Home History of Hymns: "Life-Giving Bread" celebrates Eucharist

History of Hymns: "Life-Giving Bread" celebrates Eucharist

“Life-Giving Bread”
Ricky Manalo
The Faith We Sing, No. 2261

Ricky Manalo

Life-giving bread,
as our lives are transformed anew,
and life-giving wine,
may we share in a life with you.

Congregational singing in the Roman Catholic Mass became much more prominent after the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965). Earlier, guidelines for Catholic music suggested that medieval plainsong and Renaissance motets were generally the most desirable musical models for the liturgy. After Vatican II, the range of musical styles available for Catholic worship increased, including music from around the world and an array of musical genres in the United States.

Since then Catholic composers have sought to maintain the accessible and singable qualities of folk music and other popular idioms. But they also compose in ways that integrate the song with Catholic liturgical expectations.

Father Ricky Manalo (b. 1965) has been a prominent Catholic composer since the mid-1990s. His songs are musically engaging, appropriate to the spirit of the Mass, and accessible to congregations. Now, Protestants as well as Catholics are beneficiaries of his creativity and devotion to liturgical music.

Fr. Manalo was ordained a presbyter in the Paulist order in 2000. As a Paulist his ministry is dedicated to evangelization, reconciliation and ecumenism. He brings a wide variety of gifts to his ministry including skills as an accomplished musician, composer, lecturer and author.

Fr. Manalo’s focus is on ritual music (music used in the ritual of the Mass), spirituality and liturgical enculturation—the role of culture in expressing liturgy. His recent lecture, “Sing to the Lord: Cultural Perspectives” (the Hovda lecture at the National Association of Pastoral Musicians in 2010), is an example of his interest in this area.

He is a graduate of the Manhattan School of Music (1987) with a bachelor of music in composition, studying with John Corigliano and Ludmila Ulehla. He received his masters in theology at the Washington Theological Union (1997) in Washington, D.C., with a focus on word and worship.

Fr. Manalo lives in San Francisco where he is continuing his study as a doctoral candidate in Asian-American liturgical studies at the Graduate Theological Union in Berkeley. Among his projects is preparing a collection of liturgical Filipino music and studying multilingual music in China. He is at the forefront of introducing Asian music into mainstream Roman Catholic liturgies in the United States.

An article in the Catholic Sentinel, June 2, 2000, announcing Fr. Manalo’s ordination, provides some insight into his formative years: “Father Ricky was described as coming from a family that loved music; his father loved classical music and his mom composed. When there is music in a house, there is harmony, he was quoted as saying. His family also prayed the rosary every night.”

“Life-Giving Bread,” one of Fr. Manalo’s earliest compositions, was written for use during the Eucharist. Written in the late 1980s as he was entering seminary, it reflects the influence of David Haas, one of the luminaries of the post-Vatican II liturgical music scene. Stanza one celebrates the gathering of the people as one in Christ around the Word and the bread. Stanza two alludes to Psalm 34:8, “Taste and see that the Lord is good.” Through our senses of taste and seeing, one experiences “life-giving joy in life-giving wine.”

Stanza three goes to the heart of the Eucharist—the transformation of our lives through “life-giving hope” in the power of the sacrament. The final stanza leads us from the Eucharist to our life beyond the official liturgy where we are called to be “salt for the earth” and “light for the world.”

Fr. Manalo’s songs have appeared in Breaking Bread (an annual paperback missal begun in 1996), including the most recent edition in 2011. He was part of a group of liturgical musicians that participated in a new kind of songbook for the liturgy, Spirit and Song (1999), subtitled A Seeker’s Guide to Liturgy and Prayer. According to liturgical music scholar Kathleen Harmon, the collection, containing both liturgical and non-liturgical songs, was “aimed intentionally at youth and young adults and provided music for youth ministry activities, retreat experiences, college campuses, as well as for liturgical celebrations.”

* Words © 1994 GIA Publications, Inc. All rights reserved. Used by permission.

Dr. Hawn is professor of sacred music at Perkins School of Theology, SMU.