Shantigarh gets away with a lot. Basically, our defense is that "we are teenagers. Don't blame us." It's a good defense except that I am not a teenager. I am the director. I am 57. They say you are as young as your spine. That would make me 58. My ankles hurt from arthritis, so it becomes increasingly difficult to spin around like Diana Ross during "Let It Rise!" or, say, "Go Out In the World," our favorite Easter season "closer."
We'll get to Ms. Yearwood in just a moment.
We allow ourselves a certain amount of liturgical wiggle room because we, as teenagers, are expected to make mistakes and although I am not a teenager, I feel comfortable with this arrangement on two counts: One, I make mistakes. Two, the Church has recognized that the correct approach to a global community is acculturation; that is, an approach which seeks a profound compatibility with the village, the barrio, the shetl, whatever, and accepts into its liturgy those expressions which are not injurious to faith but which resonate with the people.
I made that up. But its true, isn't it? And isn't "teen America" a culture? And if it is, then we must embrace that most intrinsic quality of the culture: the Mistake. Even as adults involved in youth/young adult ministry, we must take the behavioral and aethetic risk which occasionally results in something the Vatican might not approve. Indeed, the entire idea of "risk" in Liturgy is as foreign to adult ministry as, say, facing Stonehenge at midnight while chanting the hits of the Bee Gees. (Don't ask how I know).
I am not a teenager, but I have adopted certain attitudes toward faith and toward communal prayer which are compatible with the culture of youth. Ironically, the appeal seems greatest in people my own age. Go figure. We are all very happy in our big tent under the sign which reads: "Don't blame us, we're teenagers."
We listen to our Vatican fathers, and trust and cherish their judgment, just as we listen to our Pastor, good old Mac, who will occasionally let us know when we have made a "mistake." He's very kind in that regard. We also believe, with our catechism that, "Christ . . . fulfills this prophetic office, not only by the hierarchy . . . but also by the laity. He accordingly both establishes them as witnesses and provides them with the sense of the faith [sensus fidei] and the grace of the word."
I trust the people in the pew to recognize the sacred when they hear it. Which brings us to Trisha Yearwood and her beautiful song, "Love Alone." I have been asked to sing back up with Kristin Firestone at her Dreams and Visions concert this coming Saturday. I share these amazing harmonies with her sisters, Kaylee and Ali Laski. The words give me goosebumps, but so do a lot of things. "It's a Wonderful Life," and Neopolitan songs, for example. I did not put "Love Alone" at the Presentation of the Gifts last week even though the readings were about Christ's new commandment: To love one another as He has loved us. Consider the lyrics:
It's been a long road but we got here/It wasn't easy but it was true/We found
out through all the bad times/ It all comes down to me and you
We held the greatest expectations/ Only to find it was not to be/ All the
dreams we left behind us/ Only serve to set us free
Chorus: We don't need no bag of silver/ We don't need no fields of gold/ Don't it make you high/ Make you want to fly/ Knowing we can live on love alone
We made out break straight out of high school/ You went your way and I went
mine/ Everything that we went looking for/ Was here inside us all the time
The verse about "high school" would have to go. But to me, the song rises to a description of Agape and not Eros. It speaks to the great apostolic road trip where we are to make no provision for ourselves other than the Word. Sung with the omission of the third verse, it is a call to the mendicant's path. I ended up not using it because I feared--feared--that the song's entertainment value slightly eclipsed to applicability to liturgy.
Next year, when we turn to the scripture readings in "Cycle A," however, we may revisit the Yearwood conundrum in response to the first reading, second Sunday of Easter.
Is "Love Alone," by Trisha Yearwood ever an acceptable liturgical choice? Let us know. We're teenagers.