by Michael Podrebarac
Because the nature of the office of liturgy and sacramental life is to consult rather than direct, it is not my place, for instance, to tell a parish music director what music should be sung for a particular occasion.
The closest I ever came to doing so was when, at Archbishop Naumann’s request, I forwarded a “common” musical setting of revised Missal texts for parishes to learn as a way to foster some cohesion throughout the archdiocese during that time of change.
And what a wrathful response I received from a few musicians (and a couple of pastors) from such a suggestion! I vowed at the time, “Never again!”
Well, I’m going to force myself to violate that vow and once again dare to make a musical suggestion for the jubilee Year of Mercy. I am already flinching.
“There’s a Wideness in God’s Mercy” was penned by Father Frederick Faber (1814-1863), a friend of Blessed John Henry Newman, both who entered into full communion with the Catholic Church during the same time period. He wrote what many consider to be the finest hymn text on the subject of God’s mercy: “There’s a wideness in God’s mercy / Like the wideness of the sea / There’s a kindness in God’s justice / Which is more than liberty / There is plentiful redemption / In the blood that has been shed / There is joy for all the members / In the sorrows of the Head.
“For the love of God is broader / Than the measures of our mind / And the heart of the Eternal / Is most wonderfully kind / If our love were but more simple / We should take him at his word, / And our lives would be thanksgiving /For the goodness of our Lord.
“Troubled souls, why will you scatter / Like a crowd of frightened sheep? / Foolish hearts, why will you wander / From a love so true and deep? / There is welcome for the sinner / And more graces for the good / There is mercy with the Savior / There is healing in his blood.”
These are good words, written from a long-ago era, which seem to perfectly capture the sentiments of Pope Francis in declaring the present jubilee Year of Mercy:
“There’s a kindness in God’s justice . . . joy for all the members . . . For the love of God is broader than the measures of our mind . . . most wonderfully kind . . . If our love were but more simple . . . There is welcome for the sinner . . . more graces for the good . . . There is mercy with the Savior . . .”
So, at the risk of once again facing folks’ wrath, I do implore (and strongly suggest): Know this hymn, sing this hymn, share this hymn, and, most importantly, believe this hymn!