In Mark Shea‘s recent trilogy of books on Catholic teachings about Mary, he points out that people’s heads would probably explode if EWTN suddenly sounded more like “Join the militant missionary legions of CONQUERING KING JEEEESUS!”, or if the Trinity Broadcast Network suddenly started to go all, “Open your heart to eternal love and joy, and like St. Ita, cuddle the Christ Child to your breast….”
Well, okay, that’s not exactly what Mark said, but close enough. There’s this whole hard/soft, masculine/feminine thing that some people feel is going a little too far in both directions, or at least isn’t being balanced out enough. There’s tons of ways you can take spirituality, and too many people only get exposed to one. It’s all talk or it’s all look or it’s all chatchat or it’s all silent solitude, or whatever. Maybe not something helpful to them. Whereas traditionally, you see a little bit of everything in the Bible. Even in one psalm, you get not just green pastures and cool waters, but a rod and staff to beat stuff off in the Valley of Death. Much more rounded.
In the old days, yes, there were some incredibly soppy or sentimental Victorian hymns. But then there were the other ones, which we no longer sing for entirely different reasons. It’s the whole “tends to make non-Catholic heads explode” thing that does it. But it’s not always fun to always be on our best behavior, always trying not to scandalize somebody who’s looking to be scandalized, is it?
But anyway, just to cheer up Mark with visions of a more Church Militant era in Catholic spirituality, it’s time for ten hardcore, pumped, unapologetic Catholic hymns.
10: “The Clouds Hang Thick o’er Israel’s Camp”: I shall excerpt from Verse 2.
The weapon which our fathers gave, each hand shall fearless wield:
Who bear Our Lady’s Rosary need neither sword nor shield:
With dauntless faith, the ranks they face of error and of sin:
And armed with those blest beads alone, the victory they win.
9. “It is no earthly summer’s ray”: Translation of “Decora lux aeternitatis auream”, a hymn for the feast of Ss. Peter and Paul. From Verses 3 and 4:
Fathers of mighty Rome, whose word Shall pass the doom of life or death,
By humble cross and bleeding sword Well have they won their laurel wreath.
O happy Rome, made holy now By those two martyrs’ glorious blood,
Earth’s best and fairest cities bow, By their superior claims subdued.
8. “Seek ye a patron to defend your cause?”: Translation of “Si vis patronum quaerere”, a hymn for St. Peter. From Verse 2:
Firm rock whereon the Church is based! Pillar that cannot bend!
With strength endue us, and the Faith From heresy defend.
7. “Sound the mighty champion’s praises”: Translation of “Nova atleta Domini”, a hymn for St. Dominic, the noted preacher and religious founder. This is so hardcore I have to quote it all.
Sound the mighty champion’s praises, Raise the song for him who came
Charged to tell the Gospel tidings, Charged to spread the Gospel flame.
Lordly errand, lordly errand, Suiting well his lordly name.
Stainless as a virgin lily, Fervent as a flaming brand,
Lo, he flies, still onward speeding, Flies to do his Lord’s command,
Flies to rescue, flies to rescue Captive souls from Satan’s hand.
Treading down this world of evil, To his mighty task he goes;
Stript of all, he seeks the conflict, Turns him to Christ’s banded foes
Grace sustaining, grace sustaining, With the fire that inward glows.
6. “Omnipotent, infinite Lord!”: Translation of “Regnator orbis summus et arbiter”, a hymn about guardian angels. Also extremely hardcore.
Omnipotent, infinite Lord! To thee the whole universe bends!
Thou madest the world at a word, And still upon Thee it depends.
We bless Thee, whose mercy provides us With guardians sent from on high,
Through ev’ry temptation to guide us, And shield us when danger is nigh.
To cope with the furious foe, Lest haply, unguarded he see
And slay with a treacherous blow The souls that were ransomed by Thee.
High praise to the Lord of all might, All-holy, all-gracious, all-wise!
Who sends us His angels of light To lure us again to the skies.
5. “Crown Him with Many Crowns”. Now that is hardcore and triumphalist and calls Jesus a king. All kinds of stuff that certain people find uncomfortable.
4. “Praise to the Holiest in the Height”: First of all, it’s by Ven. Cardinal Newman. But it also includes verses like these:
O loving wisdom of our God! When all was sin and shame,
A second Adam to the fight And to the rescue came.
O wisest love! that flesh and blood, Which did in Adam fail,
Should strive afresh against the foe, Should strive and should prevail.
3. “Hark, hark, my soul”: Translation of “Voces angelorum”. This is hardcore in a different way. Admittingly that life can be hard and scary? Tsk, tsk. From Verse 2:
Darker than night, life’s shadows fall around us,
And like benighted men, we miss our mark;
God hides Himself, and grace hath hardly found us
Ere death finds out his victims in the dark.
Angels of Jesus, angels of light,
Singing to welcome the pilgrims of the night.
2. “Hark, the Sound of the Fight Hath Gone Forth”. Back to fight songs!
Hark, the sound of the fight hath gone forth,
And we must not tarry at home,
For Our Lord from the south and the north
Has commanded His soldiers to come.
We must on with our banner unfurled;
We must on: it is Jesus who leads;
We must hasten to conquer the world
With the sign of the Lamb who bleeds.
1. “Dies Irae”: One of the most hardcore songs ever. Death, prophecies, the end of the world, the Last Judgment. Hardcore. So hardcore, composers make settings of it part of videogames. It’s been translated into jillions of languages; here’s an awesome version in Sarda/Logudorese showing Sardinian ruins. And yet, it’s virtually unused these days at Catholic funerals and memorial Masses, even though that is its reason for being!
Why should we let everybody else have the fun of singing something hardcore?
When we’re not singing something else, anyway.