On the horizon of Advent’s coming liturgical changes, Franciscan Sister of Christian Charity Sister Kathleen Murphy begins a series of articles showcasing traditional hymns that raise social justice consciousness. We invite you to read and sing along with ‘Where Charity and Love Prevail’ and possibly ‘adjust’ your own attitudes and actions.
Hymns Speak Social Justice themes
Which ever view you take, it’s good to remember that social justice is rather like eating. It’s not something we can just take a break from. If we think of social justice as being totally absorbed by politics, current events, protests and petitions, then we could understandably be weary of it, but we would also be wrong in our definition.
Pope Pius XI’s Definition
Pius XI defines social justice in a 1937 encyclical on communism. He writes: “It is the function of social justice to require of each individual that which is necessary for the common good. Consider a living organism: The good of the whole is not being properly secured unless arrangements are made for every single member to receive all that it needs to fulfill its own function. The same is true of the constitution and government of a community: The common good of a society cannot be provided for unless each individual member, a human being endowed with the dignity of personality, receives all that he needs to discharge his social function.”
That’s a lot of words, but clearly social justice has to do with common good—both having it and providing for it. It has to do with the dignity of each of God’s children. This is social justice for Catholics. It can be practiced within our local religious communities, in our larger Franciscan family, in our geographic areas, as well as in the local and universal Church. Social justice can and should be done everywhere!
To help us use this Catholic lens in looking at social justice we will consider some of the hymns we sing to see how they call us to live a just life in God’s sight. Perhaps you would like to use the hymns considered each month in some special way during your communal prayer.
Lyrics of Traditional Hymn
Consider a few lines from Where Charity and Love Prevail.
Let strife among us be unknown,
Let all contention cease.
Be His the glory that we seek,
Be ours, His holy peace.
Simply put, we cannot begin working for peace on a universal level. First we are to seek peace in our own person, in our prayer. Then we work for peace among us. How do we achieve this peace with all the daily rubbing of elbows? Check out the lyrics. “Be His the glory that we seek.” If we all are only seeking God’s glory and proclaiming God’s glory and giving God glory, then we will be done with seeking our own fame. With our common gaze set on giving God glory, we can live in peace, live at peace, live as instruments of peace.