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by Anthony Esolen

When I was growing up, I attended a lot of weddings—I had 39 first cousins, so there was a stretch when, every year, one or two of them were getting married, and it was almost always in a church. If you asked me what was sung at those ceremonies, the only song I remember was “There Is Love,” a lugubriously tuneful and sentimental song that manages to toss in some words from Scripture, to refer to Christ by pronouns and indirectly, and yet to be all about the love between the man and the woman—yes, there was a time when liberal songwriters took it for granted that you had to have a man and a woman for a marriage—and not at all about the love of God.

You could do worse than that, I suppose. I have a dogged suspicion that I heard, at one wedding, “Once, Twice, Three Times a Lady,” but it may be a mischievous demon in my memory playing tricks on me. And now, if you go to a Catholic wedding, you are apt to hear one of the four or five wearily familiar songs you might hear on any indiscriminate Sunday, banal, poetically inept, often heretical, and with melodies that only a soloist, and not one with especially good taste, could love.


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 (, on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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