amazing grace



i just saw Amazing Grace listed as in tension with catholic teaching, and I was wondering why. I looked over the lyrics and I can’t find anything in tension with the teachings of the church. What did I overlook?


One of the lines says: “How great that grace was once I first believed”. It’s making the statement you must be a believer to receive grace. That kind of goes against infant baptism. Also one of the last lines hint of once saved always saved. I forget how exactly it’s worded.


“How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.”

I don’t think this is against Catholic doctrine. I know many Catholics who testify of a “conversion experience” where they came to realize that “Yes, I believe. I choose to follow Jesus and stay true to my baptismal vows.” They can actually state the day and even the hour that this happened. (In our church, many Catholics reach this point at a "Light of the World Retreat.)

In fact, I’ve been taught that ALL Catholics have to come to a place in their life where they assume the Baptismal vows for themselves and make a decision to truly follow Jesus and be a faithful Catholic.

I would think that at that particular “hour” in your life, when you realize all that God wants to do in your life and the heavenly home that He wants to make you perfect for, the grace that was given to you at your baptism would “appear” precious!

Also, for many Protestants like myself who convert, we realize that the Mediatrix of All Graces, the Blessed Virgin Mary, has been working all along to bring us home. She certainly appears “precious” to those of us who previously only knew her as the “womb” where Jesus hung out for nine months.

I’m not sure which verse assume OSAS. I’m guessing it’s the verse about “And when this flesh and heart shall fail and mortal life shall cease, I shall possess within the veil a life of joy and peace.”

I can go along with your objection to this verse, which, BTW, I have never heard sung even in Protestant churches. I found it in a Christian and Missionary Alliance Hymnal, but we never sang it. I’ve not seen it in other hymnals, but it must be there since you’ve seen it, too.

I think the answer to Catholic objections to the verse is to simply eliminate this verse when you sing the song. The rest of the song is OK.

A lot of Protestants eliminate “Catholic” verses from various hymns. So we can play the same game, can’t we?

The fact is, it’s the most popular hymn in the U.S., and one of the few hymns that almost everyone, even complete non-church goers, kind of know. (It is usually played at police and firefighter funerals.)

When Catholic Churches sing this hymn, it helps non-Catholics to feel at home a little. This may make them inclined to investigate the Catholic Church more fully, and this may lead to their conversion to Catholicism. I think for the sake of the one Protestant soul that may be brought home, it’s worth playing a hymn with a few questionable words.

If we are going to start eliminating hymns from the hymnal, I say get rid of the Martin Luther hymn “A Mighty Fortress.” After all, Martin Luther caused quite a rift in the church.

And while we’re at it, let’s not allow the traditional Wedding March to be played at any Catholic wedding. Richard Wagner was a virtiolic anti-Semite and his opera “Parsifal” inspired Hitler to create a new religion which called for the destruction of all Jews.

You see, this elimination game can get a little silly. I say glean all the good you can out of any music that is sung at Mass, be aware of and discuss (especially with children and teenagers) some of the shortfalls and doctrinal errors of some of the songs, and practice charity in all things.

BTW, I think it would be an interesting book for someone to write–“non-Catholic teachings in popular hymns.” Not to insult the hymns and their writers, but to inform Catholics so that they don’t absorb errors.


I don’t have any real problem with Amazing Grace, but if you’re looking for one I suppose there are these lines too:

'… 'Tis Grace hath brought me safe thus far
And Grace will lead me home.

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures.
He will my shield and portion be
as long as life endures.’

They smack a little of guaranteed salvation, OSAS and all that.


But isn’t it true that as long as we remain in the State of Grace, we are guaranteed salvation?


I agree that the hymn is OK. The objections usually cluster around the line: “the hour I first believed” – as if that means that the writer did not have grace ‘unto salvation’ before that hour. And I guess it CAN be read that way. But as one baptized in infancy, who has had more than one “hour I first believed” – because Christians are in a perpetual state of being born again – I do not find the hymn objectionable.

Every awakening to grace is in some sense a “first” hour. And “the hour I first believed” does not necessarily translate into the conventional Protestant notion of a “born again” experience.


Its a protestant hymn, written by a protestant who may not have heard of or agreed with sanctifying grace etc. etc., so you’re singing along to something written to mean something you cannot believe in yourself.


