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Sunday, April 27, 2014

Songstories 30: "You in Our Day" (1987, Mystery)

We have not seen you, but we love you.
We have not seen you, but we believe you.
We have not seen you, but we hope in you,
For we have met you in our day,
We have met you one the way.

1. In the garden of despair, 
Bowed by grief too great to bear,
Love is gone, and we've nothing left to give.
Then we hear you speak our name,
Ashen hearts burst into flame,
For your tomb is empty, and you live. We have not seen you...

2. When our doubting drives us home,
And we think we walk alone,
As we speak of the cross, a third appears.
When we offer hearth and bed,
Then the stranger breaks our bread,
And our eyes are open, you are here. We have not seen you...

3. Day to day we see you plead
From the eyes of those in need:
Human pain spreads before us like a sea.
And we hunger for the day
When at last we hear you say
"What you did for these you did for me."

When I left the seminary in 1973, I had finished 3+ years of college, plus two summer schools. I had over 110 hours toward  my BA in liberal studies, but never finished with a degree.

In the late 1970s, I met John Gallen, SJ, in Phoenix, and later, in 1985 or so when he began interviewing potential students for his Corpus Christi Center for Advanced Liturgical Study, he asked me about what happened with college. I explained to him that they had finally disclosed what "celibacy" was, and I thought I should leave. (Not really.) But John told me I should contact the school and see if they would take some of my intervening years as life experience, and perhaps with a project or two, I could receive the BA for which I had almost enough credit hours. 

I made the appropriate contact with St. Mary's of the Barrens Seminary in Perryville, MO, just in the nick of time. They were in a process of streamlining their operations, closing the college and moving students to a house of formation at DePaul University, and converting the beautiful southeast Missouri campus into a retirement and care facility for older Vincentians. As a project, the dean assigned me the task of writing a song for the liturgy that would formally close the institution as a school.

As I recall, that liturgy was an Easter liturgy, and it may in fact have been on the second or third Sunday of Easter. When I heard today's second reading, it brought that memory back to me.
"Although you have not seen him you love him;
even though you do not see him now yet believe in him,
you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy..."



I thought at the time how Easter is celebrated in all kinds of situations by a lot of people who don't feel they have much to rejoice about. Easter is always in the shadow of the cross. Those who would be singing this song would be in a kind of mourning, letting go of an institution that had flourished for decades and produced priests and bishops who had founded seminaries to train other priests, built parishes, served as professors, missionaries, and even periti at the Second Vatican Council. They were doing the right thing, but it still stung. So I wanted to write a hopeful Easter song that acknowledged the pain of the present while leaning toward a promise and a future of unexpected joy. 

"You in Our Day" appeared in the first edition (maroon binding) of Glory and Praise Comprehensive as well as in Glory and Praise Volume 4. It was recorded on our CD Mystery in 1987. I think it did well what I intended, that is, served as an Easter song of a more restrained joy, one that waits at the empty tomb with hope while still torn by anguish and disbelief.