During the years that my children were growing up — the 1980s, 1990s, and 2000s — my wife, Georgette, made sure that they were exposed to as much music as possible. When she was pregnant with each of them, she would pray, read, and sing out loud, so they would develop a love for God, reading, and music. After they were born, she did the same thing while she nursed each of them.
Our first child, Harry, sang in public for the first time when he was three years old. By the time he was seven, he was performing with his two sisters, Anna and Maria, at local nursing homes. As our children were growing up, Georgette arranged for them to perform at various local nursing homes throughout the year.
To prepare for the shows, Georgette would teach them the music, choreograph their movements, and rehearse with them until they were ready to perform. Each of the shows that she prepared had a theme. Each child sang a solo, some sang duets, and our entire family always sang the last song of the performance. Of all the shows that we did, my favorite was the one with the patriotic theme. Here’s a partial list of the songs for that show:
● U.S. Marines’ Song (From the halls of Montezuma, to the shores of Tripoli…)
● U.S. Navy Song (Anchors aweigh, my boys, anchors aweigh, farewell to college joys, we sail at break of day-ay-ay-ay…)
● U.S. Air Force Song (Off we go into the wild blue yonder, climbing high into the sun…)
● U.S. Army Song (Over hill, over dale, as we hit the dusty trail…)
● Battle Hymn of the Republic (Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord…)
● America the Beautiful.
● God Bless America.
The most inspiring moments during the patriotic-theme performances were when the men in the room (who were in their 80s and 90s) stood up and saluted while the song from the military branch in which they had served was being sung. For them, it was a natural and honorable thing to do. For everyone else who was present, there was no doubt that those men had a deep and abiding love for the country they had served.
The performances that Georgette put together for the Christmas season included both secular and religious songs. Before the first Christmas season performance, while Georgette was in the process of teaching our children several Christmas songs, I looked all over for a song that I had sung with the St. Mark’s boys’ choir when I was in fourth grade.
At the time that I sang with the boys’ choir, the music teacher at St. Mark’s was Sr. Gertrude. Whoever wanted to be in the choir had to try out with her. My older brothers had been in the choir when they were in fourth and fifth grade, so it was natural for me to want to become a member of that choir. I made it into the choir during my fourth-grade year.
That year, before the midnight Mass started, we performed several songs for the congregation. We wore special cassocks that had been specifically purchased for the midnight Mass performances. During our performance, we stood in the sanctuary of the church and held illuminated candles.
Of all the songs that we sang that year, my favorite was, Holiest Night.
While Georgette was teaching our children the songs that they were going to perform at the nursing homes during the Christmas season, I looked all over for the sheet music for Holiest Night. I couldn’t find it anywhere. Back then, we didn’t have the internet, so I contacted several music stores and libraries. No one that I talked to had ever heard of the song.
Even though it’s been more than 50 years since I learned that song, I still remember the lyrics of the introduction:
Holiest night, holiest night, darkness receding from Bethlehem’s regions,
Hails of bright light from the Heavenly choir.
Glory to God and on Earth peace to men,
hasten ye shepherds to bless Bethlehem.
He who God manifolds, to the prophets hath foretold,
lies there a child, lies there a child.
When I first told Georgette and our children about the song, I sang the introduction for them while acting out what was being expressed in the song. At the end, I knelt down, bent over, and reverently held a baby doll in my hands to show them the honor and glory that would have been afforded to the child Jesus. Our children loved the song and for several years thereafter, they periodically asked me to sing the song for them when I tucked them in at night. Unfortunately, they were never able to perform the song because I was not able to locate a copy of the music.
Before sitting down to write this article, I spent some time on Google looking to see if I could find the sheet music for Holiest Night. I didn’t find the sheet music, but I was able to discover where the song had been published: “The Pius X Hymnal for Unison, Two Equal, or Four Mixed Voices. Rev. ed. 1956.” I was able to locate some used copies of the hymnal for sale on Amazon and a few other websites. The cost of the used hymnals vary from $30 to $58.
I’m going to ask my daughter Mary Rose if she’s willing to teach her music students the song. If she says yes, I’m going to buy the hymnal for her.
One of my favorite Catholic hymns is, Holy God We Praise Thy Name. Both of my grandfathers, Tom Williams and Harry LaHood, loved that song. It was written by a German Catholic priest in 1771 and was translated to English in 1858. Another favorite of mine, Immaculate Mary, was written by a French priest in 1873.
What’s your favorite Catholic hymn? Whatever it is, I’ll bet that it was written more than 100 years ago.
There are many great tragedies that have resulted from the decline of the Catholic Church. One such tragedy is that there are no new great Catholic songs being written and performed — not on the internet, YouTube, or on any of the other distribution channels. It’s a shame that we never hear of any new, great Catholic hymns.
Did every Catholic’s creativity simply cease to exist at a certain moment in time? Did God withhold His grace from those who would otherwise be creating great Catholic music to glorify Him?
I don’t believe that God’s grace is being withheld. Unfortunately, in my opinion, because of birth control and abortion, the people who would have been given the gifts and the grace to create such music were never born. That’s also the real reason we have a large shortage of Catholic priests and religious sisters. They were never born in the first place.
Think about it. Over the past 90 years, since the dawn of modern birth control devices — starting with latex condoms — there have been hundreds of millions of Catholic couples who have intentionally rejected the laws of God. Why? Because of their own selfish desires and lack of faith. The world is much worse off today than it’s been since the dawn of Christianity because of the selfish rejection of God’s laws and His grace.
There are times when I want to throw in the towel and quit trying to persuade other people to embrace and grow in the Catholic faith. It is during those times that I ask myself, “Did Jesus ever want to throw in the towel?”
It would’ve been easy for Him to run and hide — like his apostles did — but He made the conscious decision to stay and do His Father’s will. If He could stick it out and endure the torture that He knew He was facing, why can’t I stick it out and do the minuscule things that He asks me to do on His behalf?
What minuscule things are you doing each day, week, and month to spread our Lord’s message and introduce others to the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church?
P.S. Here’s a video of two of my daughters, Mary Rose and Christine, performing at a nursing home in 1999, when Mary was seven and Christine was five.