Praise music from the past: “Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word”

An occasional feature taking a look at God-oriented music, some usable at Mass, some better off at the circus.

I was born in 1985, a time when the folk Mass was already falling out of favor. So I can say with near-absolute certainty that I never had heard this song until inadvertently stumbling across it and then working on this post in the following convoluted fashion:

1. Look up pretty good Spanish language song “Entre Tus Manos” for another blog post.

2. Discover it has an English counterpart that is not very good. This is weird, because the English version came first.

3. Look up the guy who wrote the English counterpart. Read up on folk Mass.

4. Find this song, though not by the same guy in #3. Get curious about song. Try to find information on the guy who actually wrote it, James Thiem. Come up totally empty. No picture. No bio. No nuttin.’ Can that still happen in this day and age?

5. Wonder how I’m going to write this blog post.

Well, let’s try this. The song is widely reviled, apparently, at least by traditionalists. Try Googling the song, and you’ll get stuff like this, where the hymn hit #1 on the worst hymns of all time.

So I’m just going to listen to it and think. Here we go.

You know what? The first minute isn’t so bad. It’s not a bad melody. But the problem starts in the second minute, where I just started to get tired of it. Already. There are six verses in the song, and we’re only not quite to verse 3. Uh-oh. Oh, no, this third minute is getting draggy. Oh, boy, these words are going off the cliff into lazy, silly territory. Oh, no.

On balance, though, I don’t think it’s as bad as its naysayers would have it, though it’s quite understandable that it passed from our consciousness with the fall of the folk Mass. And this came out right after Vatican II ended, so you have to consider things on that scale, too — this is a pioneering song, so it’s inevitable that things after it would be quite a bit better.

So let’s cut the song some slack. It’s not that good, we acknowledge, especially with the benefit of hindsight. There’s not much of a reason to use it at Mass today. But I’m not willing to jump on the pile of “worst song ever.” Let’s accept it for what it was and acknowledge we’ve done better.

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2 responses to “Praise music from the past: “Sons of God, Hear His Holy Word”

  1. Pingback: 7 quick takes: The Church as Cassandra | Pull Out All the Stops

  2. Pingback: My five most popular posts of 2013 | Pull Out All the Stops

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