Worship for the Weary
by Anthony EsolenFor now coming on fifty years, we long-suffering members of the Roman Catholic Church have had to bear the devotion of our brothers and sisters and its expression in song. It is like being held captive every Sunday to a recital: "You play the violin? My Ashley plays the violin, too! Ashley, go get your violin and play that Mahler piece you've started on." Or: "You teach poetry? My Madison writes poetry, too! Maddy, go get that poem you wrote for Earth Day. You see," says the star-dazzled mother, "the school has an Earth Day celebration, and they awarded first prize for the poem that best expresses our concern for the Earth and our need to Think Globally. Oh, here it is!" And the daughter, rolling her eyes but actually eager to comply, puts five pages of artistic effluvia before your eyes.
We Catholics have been subjected to a kind of liberal-political-theological-anthropological-tragical-comical doggerel; Evangelicals, I've been told, have been subjected to emotive refrains repeated over and over, like the endless running-on of a rock and roll song stretched out over five minutes while the congregation wave their arms and smoke joints and throw Frisbees.
Yes, I know, it's not that bad. But I don't know why we should settle for paint-by-the-numbers pictures of Jesus at the Social Security Administration or Jesus with the Kindergarten Kids when we could have Fra Angelico or Albrecht Dürer; so also I don't know why we should settle for office memoranda and hypnopaedic mantras when we could have Bach or Vaughan Williams or the Wesleys.
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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.
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