By Jessica Easthope
Many are familiar with the song “On Eagle’s Wings,” but not the man behind it. That man is Father Michael Joncas – and he’s written a lot of songs many Catholics are familiar with.
“Lots of psalms and other pieces for particular times of the year, all together probably about 300 pieces of music,” said Fr. Mike. “The one that everyone knows is On Eagles Wings.'”
In his 40 years as a priest and world-renowned composer, he has never had to look too far for inspiration.
“I know the liturgical texts through and through and I also, as a priest, am trained in scripture so the psalms are the background to nearly everything I do,” he said.
The same goes for his latest piece of music, “Shelter Me.”
“It was just about a month ago. I was awakened by my subconscious at about three in the morning, and there was this little germ of an idea for a song to respond to the coronavirus pandemic that we’re in,” said Fr. Mike.
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,” it’s mirrored in a psalm that’s close to Fr. Mike’s heart.
“The idea was simple, it was basically to take Psalm 23 which I have been praying forever, and adapt and paraphrase it to talk about our present-day experience,” he explained.
The song talks about wanting intimacy with God during this hard time. Fr. Mike says 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 go beyond the Catholic world and beyond the Christian world, and it will be something that many people of different faith traditions will use during prayer,” he said.
Fr. Mike decided using his gift of music wasn’t enough. He’ll also be waiving a copyright and license fee for the song. It will be free to download and use in church for the next year.