mercygate--Haugen Songs Cat Likes!


Hi, mercygate,

I was going to PM you, but then it got long and then I thought, maybe someone else would be interested.

You said something about “pastoral appreciation.” Good for you, trying to put yourself in someone else’s shoes and understand how they think and why they think that way!

This is a long post and I’ll do it in several pieces. Hope it’s not too tedious.

My Soul in Stillness Waits
Return to God
Tree of Life
Sing Out, Earth and Skies
We Remember
Eye Has Not Seen
We Are Many Parts
Gather Us In

Blessed Are They (Haas)
Without Seeing You (Haas)
I Am The Bread Of Life (Toolan)
Ashes (Conry)

This is a partial list of some of my favorite “Catholic” songs by Haugen and a few by other “despised” composers.

It might help you to know some of my background.

I was trained in classical piano for ten years. I started playing piano in church (Conference Baptist) when I was 12, and learned a definite “praise” or “gospel” style. I had my first “salaried” piano position in church when I was in 8th grade.

I majored in music for a year in college (Northern Illinois University), but decided to switch to medical technology so I would be guaranteed a job. But I continued to take music classes and was a member of the huge University Chorus and the Madrigals.

While I was growing up, I was a member of the oldest continuously-active music club in the U.S., and to this day, I am still a member, and active in various youth musical activities.

I have written over 70 Christian songs, mainly for children, but I’ve published none of them. I wish I could, but I know very little about the publishing business. It seems to be a “club” of sorts, and it’s hard to gain admission. So I allow anyone to use my songs at no charge. If I may say so without sounding like a braggart, kids, even 5th grade boys, love my songs. I still get the occasional piece of “fan mail” from a kid that has grown up.

And there, I think, is the key as to why I love Haugen, Haas, and many of the other Catholic songwriters that some Catholics insist are “puerile.”

I am a child at heart. I have two children’s novels published. I love kids, I love teenagers, and I feel more at home with them and their literature and culture than I do with grownups. Before I was kicked out of my Protestant church, I was in charge of a children’s choir. The first year, I had 24 children in the choir. It grew to 42 the next year, and the third year, which I never got to complete because I was kicked out, I had 67 children interested in joining my choir.

Again, if I may say so without sounding like a braggart, I could have an auditorium of 200 children eating out of my hand within twenty minutes by teaching them one of my songs. I remember overhearing a group of boys (BOYS!) talking about the music one year at VBS (which I had written), and they said, “I hope we sing that castle song again, that’s cool.” BOYS! You know you have a gift when you can write songs that please boys.

But since getting kicked out of the church, I’ve lost all my confidence. The Lord has been gracious enough to allow me to play piano for the children’s choir in my Catholic parish, and I love the kids and do my best for them. The director is delightful and her philosophies of music and children match mine (strong melodies, proper vocal technique, respect for the director and accompanist, and motive of serving God and the congregation).

Maybe someday I’ll have a chance to teach Catholic kids my songs. It’s a dream of mine. But it’s up to God to make it come true.

Back to Haugen and Co. I love the songs because they are basically children’s songs. Our choir kids sing them with ease, and they love them. That’s probably why I love them. I’m just a big kid. And that’s OK with me. Jesus said that the kingdom of heaven is made up of such as these.


Second post–hang in there! (or take a nap, if this is too drone-like!)

Also, they were the first songs I heard in the Catholic church. We came to the Catholic church sick-at-heart after being ousted from our beloved evangelical church. One of the first songs I ever heard in the Mass was Gather Us In. WHAT A MESSAGE for someone like me who had been thrown out of the only church and life that I had ever known! So you think it’s puerile? Maybe if you were in exile and all your friends had deserted you and you had NOTHING to fill your evening hours that were usually filled with church activities and friends, maybe the song would mean something to you.

I actually copied all the words down on a napkin that I had in my purse and read them over and over again for days. I loved the idea of being “gathered in.” In fact, after we were ousted, I told my husband, in tears, that I would NEVER, EVER go back to a church unless I was wooed like a bride.

Gather Us In wooed me. It’s gentle and inclusive and it still brings me to tears.

Many of the other songs in my list above have some kind of “story” that makes them special. Often it was just a kind act during the Mass. I believe it was during a Haugen song (We Are Many Parts?) that a kind lady whispered to me the Protestant, to not get up, just keep praying, she and her husband would go around me to go up for Communion. Such a little act of kindness, but I knelt in the pew and sobbed. What a difference from the way I was treated at the evangelical church, where a man that I had never even met stood up at my “tribunal hearing” and told me that I was “unloveable and unteachable.”

By loving these songs, I am not “unloving” towards traditional hymns and ancient music of the Church. I grew up on “traditional hymns,” and mourned their loss from evangelical churches when the “Praise and Worship” bands marched in and took the churches hostage. Hey, I don’t mind P and W, but please don’t take away all the historical music and tell us that it’s “old and worthless.”

