Saturday, October 7, 2017

A Shelter in the Time of Storm

Liturgical Notes

I arrived at the decision to not submit this weekly article last Monday as I enjoyed the last day of a family golf weekend.  My e-mail to Andrew, our editor playfully announced; “I would be taking a Mulligan.”  The deadline came and went as details on the tragic shootings in Las Vegas came to light.   

The next morning I revisited my original selections for this weekend’s music. My original choice for entrance hymn needed to be changed.  Beginning liturgy with a rousing and joyful setting of psalm 118 (This is the Day #568) seemed inappropriate.

My revised choice is the spiritual found on the other side of this page; “A Shelter in the Time of Storm.” The original text by Vernon Charlesworth contains familiar images that can be found throughout scripture.  They depict God as constant, present and strong or to use a contemporary term; rock-solid.  The verse comes from Isaiah 25:4 reminding us that God watches over us and “is a shelter from the rainstorm and a shade from the heat”.   The writer of the original hymn-tune, Ira Shankey was inspired by the singing of the fisherman off the north coast of England as they returned to the safety of the harbor chased by storm clouds.  

The version that we will sing is an adaptation by Rev. Jan Michael Joncas.  Fr. Joncas was ordained a priest for the Archdiocese of St. Paul - Minneapolis, MN in 1980.   He is an Associate Professor at the University of St. Thomas, St. Paul, MN teaching in both the Department of Catholic Studies and the Department of Theology.   He also teaches in the Liturgical Studies faculty of the Department of Theology at the University of Notre Dame, Notre Dame, IN.  You will probably recognize some of his other compositions which include:  We Come to Your Feast, I have Loved You and On Eagles Wings.

I’ve spent the week playing and praying this hymn in order to prepare it for liturgy.  I’ve also thought about how I might explain my rationale for its use as gathering/processional hymn.

The first question is; “Why make a change based on an event?”  The answer is contained in the timeliness and timelessness of liturgy.   We come to liturgy at a particular moment in human history as well as our own our life’s journey.  We simultaneously step out of time to connect with a God who is unbound by time.  … But do not ignore this one fact, beloved, that with the Lord one day is like a thousand years and a thousand years like one day.” 2 Peter 3:8

The second question is; “Why this song?”  For me the answer lies in a faith that God is and continues to be with us in times of joy and sadness, triumph and tragedy, gentle breeze and raging storm.  Fr. Joncas was kind enough to share his answer when I contacted him via Facebook. 

It (the song) arose out of my (personal) struggle with Guillain-Barre syndrome back in2003-2004.  It’s in a black spiritual style since I find the spirituals tradition to be both particularly American and profoundly prayerful.

With prayers for those affected by shooting in Las Vegas particularly the 58 who died and those who mourn them,


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