Priest composer writes new hymn to give hope during coronavirus crisis

NEW YORK (NetTV/CNN) – A Catholic priest known for composing beautiful church music believes he has a new hymn that could uplift those struggling with the coronavirus pandemic.

Many are familiar with Father Michael Joncas’ music, but not the man behind it.

"Lots of psalms and other pieces for particular times of the year, altogether probably about 300 pieces of music,” Joncas said. “The one that everybody knows is ‘On Eagle’s Wings.’"

In Joncas’ 40 years as a priest and world-renowned composer, he’s never had to look too far for inspiration.

"I know the liturgical texts kind of through and through,” he said. “As a priest, I’m trained in scripture. So, certainly the psalms are the background to nearly everything that I do."

The same goes for his latest piece of music, which he titled “Shelter Me.”

"There was just this little germ of an idea for a song to respond to the coronavirus pandemic that we're in," Joncas said.

The lyrics take the listener through the same stages the world has gone through over the last several months, with lines like “The way ahead is dark and difficult to see” mirrored in a psalm that’s close to Joncas’ heart.

"It was basically to take Psalm 23, which of course I’ve been praying for forever, and then adapt it, or paraphrase it, so that it could talk about our present-day experience," he said.

The song talks about wanting intimacy with God during this hard time. Joncas said he hopes the song is used as a way of bringing the world together.

"If it's anything like “On Eagle's Wings,” it will eventually go way beyond the Catholic world,” he said. “It will frankly go beyond the Christian world, and it will be something that many people of different faith traditions will be able to use in their prayer."

Joncas decided to waive a copyright and license fee for the song, so it will be free to download and use in church for the next year.

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