What comes to mind when you think of the Golden Age of Hollywood? It easy to imagine glamorous movie stars living “picture perfect” lives. On the other hand, it might not be so easy to conjure up memories of the difficult realities of failing production studios and widespread unemployment that dominated early cinema. One of my former professors often described our faith as “The Hollywood that always is but never was.” Not entirely unlike our perceptions of Hollywood, it is easy to idealize certain elements of our faith so that our memory and associations are different than the lived reality. I’ve been thinking about this in a particular way the last few days, especially in reflecting on the season of Lent.
I always associate Lent with prayer, fasting and almsgiving, and rightly so. These are the fundamental elements of this sacred season and help shape our personal and communal transformation in Christ. These observances, however, must contribute to our conversion of heart and mind and not replace the transformation to which we are called. If we forget that prayer, fasting, and almsgiving are about transformation in Christ, we risk missing the point of this season.
As I recommit myself to this awareness, I created a Spotify Lenten Playlist to listen and pray with throughout the day. Each of the songs speak of the transformation to which we are called during this season, and the text and images remind me of the hope and healing within my journey to and through Christ. Here are some highlights and composer notes that you might find prayerful, as well.
Be Still, and Know That I Am God from the album The Seven Signs (WLP) “Sometimes music simply needs to illustrate, aurally, what is being conveyed linguistically. How better to exemplify the text of “Be Still, and Know That I Am God” than by using only three notes? ” – Steven C. Warner
By Grace from the album Glorify Him (WLP) “I wrote By Grace for my son’s wedding and I really wanted it to be my thoughts to him and his new wife about what a marriage filled with God’s Grace looks like. When the song was done, I realized how much of it was inspired by my own marriage and the beautiful witness of my parents and in-laws’ marriages (both over 50 years). When God is invited into the marriage, God’s grace makes all things well.” – Lorraine Hess
Come to Me, O Weary Traveler from the album When the Lord in Glory Comes (GIA) “Come to Me, O Weary Traveler was written in a frenzy of composition after the publication of the texts of Sylvia Dunstan in the early 1990s. I felt this one required the “American” treatment… my own appropriation of a Copland/Sacred Harp vibe. A simple, straight-ahead strophic hymn setting of a lovely text.” – Bob Moore
Come to Me, O Weary Traveler from the album Life is Changed, Not Ended (GIA) “I was drawn to the simplicity and clarity of the text. I tried to compose a melody to match that simplicity using repetitive motives in a folk style. The choral harmonies are easy to sing, yet they add texture and gentle counterpoint. My goal was to make it immediately singable for an assembly, with choir parts that are satisfying to sing without being too challenging.” – Paul Tate
Deep and Lasting Peace from the album Deep and Lasting Peace (GIA) This striking new piece by Michael Joncas invites us to encounter the peaceful, restorative power of the Eucharist through powerful images of Christ the Healer.
The God of Second Chances from the album God Is Here (GIA) I love the reality of this piece. David Has has crafted a text that resonates with our human struggle to love ourselves and recognize the forgiveness offered by the God who loves us more than we can possibly imagine.
Heart of Christ Jesus from the album Tune My Heart (WLP) “Heart of Christ Jesus is based on a beautiful text by Paul Nienaber, S.J., written for SATB choir, assembly, guitar, keyboard, and strings. It has a simple, almost child-like melody so as to not detract from the text. The first stanza reminds us that the heart of Christ is love overflowing, a Christ who walks with us in our struggles. Stanza two is depicts the compassion of Christ who pursues us, seeks us out, and embraces us. Stanza three has the analogy of Christ as a teacher, “lighting our way.” Stanza four focuses on Christ as healer, tending the wounded, merciful, comforting. Stanza five is about Christ as servant, humble, faithful, “open to all.” The final stanza is about the redemptive heart of Jesus, our “source of salvation.” The hymn reminds us how Christ is in each of us, and how we can take Christ out into the world through our everyday living.” – Karen Schneider Kirner
In the Morning, In the Evening from the album Of Womb and Tomb (GIA) “A couple years ago, my sister was hospitalized for mental illness. It was the first time she, or anyone in my family for that matter, had to face something like it. It was heartbreaking to watch her suddenly go from a fully functioning senior in college to someone who couldn’t sleep and barely knew her own name. What was worse, was that her episode caused her to be very anxious about whether or not God still loved her. She is a musician, so during that time I used songs of comfort to remind that she is loved. I was also in search of a text to communicate her innate belonging and when I came across Adam Tice’s In the Morning, In the Evening I weeped. It was exactly what I wanted to communicate to her. “In the good times, in the hard times, God will stay with you, stay with you. In your waking, in your sleeping, God will stay with you still.” This text and song continues to be one of comfort and healing for my family and I am honored to share this message of love with a broader audience. – Bex Gaunt
Show Us Mercy (WLP) “Show Us Mercy is a trilingual song (English, Tagalog and Spanish) that is sung in unison. I wrote it because our large reconciliation liturgies included a diversity of cultures. The piece has a strong us text: we come before you weak, sinful, broken. People pray with and for each other when they sing this song, making it a good for Lent and any communal reconciliation.” – Janèt Sullivan Whitaker
Tune My Heart According to Your Will from the album Tune My Heart (WLP) “Years ago, a presbyter colleague of mine took up the yoke of the episcopacy – and chose the words of Dante as his compass point: “In his will is our peace.” Musicians aim for resonance – peace, if you will, and harmony between voices. Suspensions need be resolved, beauty allowed to shine through. The idea behind this text was to merge two distinctive strands of text – one from a 13thcentury poet; the second from a 20thcentury monk. The mantra is meant to be contemplated, allowed to sink in, sung again and again, bringing forward the resonance between the Creator and the created.” – Steven C. Warner
When We Are Weak We Are Strong from the album When We Are Weak We Are Strong (GIA) – David captures the essence and challenge of our life in Christ: vulnerability.