The following is an excerpt from The Catholic Spirit, the official newspaper of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. The full article can be found here.
Father Michael Joncas, a prolific liturgical composer whose best-known hymns include “On Eagles’ Wings,” said he woke up in the middle of the night March 25 with a “nagging idea.” He had been praying about the coronavirus, and wondered if music could play a special role in these uncertain times.
“What popped up was, maybe there is a way to pray about this that also involves song and that would touch people at a different level,” he said.
But, he wondered, what could people possibly want to sing at this time? Then he thought of Psalm 23, which begins “The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want.” The psalm has long been used as a reminder of God’s closeness to his people, even amid suffering.
“That’s so deeply ingrained in people’s consciousness,” he said. “By writing a paraphrase of Psalm 23, I could make it really, really connect to what we’re doing today. We know we have intimacy with God. We beg that we continue to have intimacy with God. But right now, we’re kind of walking through the valley of the shadow of death.”
For Father Joncas, 68, an artist in residence and a research fellow in the Center for Catholic Studies at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul, the short time it took for the hymn to go from an idea to a basic composition was a sign that “there must be something good about it.”
The next day, he sent it to his publisher, GIA Publications, which has helped him make it available for free.
Fr. Joncas recorded this version of “Shelter Me” for IVC to share with you. Take some time to listen and pray.
“Shelter Me,” by Father Joncas:
- Shepherd and sheep, my God and I/ to fresh green fields you led my steps in days gone by/ You gave me rest by quiet springs/ and filled my soul with peace your loving presence brings.
O shelter me, O shelter me/ The way ahead is dark and difficult to see/ O shelter me, O shelter me/ All will be well if only you will shelter me.
- Yet now I tread a diff’rent way/ Death dogs my path with stealthy steps from day to day/ I cannot find your peaceful place/ But dwell in dreary darkness, longing for your face.
- I will look back in days to come/ and realize your faithfulness has led me home/ Within your house I’ll find my peace/ trusting that in your mercy you have sheltered me.
(Copyright 2020. The Jan Michael Joncas Trust. All rights reserved.)
IVC By the Numbers
25 – Years of service to the poor and marginalized
26 – Cities served by IVC across the United States
$11,372,296 – IVC’s annual economic contribution to communities across the country.