Connecting through song
Joe Everett | Tuesday, October 31, 2017
It is a truth universally acknowledged: A Notre Dame student participating in a dorm mass must belt out one song.
“Canticle of the Turning.”
Simultaneously a church song and an absolute jam, “The Canticle” never fails to provoke a thunderous chorus at the end of mass. You’ve probably been in a situation where a DJ will start playing a certain song and the entire room ignites with excitement and anticipation; “Canticle of the Turning” is pretty much the religious equivalent. To summarize, it’s a church song with a unique ability to connect with a lot of people for one reason or another. Examining it’s lyrics with a greater depth, we can begin to recognize why this song attracts and emboldens us so and what lessons we can draw from it.
[Disclaimer: I picked a couple lines from each verse to analyze — my sincerest apologies if I left out your favorite. I also apologize if you don’t go to dorm mass and haven’t heard this song, but I believe you may still get something out of this.]
“You fixed your sight on your servant’s plight / and my weakness you did not spurn”
As a college student, I find these lines pretty easy to relate to. Whether it’s exams, papers, applications, relationship issues or just the daily, monotonous grind of homework with everything else swirling overhead, all of us feel the “plight” that can all to often consume the way we view our lives. Additionally, as college students, we all have weaknesses. I won’t start listing any in particular, but each individual knows where they particularly struggle. These lyrics from “The Canticle” remind us that no matter how hard life may seem and how disappointed and frustrated we can be with ourselves, we are never walking along this path alone. There is always the opportunity for reconciliation, renewal and refreshment.
“Though I am small, my God, my all / you work great things in me”
Whether you’re physically small in stature or you’re Notre Dame’s offensive line, these lyrics still apply. In the grand scheme of things, we’re all small, and we can often feel powerless and unimportant in this great big world. This not only helps cultivate a sense of humility, but also aids our understanding that it is only through God that we are made great. All of us have been given unique and individualized gifts and talents, and when we use them for good, we once again become children of God — powerful beyond measure.
“The hungry poor shall weep no more / for the food they can never earn”
As Notre Dame students, we are called to call out social injustice and work for the building of peace within our communities — fighting for those who are less fortunate than ourselves. In Appalachia over this fall break, many others and myself encountered the poverty of the region, where many people simply seek the ability to work hard and earn a living wage for themselves and their families. While these lyrics convey the hope that all shall be made well in the end, it also should be our goal to build the “City of God” here on Earth.
“Though the nations rage from age to age / we remember who holds us fast”
These lines are from the fourth verse, and so may not be as familiar to those who don’t sing the whole shebang. Regardless, they speak of a promise that extends beyond nationality and ideology. The promise of these lines is the promise of the whole song: The things of this world have been defeated, and the things of the next have not. We can worry less about North Korea and who’s going to drop a nuclear bomb because we have the promise of our heavenly Father; all shall be well, and the manner of all things shall be well.
The “Canticle of the Turning” is thus a comfort, a challenge and, ultimately, a song of hope, and we should embrace its lessons as our hearts sing of the day God will bring.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and not necessarily those of The Observer.