate Dominum by Christopher Walker – a grand processional hymn that never fails to raise the hairs on the back of my neck.

Go Up to the Altar of God by James Chepponis – see above

The Breaking of the Bread by Michael Ward – one of the most beautiful, deeply personal Eucharistic hymns. I even heard this once at a wedding.

Shepherd Me, O God by Marty Haugen – a growing favorite at funerals, this one haunts me long after I’ve heard it.

Christ Be Our Light by Bernadette Farrell – a lilting waltz that could have been written by Richard Rodgers, this may be one of the most purely singable hymns of the post-Vatican II era.

The Summons by John Bell – you hear this a lot during Lent, and it was reprised just last week at our parish, to tie in with the gospel about the sending of the 72.

Out of Darkness by Christopher Walker – another thrilling processional hymn.  I chose this for my Mass of Thanksgiving after my ordination.  (Anyone know where you can get a recording of it??  UPDATE: I found a CD from OCP that has it!)  

Shine, Jesus, Shine by Graham Kendrick – a lot of people hate this.  It’s a popular “praise” song in evangelical churches, but there’s nothing like this anthem when it’s sung by our soaring choir at my parish. 

Jesus Took A Towel by Chrysoganus Waddell, OSCO – this Trappist composer from Gethsemane has been writing hymns for over 50 years, and this is one of his best.  Our choir sings it, thrillingly, during the Washing of the Feet on Holy Thursday.

And – finally – one that was actually on the list of worst hymns…

I Am the Bread of Life by Suzanne Toolan – I’ll never forget the beautiful soprano who sang this at my mother’s funeral.  Call me sentimental, but it got to me, and to this day, it moves me. 

There you go. A scattered sampling, off the top of my head.  I’d like to hear what you think, so clear your throats, open your hymnals, and chime in.

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