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Thursday, May 28, 2015

An offer, with those John 6 weeks coming in July and August

Every three years, in mid to late summer, the lectionary in year B jumps back to the gospel of St. John from Mark for five weeks of reading the entire sixth chapter of the fourth gospel, which we commonly call the "Bread of Life" discourse.

I'm not going to say too much about that right now. If you're anything like me, though, you love-hate those weeks as you try to keep the music for the liturgy fresh without being overly repetitive. Maybe you wish the preaching would kick up a notch, but that's not going to happen in the middle of the summer any more than the congregational singing would, or the choir (where those souls are released from ministry for three months of the summer season) magically reappear to sing "Ego Sum Panis Vivus" each Sunday by a different composer.

But you might know that back in 1987 NALR published a (1985) song of mine called "(I Myself Am the) Bread of Life," which is currently published by OCP Publications and has been in print all that time, re-recorded in 2000 on our CD Change Our Hearts. I actually wrote that song for the Year B readings that year, while working with a group of young people at St. Jerome Church in Phoenix, and inspired by a number of my teachers, particularly John Gallen, S.J.

And yes, there has been controversy on and off in some quarters about it, which I wrote about in my blog in 2013 in a post entitled "Theological Tempests in Musical Teapots, Part 2." So I'm not going to defend the song any more. I've said what needs to be said, and if some folks don't like it, then they are certainly blessed with a torrent of good songs for communion that they can happily use.

If, however, you still use this song, or would like to use it (it's in Music Issue and Today's Missal,  Choral Praise, Journeysongs 3rd Edition, and legacy Glory and Praise and Gather editions), I have a proposition for you. Last time around, I wrote four new verses for the song that invoke imagery from other readings on the weeks of the John 6 gospels. My thought was it might both help those readings sink in, and also make the lyrics of the verses "pop" when they're sung by the assembly with allusions to texts and people that are heard in the other texts of the day.

I have made a ".tiff" file of these verses, which use the same tune as many of you already know, on my "freebies" page at, link here. There are instructions there for downloading the file. The download is free. I only ask that you continue to abide by the usual copyright rules, and if you use or reprint any of the material owned by OCP that you do the usual reporting protocols via These are available with OCP's blessing. I asked them to make the verses available to those who would like them free of charge, but the rigmarole of figuring all that out from contractual and electronic point of view was daunting, so they said I could make the verses available myself. So think of them as my birthday you!

These are the texts of those verses, if you'd like to see them standing on their own. Please feel free to circulate the link to this blog page to others who might be interested.

Thanks to all of you who have stood by "I Myself Am the Bread of Life" these thirty years. I have kids younger than this song!

additional verses, text copyright © 2012 by Rory Cooney

4. Full cup of blessing,
Free as the rain and sun,
Is passed among us,
Gathering all to one.
A living sign of God in Christ.

5. We, like Elijah,
Hunted, afraid, alone,
Receive in slumber
Food for the path unknown,
A living sign of God in Christ.

6. Taste Wisdom's table,
Spread with the richest fare.
The poor and simple
Dine at her calling there.
A living sign of God in Christ.

7. Sent from this banquet,
Strength in our hearts restored,
We go together,
Summoned to serve the Lord,
A living sign of God in Christ.

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