By Barb Arland-Fye
The Catholic Messenger
Our parish music director played a hymn on the organ during Mass that tugged at my heart last Saturday night. A lifetime ago, before the COVID-19 pandemic, our choir sang that hymn with exuberance. Participating in the Mass in this continuing time of uncertainty is a blessing, but the necessary pandemic precautions leave me longing for our congregation to sing our praise to God.
My husband Steve feels the same way. “I miss the music,” he told me, referring to congregational singing, as I pressed the YouTube app on my iPhone to listen to my favorite hymns. This relaxing, uplifting bedtime ritual keeps my mind off the vitriol of the upcoming Nov. 3 election and negative news.
“The God of All Grace” by Father Ricky Manalo, CSP, is the first song on my personal playlist, a song that Steve loves, too, even if he cannot keep the song title straight! He told me not so long ago that his guitar teacher is teaching him how to play “that song you like so much. What is it called? ‘God of All Praising?’” No, I explain, for the umpteenth time. “I like ‘The God of All Grace,’ ‘Oh, God Beyond All Praising’ and ‘Spirit and Grace’ (among other hymns).
Because ‘The God of All Grace’ tops my playlist, I finally “Googled” the hymn to learn more about it and the priest who composed it. Music and worship resources publisher Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) describes “The God of All Grace” as a “majestic, expansive gathering song” with several performance options “anchored by a simple, mostly stepwise refrain to encourage assembly participation.” No wonder Steve and I love this hymn!
Steve has begun watching a YouTube video of a good guitarist playing and singing “The God of All Grace” for guidance on how to perform the hymn on his guitar. However, the two of us especially appreciate the YouTube performance that features trumpet, horn and timpani, which lifts our voices and hearts — along with the song’s lyrics.
I learned that Father Manalo, a Paulist priest, liturgical composer, theologian and author, received the 2020 Distinguished Catholic Music Composer of the Year Award from the Association of Catholic Publishers. Two years ago, he received the 2018 Pastoral Musician of the Year Award from the National Association of Pastoral Musicians.
Father Manalo’s music has been sung during papal Masses of John Paul II, Benedict XVI and Francis, according to rickymanalo.org website. His Mass of Spirit and Grace served as the musical setting for Pope Francis’ Eucharistic celebration in Abu Dhabi in February 2019. The website describes the celebration as the largest gathering of Christians in the history of the Arab Peninsula, with more than 160,000 worshippers, including 4,000 Muslims. It was the first Roman Catholic Mass celebrated in public in the region, the website stated.
I find myself singing the refrain to “The God of All Grace” at various times of the day: “The God of all grace has blessed us today, all of creation joins us in praise; lifting our voices, lifting our hearts to the glory of God forever.” This hymn fills me with hope and motivation to strive to do something about the strife and suffering in Iowa, the nation and the world. As the pandemic wears on, I will continue to long for, but wait patiently for congregational singing to return to the Mass. Meanwhile, “The God of All Grace” will lift up my voice and my heart to the glory of God forever.
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at email@example.com)