Diocese of Rochester parishioner pens eucharistic hymn - Catholic Courier
A man sits in a room with religious decorations.

Matt Connolly, a parishioner of All Saints Parish in Lansing, wrote the hymn “This is He” for the National Eucharistic Revival’s musical competition. (Photo by Glenn Gaston)

Diocese of Rochester parishioner pens eucharistic hymn

Matt Connolly has never composed music, nor is he a musician.

Yet his hymn, “This is He,” was one of 185 entries in a musical competition conducted earlier this year as part of the National Eucharistic Revival.

“Writing is one of the things I have some bit of talent in, so I’m always looking for ways to use that to serve God,” said Connolly, a parishioner of All Saints Parish in Lansing who is a programmer for Cornell University Library in Ithaca.

Having previously published in his professional field, he said he is now editing a collection of homilies by one of the former priest-chaplains at Cornell Catholic Community. He also writes poetry when the inspiration strikes, which seems to be seldom, he noted wryly.

He decided to try his hand at writing a hymn for the musical competition to engage both his creativity and his faith, and to add to the body of liturgical music that is both relatable and theologically rich.

“In the Catholic Mass, music is not intended to be an add-on. It’s an integral part of worship and prayer,” he remarked.

According to the rules for the competition — which focused on the doctrine of the real presence of Jesus in the Eucharist and the unity of Catholics as the body of Christ — submitted hymns could consist of new lyrics set to existing music.

Hymn-writing process was inspired by eucharistic adoration

Connolly said he chose “Finlandia” by Jean Sibelius as the melody for his hymn because he has always liked the tune, and it wasn’t one that had been overused in liturgical music.

Once he chose a melody, the general framework for his lyrics came somewhat easily, he said.

“I started by looking up quotations by some of the Church Fathers and saints about the Real Presence and the Eucharist, as I hoped to work some of them into my hymn,” Connolly noted.

He said his wife, Jolanda Pandin, helped him edit the early draft of the lyrics, and he found spending time with the Lord in eucharistic adoration was an important part of his writing process.

Hymnist said it was a good feeling to use his writing ability for the church

Connolly said his hymn emphasizes the connection between the real presence in the Eucharist and the real person of Christ in Galilee, as demonstrated in this excerpt:

For this is he whom Mary bore and nurtured;
This is the one whom Joseph guarded well.
This is the Christ who called the Twelve to follow
And worked great signs through all of Galilee.
This is the flesh that touched and healed the lepers,
And this same blood flowed out on Calvary.

While he was writing his hymn during March and April, he said he was greatly inspired by the prayer the priest says quietly to himself after Communion while purifying the vessels. He incorporated that prayer in the last verse of his lyrics:

O Lord, we pray that what has passed our lips here
As food may we possess in purity
That what is now given us in this moment
May heal our souls for all eternity.
And may our minds and sense of wonder in you
Never grow weary of this mystery.

Although Connolly did not win the competition, he said it was a good feeling to use his writing abilities for the church. He said he’s also enthusiastic about contributions to the church by everyone who participated in the competition.

“There are now 185 eucharistic hymns written for the competition that are out there. … It will be intriguing to see what could be done with them,” he said.

Couple show their faith in how they live their lives

Writing isn’t the only gift Connolly uses for the church. At All Saints Parish, he is a sacristan, serves on the pastoral council and liturgy committee, and assists with the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults program. He and his wife previously had started a young-adult group at the parish, joined the prayer efforts of 40 Days for Life and pray together daily at home.

As self-described introverts, Connolly said he and his wife may not share their faith overtly, but “we try to show our faith (in) the way we live our lives. … Our faith has to inform all aspects of our lives.”

This is a sample of the hymn Connelly wrote. Look for a full-length version to come in the future with the help of Connelly’s parish.

EDITOR’S NOTE: “Profiles in Faith” highlights Catholics in the Diocese of Rochester of all ages and walks of life who are role models for living the faith. To suggest someone to profile, email Newsroom@CatholicCourier.com.

Tags: Eucharistic Revival, Profiles in Faith, Tompkins County News, USCCB
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