I love all kinds of music. Perhaps because of my Protestant background, I have a difficult time with the idea that “certain music is not acceptable at Mass.” I am willing to accept the ruling of the Church on this question, but if it is just the opinion of a lay person, I won’t accept it. I would have no trouble with a country-western song in Mass (I love Country Western) if it were reverent and well-done.

I must admit that when it comes to “high Mass music” such as chant, the trained musician in me makes it extremely difficult to “worship.” I notice things like, “the tenor is off-pitch,” or “the altos don’t know their part” or “the soprano is singing through her nose instead of a nice light head voice.” I notice muddled melismas. I notice that the organist is drowning out the singing.

So to me, this high music becomes theater. I try very hard to just forget being a pianist and “worship the Lord.” But it doesn’t work very well. So for this reason, I prefer a “low mass music,” with folk music, traditional hymns, and the occasional rock piece. It’s just simpler and so I don’t “evaluate” it like a concert.

I am 50 years old and probably have about 15 years left to live. (Since I don’t have anything saved for retirement, I really have to plan on dying by the time I’m 65!) When I was a teenager, I fought for the inclusion of Christian rock music in the worship service (Protestant). When I was in my 20s, I fought to see Amy Grant and 2nd Chapter of Acts music performed in church. When I was in my 30s, I started realizing that maybe I shouldn’t have fought so hard for rock music, and when I was in my 40s, I realized that I had made DREADFUL mistake to fight so hard for rock music in church!

I still believe in rock music in church, but I wish that it hadn’t displaced all the other music!

And I have come to see that everyone’s musical tastes should be honored, even the people who like the P and W (what I call “boomer”) music.

I declare myself a conscientious objector when it comes to Music Wars in the Catholic Church. I’ve lived through it in the Protestant church and it was hell. So now, I really, truly don’t care WHAT kind of music is played during mass, as long as it has been approved by the priests who are approved by the bishop (the apostle of the Lord). I will always submit to the leadership of the authorities that Jesus has set over our Church.

Chant, classical, traditional, folk, rock, country, children’s. It’s all fine. I like it all.


In conclusion, I’m going to print an email that my daughter sent me a few months ago. It includes one verse and the chorus of the words to one of my simplest children’s songs, a song meant for very young children, a song that my daughter first sang in church when she was three years old.

Does anyone think that children’s music (Haugen, Haas, etc.) is puerile? Well, apparently God can work in the simplest, most child-like tunes and words.

Here’s my daughter’s email:

I’ve been thinking about Mom’s song, “Jesus makes the Boo Boos Better” as I have been focusing on Mary and her relationship with Jesus and with the human race. I am trying to get my head around the “Mariology,” as it were.

The lyrics in the first verse and in the chorus are this:

Just the other day I ran outside to play
I rode my bike and climbed into a tree, whee!
Then I fell on my knee, and scraped it terribly
I cried and cried and screamed, “Mommy!”

She ran fast as a deer, and held me very near
She picked me up and carried me back in
She wiped away the dirt and kissed away the hurt
And then she said some words that made me grin.

Jesus makes the boo boos better
Jesus sees when you fall down
Jesus cares when you’re in trouble
Jesus takes away your frown.
Jesus makes the boo boos better
Jesus heals with just one touch
Jesus died to save us because Jesus loves us very much!

In this simple yet eloquent child’s song, we see the Mother as the first one running when the child falls – we see her gather up her young, terrified, injured child, and lead that child safely to the arms of Jesus, safely to the arms of the ultimate Healer, the One who made the ultimate sacrifice for those who hurt, suffer, and fall down. She literally runs, as fast a deer, holds the child near to her breast, picks her up in her arms, and leads her back to the safety of the Lord, the Savior of all creation.

In the same way, so Mary helps lead us to Christ. She picks us up when we fall, and carries us to our Lord, who has already seen us fall and who can heal and save.

Just as one’s Father models God for their children, so does one’s Mother model Mary, the mother and bearer of the New Covenant. When as children we stumble and fall, our mother is the one who comes running to gather us up in her arms and lead us safely back home. When as children of the Lord we stumble and fall through our sin, so does Mary gather us in her arms and lead us safely back to the Lord Jesus Christ, who saves us all from our sin.

Mary was set a task that may have seemed impossible. Many mothers may feel this way – they feel they don’t have the strength or resources to carry and raise a child. Many mothers-to-be say no. Mary didn’t say no. Instead, she answered, “I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” She submits to God’s perfect will and because she alone was chosen for this great honor, she goes on to say that “all ages will call me blessed.”

Mary answered yes to the Lord’s call. Will I?


In case you all are wondering, Yes, my daughter answered God’s call. She called us Saturday night and asked us to be her sponsors. She is starting RCIA in the fall and will be received (hopefully!) into the Catholic Church next spring.

So Mother Mary has picked up another hurt child and, fast as a deer, has run back to Her Son and begged Him to heal. Praise the Lord!

closed #5

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