Persons, places and things: How can we keep from singing?

Readers shared their favorite hymns or songs with The Catholic Messenger.

By Barb Arland-Fye

A few weeks ago, our Catholic Messenger staff shared with readers of this column their favorite hymns and the reasons for their selections. In turn, we invited readers to share their favorite hymns and what makes them meaningful.


“There are so many beautiful hymns I’ve come to love as a cantor,” JoAnn Snodgrass of Jesus Christ, Prince of Peace Parish in Clinton, said. “Dan Schutte’s, ‘These Alone Are Enough’ deeply touches my contemplative heart. It is based on a prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola. Then there’s the ‘Canticle of the Sun’ by Marty Haugen, based on St. Francis’ ‘Canticle of Creation,’ which makes me want to dance in the aisles!!  Another is Dan Schutte’s, ‘Beyond the Moon and Stars.’  All of these are part of the music I’ve chosen for my memorial Mass. They all speak to me of the God I know and love. The same God that knows and loves me totally and unconditionally. Thanks for the opportunity to share.”

“My favorite is ‘Gesu Bambino’, composed by Pietro Yon in 1917,” said Helene Hembreiker of St. Thomas More Parish in Coralville. “Beautiful words were added later, ‘When Blossoms Flowered ’mid the Snow.’ I can remember when I was in eighth grade that we sang this glorious hymn at Mass, played on our church pipe organ.  Of all the music and songs I have ever heard, this is the most beautiful piece of music ever written and the words make the hymn even more glorious!  Children’s voices even add more to this delightful piece!”
Sarah Martin of St. Mary Parish in Solon said, “I have many favorites but I think the one I like best is ‘Servant Song’ by Donna Marie McGargill, OSM. It really speaks to me. All of the verses are a calling of what Jesus wants us to do and be.”


“Two hymns are special to me,” said Rita Cunningham, a member of Holy Family Parish in Davenport with her husband, Dan. “When one of my older sisters passed away, we sang ‘Soon and Very Soon’ as the casket went down the aisle. It was uplifting and promising and I want it sung at my funeral.  My other special hymn is ‘Ave Maria,’ sung at our wedding; 57 years later, and more, I want it sung at my funeral!”

Sylvia Spencer, a member of St. Mary Parish in Wilton shared a poignant memory from the funeral Mass of a childhood classmate who died of cancer. “Several days before she passed, she recorded and sang the verses to ‘Here I am Lord’ and her grandchildren and great-grandchildren sang the chorus. The church, St. Joseph in Bellevue, Iowa, played the recording just before Mass ended. Hardly a dry eye. Whenever we sing that song at church, I think of classmate Janet Schroeder.”

Sylvia said another favorite song is “Daddy’s Hands,” a country song sung at a neighbor’s funeral. “The singer remained in the pew, played the guitar and sang the song. Both families were neighbors on farms when I was a child. Lots of memories.”

“I LOVE music that lifts my soul when I feel things are hopeless in my life or in the world or when I get down and forget all about my blessings,” said Cynthia Gillham of St. Patrick Parish in Iowa City. “My two favorite songs are so uplifting even if they are not hymns. ‘Build a Boat’ by Colton Dix gives me strength to stand up and fight for my faith, especially when I feel so unsupported by all the nones in my personal life. ‘I’m so Blessed’ by Cain brings me indescribable joy, especially when I rock and sing it to my grandbabies.”

Regarding songs sung at church, Cynthia has two favorites: “Lord of the Dance” and “How Can I Keep from Singing?” “I come unglued when I look up the song numbers before Mass and see it is one of those songs!”
(Contact Editor Barb Arland-Fye at

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