First Things' blog, First Thoughts, one of the best and most thoughtful of the blogs - sponsored by one of the best of the Catholic thought-news magazines on the internet the other day posted their list of the Ten Worst Hymns. I looked at it and saw a lot of bad ones and objected to a couple on the list, but don't want to sully Stella Borealis by reprinting the list here. You can view it for yourself, HERE, and be sure to look at a few of the 237+ comments. They are always good for a chuckle or to increase your blood pressure if it is in the 90/65 range. Most of the worst hymn selections seem to have originated from the pens/computers of Haugen/Schutte/Joncas and their contemporaries. Foreign language hymn were not prohibited.
Today, First Thoughts published a list of what they consider to be the Ten Best Hymns of all time. I can't lay a claim for being around for all time, but I did experience a pretty good chunk of the 20th Century and I am struck by the fact that I had never heard of most of the hymns on their list. Now I know I did have a long siesta with respect to religion between 1960 and 1981, but really, I have listened to, enjoyed and endured a plethora of hymns. What church these First Thoughts folks have been attending is a mystery to me.
Part of the problem is that apparently only geeky music directors were allowed to nominate and vote on the selection, and hymns in, or originally in a foreign language, like Latin (Ave Maria) or German (Stille Nacht/Silent Night) were prohibited. And many of the titles apply to hymns that many of us would have known by other names.
Here are their choices, with the music found HERE:
Note: We decided to considered hymns only, and not anthems, hymns being defined as those sacred songs that are written in poetic meter.
10. Holy, Holy, Holy [Excellent hymn; Reginald Heber, Bishop of Calcutta]
9. Immortal, Invisible, God Only Wise [Never heard it; from a Welsh ballad]
8. When I Survey the Wondrous Cross [Never heard it; Isaac Watts, Anglican 1707]
7. Love Divine, All Loves Excelling [Music familiar, but not the lyrics, Charles Wesley, Methodist]
6. Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones [Music familiar, but not the lyrics, Anglican]
5. Oh Sacred Head, Now Wounded ["Oh Sacred Head, Surrounded"]
4. The King of Love My Shepherd Is [From the 19th century leading Anglican hymn book]
3. Oh God, Beyond All Praising [Gustav Holst, Anglican]
2. Christ the Lord Is Risen Today ["Jesus Christ is Risen Today"; Charles Wesley, Methodist]
1. My Shepherd Will Supply My Need [I doubt that I have ever heard this one. Isaac Watts, Anglican]