Thats weird. I had a Priest tell me to read the lyrics as a penace and he asked me to pray for him. This was a result of me telling him about a spiritual experience. Tim


I do not see a problem with this, St. Paul states, “there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus”, absolutely true. Jesus is eternal life in those who are in Him have eternal life. But, Tim Staples made a beautiful point recently, he said to paraphrase, if I have an eternal fountain pen I have an eternal fountain pen, but if I throw away my eternal fountain pen, it still remains an eternal fountain pen, but I no longer have it.

So these words are very true to those who remain in Christ, He is our shield and portion, His word secures our hope, and it’s only by His grace that we know Him and love Him, I agree with all of that, and those who love Him will never abandon Him, they will remain true to His words and promises.


Amazing Grace doesn’t seem to be a big problem overall. Imagry in words sometimes do not reflect reality: think of those that refer to God’s wings; if He has wings, and we were created in His Image, where are our wings? I was stunned the first time I heard A Mighty Fortress (Luther) in a Catholic church. Banning all songs by Martin Luther would eliminate “Away in a Manger”, too.
Let’s take a stern look at Haugen, Haas, and some of the noise used in teen Masses.


Why don’t we just leave people’s music alone unless it is blatently anti-Catholic?

I happen to love Marty Haugen songs and would hate to see them banned.

The song that you think is puerile is someone’s else’s “hour of first belief.”


“How precious did that grace appear the hour I first believed.” I agree is the key verse that Catholics could have issue with. If its saying that grace appears to be so much more precious now that we believe, then I think the song is fine. However if it is saying that the precious grace appeared (as in first arrived) the hour I first believed, then yes that is contrary to the Catholic teaching on actual grace that is always working in our lives whether we believe or not.


I am arriving at a pastoral appreciation of this unfortunate fact. It astounds me that anybody could find Gregorian chant incomprehensible, and even annoying, yet find some kind of spiritual “truth” in the most cloying and musically trivial drivel. So, I’ve come to where I can observe that dispassionately and appreciate that people “are where they are”.

That said, I find the use of folk music (including tunes like Amazing Grace) in liturgy to be completely at odds with the eternal mysteries being celebrated there. As a former Protestant, I found many of the most popular Protestant hymns to be musically ghastly (The Old Rugged Cross, Were You There When They Crucified My Lord . . . ). To my mind, if without hearing the words you can’t tell that this isn’t a parlor song, then it needs to be sung in the parlor, and not in the liturgy. I put those Irish Catholic ballads like Mother of Christ and Our Lady of Knock in the same basket. Sentimental parlor songs with religious overtones but NOT liturgical music.

Whenever we sing “Table of Plenty” I can see in my mind’s eye, a TV commercial for an all-you-can-eat buffet restaurant.


I would be interested in knowing which of Haugen’s songs you particularly like and what it is that you find compelling about it.

I guess this belongs on another thread, but it would be of interest to me to hear a good case made for this, since I find it so difficult to see what others see in him (and David Haas).

I am interested: not challenging.


"How precious did that Grace appear the hour I first believed."

You can certainly interpret this line according to Protestant decisional theology, but I think it can be interpreted in line with Catholic theology also. Even if grace first appeared in a Catholic’s life at the time of infant baptism, that grace is not going to be appreciated–not going to appear precious to you, indeed you may not even recognize its precence–until you actually believe that God’s grace is working in you.


Are there any Islamic songs about the One God that you could sing at Mass or at a protestant service?..:shrug:


Hmmm. Good question; there might be – say Sunday school songs like “Father Abraham”?


This song is rather precious to me in the fact that I listened to it for yrs and thought it good. Starting becoming a christian and still found drawn to the song.

Then and I know this rubs wrong on some but I “went forward” and decided to call Christ the Son of God, then listened to the song again after and it changed. I hadnt noticed things in it before. Truly my eyes were blind, and literally now I was seeing so much clearer. The song took on a whole new meaning.

Grace, previous I really didnt know what it meant although I thought I did, and lead me home I thought was a nice sentiment, now I get it that and the whole thing.

And in the hour I first believed is when my eyes were no longer blind. Alot is said about freedom and truth in Christ in churches but one must realise it, choose it, experiences it, first believes it, then the meaning is True and you will be led home.

Literally seeing things in a new light, a larger picture, one is finally awake and not dreaming.


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