The long reach of “Be Not Afraid”

The other day, you may recall, some absolutely hellacious storms hit my state of Illinois, with a ton of damage in areas south of where I live. And where was I when the storms began?

Mass, of course.

The skies opened during the deacon’s homily during the last Mass, and the storm dumped incredibly heavy rains with high winds. At times, the precipitation and wind were so loud that I couldn’t easily hear the priest (speakers not nearby) or the organ (speakers directly over me). Everyone kind of looked around, wondering if the tornado sirens would go off (they didn’t). Needless to say, everyone was just a little distracted.

As we got to Communion, the rain let up just a little bit but was still coming down heavily. There was occasional thunder, and the winds stayed high. There was still quite a bit of nervous tension, though, as I began the Communion hymn: “Be Not Afraid.”

“Be Not Afraid,” of course, is often used at funerals. It’s a very good hymn of comfort. And that day, it served its purpose. The people sang it, many by heart. More than a few people noticeably relaxed. And by the end of Mass, even though the storm wasn’t letting up, nearly everyone was calm.

Which leads me to this:

Yes, that’s former Stone Temple Pilots singer Scott Weiland, doing a rough-around-the-edges version of Bob Dufford’s “Be Not Afraid,” a classic in Catholic land, on a solo album a few years back. And it’s surprisingly solid. As it turns out, the hymn gives a troubled rock star comfort, too, to the extent that he covered it.

You never know what will inspire someone. And you know never whom you might reach with your music. I bet Bob Dufford got a kick out of it when he heard Scott Weiland was doing a cover version. I know I would have.


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