Amazing Grace :Are we wretches or not?

I have a question.

Recently at church I was singing Amazing Grace. The lyrics, as printed in the Pray Together missalette were

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saves and strengthens me…”

I learned it as

"Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."
in a Protestant church.

Is this a sign of liberal “nobody really sins” kind of thought, or is there some other reason why Catholics would not consider themselves wretches?

I do not believe that we are “piles of dung,” (Martin Luther as quoted on this forum) but I do believe that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Do you think that the lyrics must be changed to “saved and strengthened” in order to agree with Catholic doctrine?

Thanks,
Iguana

If you want to sing it in a Catholic Church, it needs to reflect Catholic doctrine.

[quote=cmom]If you want to sing it in a Catholic Church, it needs to reflect Catholic doctrine.
[/quote]

OK - Given.

So do you think that the lyrics must be changed to reflect Catholic doctrine?

Thanks!

[quote=iguana27]I have a question.

Recently at church I was singing Amazing Grace. The lyrics, as printed in the Pray Together missalette were

“Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saves and strengthens me…”

I learned it as

"Amazing Grace how sweet the sound, that saved a wretch like me."
in a Protestant church.

Is this a sign of liberal “nobody really sins” kind of thought, or is there some other reason why Catholics would not consider themselves wretches?

I do not believe that we are “piles of dung,” (Martin Luther as quoted on this forum) but I do believe that “all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God.”

Do you think that the lyrics must be changed to “saved and strengthened” in order to agree with Catholic doctrine?

Thanks,
Iguana
[/quote]

[quote=iguana27]I have a question.

Recently at church I was singing Amazing Grace. The lyrics, as printed in the Pray Together missalette were

"Amazing Grace how sweet the sound that saves and strengthens me…"
themselves wretches?

Thanks,
Iguana
[/quote]

At both my mothers and fathers funeral mass which were in the last two years amazing grace was sung, and it was sung with the original words (that saved a wretch like me). The change of the words must have been a personal preference. I prefer the original words, Jesus really did save a wretch when he saved me.
maggiec

Amazing Grace :Are we wretches or not?

Before or after morning coffe?

I am reminded of how St. Paul refered to himself as the chief of sinners. Jesus admonishes the church at Ladocea that they are wretched. While we humans were made in the image of God, we also sin, sometimes mortally. Being in the state of mortal sin is a wretched place to be. I believe since the song refers to that soul that needs to be saved from such a state, wretch should apply.

It struck me odd when I first heard the change at Mass, I converted from Lutheranism and always heard the original words. I was curious as to why they did that, since I do not see how the original words were in any discord with the Faith. Somehow I suspected it had to do with a little shying away from sin in some way.

Removing the “wretch” line was simply a matter of p.c.: People may make “mistakes” nowadays, but they don’t sin so badly as to be accounted wretched.

However that may be, I don’t think “Amazing Grace” should be sung in a Catholic setting–certainly not at Mass. “Amazing Grace” is a fine hymn, but its theology is Protestant, specifically low-church Protestant (Evangelical).

The problem is that the hymn implicitly denies the efficacy of baptism. The lyrics state the singer was saved “when I first believed,” and that implies as an adult. But baptism infuses sanctifying grace no matter at what age administered, and, in the young, there is no requirement for an act of faith.

It is this that should make the hymn objectionable to Catholics. I too like the music, and I think it’s a great hymn–but it’s a great Protestant hymn, not a great Catholic hymn.

(I like the British and Japanese national anthems, but I wouldn’t want them played at the beginning of a baseball game.)

You beat me to that Karl. It is a hymn whose first two lines brings tears to any eye at a funeral - Amazing Grace - but after that it does not bear any resemblence to Catholic Doctrine.

Grace is Amazing but the grace of Catholicism is not the Grace of this hymn.

I don’t see anything explicitly contrary to Catholic doctrine in the lyrics.

There are adults with conversion experiences. And belief can lead to seeking the graces of baptism …

And for those who were baptized as infants, the realization that one believes and the knowledge that one has already been baptized can make grace appear precious, indeed.

lyrics

[quote=squirt]I don’t see anything explicitly contrary to Catholic doctrine in the lyrics.

There are adults with conversion experiences. And belief can lead to seeking the graces of baptism …

And for those who were baptized as infants, the realization that one believes and the knowledge that one has already been baptized can make grace appear precious, indeed.

lyrics
[/quote]

John Newton, writer of the lyrics, was a follower of Wesley. In today’s parlance he would be called an Evangelical, and it’s his Evangelical theology that’s clear in the second stanza: “the hour I first believed.”

This line is not just about Newton’s own conversion. To his mind (and the mind of all Evangelicals), it is the experience of every true Christian: You come to “accept Christ” as an adult, and through that you receive saving grace for the first time.

