Tom Conry’s “Ashes” revised by OCP for inclusion in 2021 missals
  • Over the summer, OCP announced it would be including a revised text of Tom Conry’s popular Ash Wednesday song in the 2021 editions of Breaking Bread and Music Issue. I have included the original and revised texts for your comparison.

    Of course, this is not one of my choices for Ash Wednesday, but given the fact that it is sung in a vast number of parishes across the country, it may be worth looking over:

    “Ashes” (1978)

    1. We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do. We rise again from ashes, to create ourselves anew. If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true, an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    2. We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt. Give our stumblings direction, give our vision wider view, an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    3. Then rise again from ashes, let healing come to pain, though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain, the rain we’ll use for growing to create the world anew from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    4. Thanks be to the Father, who made us like himself. Thanks be to the Son, who saved us by his death. Thanks be to the Spirit who creates the world anew from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    “Ashes” (2019)

    1. We rise again from ashes, from the good we’ve failed to do. We rise again from ashes, redeemed, O Lord, by you. Our penance, Lord, our sorrow, our grieving hearts renew, an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    2. We offer you our failures, we offer you attempts, the gifts not fully given, the dreams not fully dreamt. Our stumblings, give direction, our visions wider view, an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    3. Then raise us up from ashes, your healing ease our pain. Though spring has turned to winter, and sunshine turned to rain, your rain will nurture growing and create our world anew—an offering of ashes, an offering to you.

    4. Give thanks to God the Father, who gave us life and breath. Give thanks to Christ the Savior, who saved us by his death, who, with the Holy Spirit, creates the world anew from an offering of ashes, an offering to you.
    Thanked by 1MarkB
  • MarkB
    Posts: 369
    Still completely misses the point of Ash Wednesday and the imposition of ashes. The ashes aren't an offering to God of any sort; they are an outward sign of penance.

    The song should have been retired. Revised verse 2 is incomprehensible. But at least the song isn't Pelagian anymore.

    Tom Conry songs are as dated as all that 70s liturgical music is.
  • I actually prefer the original, which seems like an attempt was made to create something artistic instead of having half-hearted doctrinal conformance forced on the author and awkward, out-of-place references shoehorned into the lyrics.

    I wouldn't use either in church if you put a gun to my head.
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,207
    Well done. I love it when heresy is removed from hymnals. Excellent move and congratulations to OCP.
  • @MarkB, that’s also something I don’t like about the text, how the ashes are used as some sort of offering to God when they really aren’t.

    I do like the revision to verse one. I never really knew what “If all our world is ashes, then must our lives be true” meant, so I’m glad it’s gone.

    I think verse four is also a nice revision, imploring the singer to give thanks to the Trinity.

    Overall, the revisions make me like the song a little more, but there are many better options for the imposition of ashes.
    Thanked by 1ServiamScores
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,095
    Well, while ashes are primarily a sign of repentance and mourning and not an offering as such to God, they are in some sense symbolically adjacent to the remnants of a burnt oblation.

    Besides, in the Northern Hemisphere, it will be curious to see what congregations might be allowed to sing it in mid-February 2021.
  • Carol
    Posts: 589
    I recall someone remarking how much they liked "Ashes" one Ash Wednesday in the faculty room of my Catholic school. I asked her why and spoke some of the lyrics, questioning their theology and grammar. She saw my point. I never chose to sing this "hymn" and never will. It is slightly improved but there are better choices.
  • How about:

    Miserére méi, Déus
    Miserére mé-í
    Quóniam in té confídit
    Ánima méa---
    Mí-sít de cæ'lo,
    Et líberávit mé,
    Dedit ín oppróbriúm con-
    culcán-tes mé.
  • To me, it's like some publisher taking issue with Amazing Grace and changing the first verse to "Amazing grace, how sweet the sound / That saved a wretch like me / Except without the Sacraments / My soul in hell would be"
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen tomjaw
  • Schönbergian, did you come up with that, or is that actually from a hymnal?
  • Nathan, I'll eat my leather wallet if that's published in a hymnal.
  • Liam
    Posts: 4,095
    I am certain that it's an invention to provide an analogy. As an invention, it would erase the historically poignant (given the John Newton's personal story) and multi-layered meaning of "blind" and "see"!
  • I thought it was a fabulous tongue in cheek.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I never used "Ashes" but years ago when I played on a Saturday evening mass at a nearby church, the DM was fond of something called, "Dust and Ashes." I hated that one and called it the dirt and mud song. In my later job at another church, I refused to use it. It was by that composer who made an haas of all of us for years.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,891
    The ashes have now been replaced by hand sanitizing liquid... can we put that in the song?
    Thanked by 2CharlesW Kathy
  • ServiamScores, given some of what is published, it really isn't that far out of reality.
  • CharlesW,

    This one?
    https://youtu.be/ZIMhploLFZQ

    Thanked by 1CharlesW
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Horrid, isn't it?
  • Horrid doesn’t even begin to describe it.
  • My God, Francis. I bet we'll have no ashes on Ash Wednesday this time around at most parishes. Or can the priest touch everyone's faces?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    We had no ashes or masses last time, either. All the parishes were shut down.
  • The whole year counts as penance, I suppose.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,891
    Penance, Penance, Penance
  • I love the way God arranges everything.
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,654

    We had no ashes or masses last time, either. All the parishes were shut down.


