Tuesday, November 24, 2015

El Shaddai

I mentioned earlier that I've been recording a weekly radio programme about Chesterton for Radio Maria Ireland, a new radio station (only internet-based so far). I've also been listening to it, especially the Angelus at six a.m. in the morning, as I'm getting ready for work. (I've only learned the words of the Angelus recently. I actually know very few traditional Catholic prayers and songs, and feel a real urge to learn more. If anyone has any short Catholic prayers they can suggest-- not longer than the Our Father or the Hail Mary-- I'd be most interested to hear.)

Anyway, one morning, just before the Angelus, I heard the above song-- 'El Shaddai', written by Michael Card, and most well-known as recorded by Amy Grant. The version I heard was sung by a man, and in a much more restrained manner than the Amy Grant version. It enchanted me and it has been in my head for three days now.

I've never really liked contemporary Christian music much-- or rather, what I've heard of it. I've listened to various Christian music channel and always found the music quite bland and insipid. I suppose the song I'm writing about here could easily be called bland and insipid, but I don't found it so. It sails very close to it, which is (strangely enough) part of what I like about it.

This is the funny thing. I've often complained about banal modern hymns on this blog, but the sort of hymns I do like are often quite similar in style to those banal modern hymns. I have nothing at all in principle against folksiness in Christian songs of worship. It just has to have that tinge of solemnity, of gravity, that makes all the difference. And, of course, it has to be good.

I know nothing about music, but as a piece of lyric-writing (which I do presume to speak on), I think the lyric of this piece is extremely well crafted. It has the kind of directness and simplicity that makes (in my opinion) for the very best religious songs (such as 'My Sweet Lord' by George Harrison or the simple 'Jesus Remember Me' Taizé hymn). I admire its grace, too. And the use of the Hebrew term gives it a certain exoticism which emphasizes the particularity of Christianity.

Having the song buzzing around makes me feel a renewed desire to write hymns. If I have any vocation to serve God through my writing, perhaps that is how I could best do it. Having attended the (secular) memorial services of both a cousin and a close friend in recent times, I was very struck by the fact that both of them (for they both knew they were dying) chose to have favourite songs played at their services. Nothing surprising in that, you may say, but I was very struck by the fact that verse-- so disregarded in most of day-to-day life-- is what we turn to at the 'big moments', and to express our 'big' feelings.

I have pondering the parable of the talents. I have often wondered what would have happened if the servants had lost their talents in bad investments. Presumably, this wouldn't have been held against them, if only they had made an honest effort...and perhaps it's impossible to lose your talent, when you honestly try to use it in God's service. Perhaps, seen from eternity, the very idea would be self-contradictory. But, at the same time, I'm sure we are supposed to use prudence and judgement in how we use our talents.

Recently, as mentioned previously, I decided to put ads on this blog. Do you know how much I've earned from this decision, so far? One cent. Literally one cent. It's a bit of a blow. It's been in existence since 2011, but it's never really 'taken off'. (True, I don't post as frequently as in its heyday, and consequently get less traffic.) I don't have any intention of giving it up-- some people like it, which is good enough for me, and I certainly like writing it-- but I do find myself wondering how I can have more of an effect, and reach more people


  1. Mal, Thanks for posting--sorry you've only garnered a penny!

    Some of these are on the longish side of short prayers, but here's are some I'm glad to know by heart, besides the obvious (Creed, acts of faith/hope/charity/contrition) and a smattering of favorite Psalms (8, 99/100, 129/130).
    - morning offering [here's one variation, a little different from how I say it] https://www.ewtn.com/Devotionals/prayers/morning2.htm
    - Anima Christi (I have only memorized Newman's verse translation, "Soul of Christ, be my sanctification....", so I mess up when reciting in a group with the other translation.)
    - Loyola's Suscipe "Take, O Lord, and receive all my liberty..."
    - Aquinas's "Grant me grace, O merciful God, to desire ardently all that is pleasing to thee, to examine it prudently, to acknowledge it faithfully, to accomplish it perfectly for the praise and glory of Thy name. Amen." (it's actually the first sentence of an utterly stunning and comprehensive prayer that would take me months to take in http://www.preces-latinae.org/thesaurus/Varia/Concede.html)
    - prayer before a crucifix (after Communion) "Look down upon me..."
    - memorare of St Bernard "Remember O most gracious Virgin Mary..."
    - Salve Regina/Hail Holy Queen along with the St Michael the Archangel prayer and invocation of Sacred Heart [Leonine prayers]--counting 3 prayers as 1 for the sake of my top-10 list.
    - "O St. Joseph whose protection is so great..." https://www.ewtn.com/library/PRAYER/NOVJOE.TXT
    - St Pius X's prayer to St Joseph the Workman http://www.catholic.org/prayers/prayer.php?p=97
    - St Anthony prayer (specifically for finding a lost item--which happens frequently enough to put this in the top-ten list!)

  2. Thanks so much for that, TMR! Seriously, that was just what I was looking for and is VERY useful. I know so few prayers. The Our Father, Hail Mary, Glory Be, Hail Holy Queen, Memorare, St. Michael Prayer, Act of Contrition, and I recently learned the Angelus.

    In return, here is one I intend to learn, which is St. Josemaria Escriva's act of devotion before receiving Eucharist (and currently I just mentally repeat the words: "Lord, I am not worthy to receive you..."), which has apparently become very popular: “I wish, Lord, to receive You with the purity, humility and devotion with which Your most holy Mother received You, with the spirit and fervor of the saints.”

    My blog earnings have rocketed up to an incredible SIXTEEN CENTS! I promise not to let the money change me. Since I'm getting no more traffic, I wonder if the ad application needs a bit of time to kick in, or something. Still, I'd be surprised if it ever breaks a dollar per week....still, I might keep them just to look more professional, and to give moral support to capitalism.