Evangelicals don’t believe that baptism performs any change in the person; it is an external sign only. To their way of thinking, baptism doesn’t have anything to do with receiving grace, so it can be dropped from the equation.

These things contradict Catholic theology, and that’s why my earlier comments were correct.

[quote=Karl Keating]John Newton, writer of the lyrics, was a follower of Wesley. In today’s parlance he would be called an Evangelical, and it’s his Evangelical theology that’s clear in the second stanza: “the hour I first believed.”
[/quote]

Yeah. I know. There’s a biographical sketch on the link I provided, eh?

That’s the beauty of poetry, eh. Its meaning isn’t limited to what was in the mind of the author.

What evangelicals believe is irrelevant to what a Catholic can see in the words of a poem. There is nothing directly in the poem that contradicts Catholic theology. And that’s why my earlier comments were correct.

:slight_smile:

PS I don’t especially like the song and I’ve never heard it sung at our parish.

[quote=iguana27]Amazing Grace :Are we wretches or not?
[/quote]

I think the word wretched adequately describes the human condition prior to receiving the gifts of both Sanctifying and Actual Grace, which are both pretty amazing.

J.B.

I think I saw a poll somewhere that “Amazing Grace” was the most popular hymn in the US. I guess if people like the melody of a song, they don’t pay much attention to the wording. But I always associated it with the protestant churches. It’s not one of my favorites.

If the hymn contradicts Catholic Theology, then I agree, it shouldn’t be sung at Mass, but the change to remove the “wretch” so that people feel better about their sin is also equally inappropriate.

The fact is that it IS sung at a lot of Catholic churches, and even included in misalettes, which by definition are Catholic.

I appreciate what Karl and others have to say about the “saved” idea in the song, which was written by a Wesleyan. However, the “saved” language was not changed in the “Catholic” version, the “wretch” language was the part that was removed.

It seems worse to change the song to reflect the idea that we are not really terrible sinners than keep it as is and adapt the meaning (to the Catholic mind) that grace and salvation occur at any point in the Catholics life, and in fact do not end with baptism, but imply a continuing conversion in the Catholic’s life, including adulthood.

I am a wretch who was saved by the grace of God, and I believe that does not contradict Catholic theology. I think the authors of the misalette missed the boat on this one…

God Bless,
Iguana

Sounds like I blew it big time. I had Amazing Grace sung at my wedding. During Communion, no less! (Ave Maria was sung first.) I am an adult convert (from nothing…never baptised). I was definitely wretched and lost. When I received God’s grace through baptism, I was found. If it was wrong, I didn’t know it at the time.

But, there are a lot of songs that don’t reflect Catholic doctrine. There was an article in the National Catholic Register about this, just around Easter. The Vatican is doing a review and will be publishing guidelines. I wonder if they will keep a modified version of Amazing Grace.

Maybe instead of “How precious did His grace appear the hour I first believed” we can modify it to “the hour I first received”.

No doubt the theology of John Newton can be said to be reflected in this hymn. I still believe that this hymn can reflect a valid Catholic experience.

The line from verse two in question, “how precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed,” reflects a legitimate experience on the part of many who convert late in life. I myself reflect back to my realization of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and remember that on acceptance of that fundamental belief, how truly awesome that grace that was available to me.

I can accept that such a hymn might be avoided on grounds of prudence. Perhaps singing about the experience of an adult conversion does undermine the efficacy of baptism. But if the same song was written by a Catholic convert, an Evangelical might argue that “grace has brought me safe thus far and grace will lead me home” implies that one needs a continuing infusion of grace instead of the single shot conversion w/imputed righteousness many of them favor.

I posted a month ago that I wouldn’t mind examining the lyrics of Amazing Grace, but I never thought I would be on the opposite side of Mr. Keating.

I just hope that I don’t end up banished to Mongolia.

There are worse places than Mongolia for Catholics to be banished;)

The lyrics to Amazing Grace are a poem. Just because the author maintained a flawed theology does not necessarily mean that his art is flawed. Each line can be read in a Catholic context and make complete sense. When we sing this in a Catholic Church, we are (hopefully) singing these words as reflective of Catholic theology.

As pnewton said, the line about the hour I first believed is not untrue. It is a line describing an individual sinners attitude toward grace. Grace does indeed appear quite precious at the moment when one realizes the enormity of God’s love for us. Grace can appear precious to an adult convert. Grace can appear precious to a 10 year old baptized Catholic who is first beginning to gain a sense of the power of God’s love for us.

It’s a great hymn and since I fail to see any clear opposition to Catholic theology within the lyrics, I vote we keep it.

Well I agree with Karl that it implies a once saved, always saved theology which is contrary to Catholicism.

I know there is a lot of sentiment attached to the hymn and it’s hard to attend a funeral where it is not played, often with bagpipes. Maybe if just the music were played without the words, it would be acceptable.

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