Mass in Middle Earth


I love my parish. Among other things, the liturgy is reverent and its music is truly beautiful. But I don’t usually appreciate these local blessings until I travel.

Last weekend I visited Colorado. Since I needed to fly back home early Sunday morning, my friend and I caught a Saturday vigil Mass. The priest was quite nice, and I had already braced myself for standard-fare folksy music. But when it came time for the offertory song, I admit I wasn’t prepared for a trip to Hobbiton:

To my ear, this apparently popular song (entitled “These Alone Are Enough”) is unquestionably a riff on the theme music of the Shire, “Concerning Hobbits,” from Peter Jackson’s The Fellowship of the Ring. Compare 45 seconds of the previous clip, to this:

As I sat in that Colorado church I thought, surely this song’s similarity to Jackson’s movie soundtrack is an anachronism–the offertory song probably dates from the 1970s folk-Mass golden era. But, lo and behold, Dan Schutte wrote this ditty in 2004, three years after Howard Shore released his score for The Fellowship. I’m no copyright attorney, but Howard Shore might want to call his office.

bilboFor lyrics, Schutte adapted St. Ignatius’ “Suscipe” prayer to this Shire-like melody. Perhaps Schutte imagined the two brave little hobbits, exhausting their last ounce of strength and will on their ascent of Mount Doom, while remembering the orchards and strawberries that they could never hope to experience again.

J.R.R. Tolkien was, of course, a devout son of the Church, and he called the Lord of the Rings a “fundamentally religious and Catholic work.” But somehow I don’t think this form of flattery is exactly what J.R.R. had in mind.

Schutte’s borrowed tune calls to mind one of the other most famous folk Mass imitations of pop music: Marty Haugen’s “Gather Us In,” mirroring Gordon Lightfoot’s “The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald.”

My unexpected musical journey in Colorado has led me to conclude that the beginning of liturgical restoration by Pope Benedict came not a moment too soon. And it has renewed my immense gratitude to the pastor and choir at my parish, for following Pope Benedict’s lead.


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About Author

Matt Bowman is a pro-life, religious liberties and constitutional law attorney in the Washington, DC area. He graduated from Ave Maria School of Law in 2003 and clerked for several federal judges thereafter. The Bowmans are involved in homeschooling and classical Catholic education and are rabid fans of the Pittsburgh Penguins. Matt is a member of the Knights of Columbus and his local parish.

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