Discernment and Music: Hymn #648

First item of notice is the title change for this series. I will continue to list songs that are important to my journey, just like always. I've gotten some wonderful responses to the songs I've listed, and I don't plan on changing the format at all. As a weekly segment, I've got enough music to keep writing for quite some time. I changed the name because I felt people might not understand why music and discernment are so intertwined.

While reading a liturgical music meme from the Dirty Catholic, I realized that people's taste in church music are no different than their taste in contemporary music: if they can't feel it then it's just noise. This segment isn't just an extended meme of the songs that move my soul. The songs are like roadsigns on this extraordinary journey. From a distance they're hard to understand, but when your vision clears, you can see the message. Sometimes they tell you you're going the right way. Sometimes they remind you of someone you met before your journey started. If my pursuit of a vocation truly is a journey, then music is my GPS unit.

As an example, I've always loved "Solsbury Hill" by Peter Gabriel. It doesn't fit into any true music genre, yet the song always evokes this nostalgic-like fuzzy feeling (sorry, I really tried to think of better adjectives) from within me. It wasn't until after returning from the Dominican Priory that I really listened to the song. After all these years, I realized that the song was about a religious calling. Every single word of that song was in tune with my life. I felt like Peter wrote that song for me, only he wrote it years before I'd ever dream of being a priest.

Yeah. Wow.

I believe God uses our gifts to inspire others. Be it a poem, a short story, a sketch on a piece of scratch paper, or a even a song...these artistic expressions affect people far beyond what anyone has the ability to comprehend. If divine inspiration is a plausible concept, then there's no reason to believe He stopped doing it after the Bible was written. If my journey happens to end with me being ordained and someone asks "Who inspired you to become a priest," I will happily name Peter Gabriel, Richie Havens, Carlos Santana, or any of the other artists that I may list here in this blog.

This isn't just a list of my favorite songs. This isn't a plea to swap out current religious music (although I could make a few suggestions on that topic as well). These are the signs that remind me what I'm living for. Until mapquest.com can show me a quicker way to understand God's will, I'm gonna keep listening.

This week's song actually comes from the Catholic Hymnal. I heard it for the first time a few weeks ago, and as the church sung the words, I had to bite my lip as I felt the Voice of God reaching into my soul, saying "Hey you! Listen up!"

I list it as Hymnal #648 for two reasons:

First, I've seen this song listed under two names. In our hymnal, the song is called "Come and Follow." However after scouring the Internet, I've found the lyrics listed as "The Summons." I'm not exactly which title is accurate, so for the sake of neutrality I'm sticking with "Hymn #648."

The second reason is why I'm adding it to my list of discernment music.

I came to church early, and noticed that #648 was listed twice on the hymnal board. I didn't think anything of it. I assumed the music director would change it before the start of mass. I quickly dismissed the observation. The organ started. I stood, taking in breath to sing the opening hymn.

Like a shot right into my heart, I heard the words leave my lips: "Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?" For those of you that know this hymn, it's not just another song: it's a gut-wrenching challenge to be Christ-like. For me, a single guy entertaining the idea of priesthood, it was one of the most beautiful/terrifying/intense experiences of my life.

I stood alone in the pew, pretending I was singing as tears started to run down my face. It was as if God had grabbed me by the shirt, yanked me off my feet, and was yelling at me: "Why haven't you committed yourself to my service yet!?" It was as if God knew I was slacking, and this was His slap in the face to remind me. And just to drive his point home, we sang it again for the closing hymn. It was not listed twice on accident.

Here's the kicker:

The music director at my church is also my spiritual director. She is a Dominican layperson and has training in spiritual direction as well as liturgical music. We'd had our monthly meeting only a few days before this Mass. She has a good sense of humor, and has been known for a practical joke here and there.

So after the service, I thought: "I know she put that song twice because of me!" I walked to the Rec. Center with a smirk on my face, expecting to see her pop out and say: "So are you feeling any closer towards making a decision yet?" Haha. Good joke.

But I didn't see her there. I ate donuts and talked with the other parishioners, but I did not see my spiritual director. In the weeks that have passed since that Mass, she's made no mention of it. Who decided that hymn was so important it needed to be sung twice?

I may never know, but I know that every time I read these words, I'm being challenged to make a decision. Someday I'll have the will to say "yes."

Will you come and follow me if I but call your name?
Will you go where you don't know and never be the same?
Will you let my love be shown? Will you let my name be known?
Will you let my life be grown in you and you in me?

Will you leave yourself behind if I but call your name?
Will you care for cruel and kind and never be the same?
Will you risk the hostile stare should your life attract or scare?
Will you let me answer prayer in you and you in me?

Will you let the blinded see if I but call your name?
Will you set the prisoners free and never be the same?
Will you kiss the leper clean and do such as this unseen?
And admit to what I mean in you and you in me?

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?
Will you quell the fear inside and never be the same?
Will you use the faith you've found to reshape the world around
Through my sight and touch and sound in you and you in me?

Lord your summons echoes true when you but call my name.
Let me turn and follow you and never be the same.
In Your company I'll go where Your love and footsteps show.
Thus I'll move and live and grow in you and you in me.

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1 Response to Discernment and Music: Hymn #648

July 19, 2007 at 10:16 AM

Man... I just love your blog. Thanks for finding mine & commenting - I might never have found your inspiring reflections.

I promise not to post my rambling comments on everything you write. But - I gotta' share with you here, brother. I been there - feeling "It was as if God had grabbed me by the shirt, yanked me off my feet, and was yelling at me."

Excitement, fear, wonder, tears. Just want to remind you... our God is awesome, and loves us - you - exactly where you are today. Don't forget that in the "grabbing by the shirt" the Father may have wanted to you pay more than a little attention to this verse as well:

Will you love the "you" you hide if I but call your name?

Yeah - God kicks my rump sometimes. But, very often when I'm beating myself with the wet noodle, He also really just wants to give me a big hug.

My celebration of the Office today is for you, my new friend.

Pax Christi