    You were shut down that early?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    In checking my dates, we missed most all of Lent and Easter. Public masses were suspended March 20 and limited attendance masses resumed at Pentecost. As I recall, many people had stopped attending a few weeks before the March 20 date.
  • we didn't shut down until right before Holy Week.
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I went back Pentecost and played for limited attendance masses. We were restricted to 50% of the seating capacity and spaced apart by at least 6 feet. No hymns, no choir, cantor and organ, and communion in the hand, only. The trads have still not stopped complaining. I retired at the end of July since even with limited attendance, I was still around several hundred people each week. Masks were required, and still are as far as I know. I think I am safer at home.
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • Carol
    Posts: 589
    CharlesW are you enjoying your retirement thus far? Are you completely retired now? Post covid, what will be on your bucket list?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    I still work half-time for the federal agency I retired from some years ago. We are still mostly working from home at the moment because of the plague. Practice and house maintenance also take up some time. I'm looking at some walls that need painting as I write. As we librarians have said for years, "so many books to read, so little time," and I have many dozens of books to read. Not being involved in church politics anymore is a genuine blessing and I am grateful for that one. I may publicly play organ again in the future but no rush. With winter approaching, it will be nice to not have to go out into the weather early on Sunday mornings.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen Carol
  • Gina
    Posts: 12
    I still don't get how "we rise again from ashes". It would seem that on Ash Wednesday we are, if anything, just entering into the ashes of the penitential season. At least we're no longer creating ourselves anew. The song is a beloved tradition in our parish but I can't bring myself to sing those words
  • Gina,

    I suppose those who were cremated will rise again from ashes at the Second Coming when God creates all things anew.
    Thanked by 1CatherineS
  • Carol
    Posts: 589
    That line always makes me think of a phoenix rising from the ashes, definitely not a Catholic image.
    Thanked by 2CHGiffen cmb
  • matthewjmatthewj
    Posts: 2,654
    That line always makes me think of a phoenix rising from the ashes, definitely not a Catholic image.


    http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2017/06/phoenix-chasuble.html
  • ClemensRomanusClemensRomanus
    Posts: 1,003
    That line always makes me think of a phoenix rising from the ashes, definitely not a Catholic image.

    Pope St. Clement I even mentions it in his Epistle to the Corinthians.
  • kevinfkevinf
    Posts: 1,115
    I remember meeting Tom Conry in 1992 at an NPM convention. He was wearing denim overalls and if you didn't know any better, you would have thought he was a homeless character. I was introduced to him and he was very abrasive and arrogant...not a kind man at all. I said to my associate who was standing with me at the time that Mr. Conry clearly knew more than the rest of us and was happy to let us know that. Fortunately, I never used any of his music and am thankful that for the most part, it is in the dustbin of mediocrity.
  • Carol
    Posts: 589
    Right after I hit the post comment button I thought, "Somebody is going to set me straight about the phoenix." For me, personally, it is not symbolic of Christ's resurrection.

  • Wasn't it Clement of Rome who mentions the phoenix (assuming it to be real) in relation to Christs's Resurrection? I know one of the early fathers did but I cant remember whom.
  • (Although, with Carol, I don't particularly associate the phoenix with Christ, although I can see why the comparison would be drawn. It clearly is a less-common image, if nothing else, that doesn't really have universal traction in traditional iconography.)
    Thanked by 1Carol
  • According to his bio (https://www.ocp.org/en-us/artists/185/tom-conry) on OCP Tom Conry is known to have spoken at Call to Action conferences. Call to Action promotes much that is contrary to Church teaching including women’s ordination. https://www.cta-usa.org/videos/ordination-justice

    Why are we financially supporting those who don’t support the Church? We should stop using all of his terrible music (Anyone familiar with “Anthem”?) in our churches.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,072
    College age kids sitting round a camp fire may well benefit from stuff like Conry's, but
    De musica sacra et sacra liturgia
    C. POPULAR RELIGIOUS SONG
    51. Popular religious song is to be highly recommended and
    promoted. By means of it, in fact, Christian life is filled with
    religious spirit and the minds of the faithful are elevated.
    Popular religious song has a place in all the solemnities of
    Christian life, whether in public or in the family, and even during
    the labors of daily life; but it has an even nobler part to play in
    all the "pious exercises" performed inside and outside the church;
    and it is sometimes admitted in liturgical functions themselves, according
    to the norms set down in numbers 13-15
    .
    and AFAIK none of his work is suitable for liturgy.
    Thanked by 2CharlesW CHGiffen
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    We are old, we are hateful
    We despise one another
    We wont change for tomorrow
    As we gripe along our way...


    Yeah, SC. I have thought "Anthem" is the worst piece of music ever written. I am going to go rage against the night...

    and AFAIK none of his work is suitable for liturgy.


    Amen to that.
  • SalieriSalieri
    Posts: 2,630
    We are old, we are hateful
    We despise one another
    We wont change for tomorrow
    As we gripe along our way...

    Ah...the Parish Council Anthem.
  • the Parish Council Anthem


    I thought that was,

    The Church’s one foundation is B-I-N-G-O.
    It is the one salvation from all the debt we owe.
    And when foreclosure threatens we’ll play it every night,
    for bingo pays the mortgage but also heat and light.


    Or maybe that’s the parish finance committee anthem.
    Thanked by 3CHGiffen Liam Carol
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,550
    Bingo is outlawed in my state. We have to extort money from the faithful in other ways.
    Thanked by 1CHGiffen