If Saints Had Theme Tunes

Author: Matthew van Duyvenbode

Picture: Max Pixel

If Saints Had Theme Tunes

I have a secret guilty pleasure: ITV’s new Sunday night tearjerking celebrity surprise-a-thon, Your Song

The basic premise is this: popstar idols visit everyday unsung heroes- and sing them a song. Honestly, it’s cracking.

Seeing these ‘saints’ honoured with a musical homage got me thinking which songs might make good theme tunes for our more venerable Saints.

If Saints had theme tunes, these are my top three suggestions:

1. St Augustine of Hippo: Sam Smith, "Pray"

Augustine of Hippo (359-430) journeyed from self-orientation and a struggle to make sense of the world, to Christ-orientation and a vocation to help the world make sense of itself.

In Pray, Sam Smith positions himself at a crisis point of belief similar to Augustine prior to his conversion in 386.

Smith looks back (‘I’m young and I’m foolish…. I block out the news, turn my back on religion’). He then reflects on his current predicament (I’m broken, alone and afraid’), before turning to prayer as a last resort: ‘Maybe I’ll pray / I’ve never believed in you, no, but I’m gonna’.

After his conversion, Augustine’s reflections in Confessions could almost have been penned by Sam Smith:-

‘Late have I loved you, O Lord;
you were within and I was outside…
You were with me when I was not with you….
For you have made us,
And our hearts are restless until they rest in you.’ (Book 10)

Warning! “Pray” contains mild swearing.

2. St Thérèse of Lisieux: Christina Perri, "A Thousand Years"

If Augustine is all grit, Thérèse of Lisieux (1873-1897) could appear sweetness and light. Yet she shows an immense steeliness and daring.

I find a similar blend of sweetness and strength in Christina Perri’s ‘A Thousand Years’, which reads like the Song of Songs, weaving between Lover and Beloved:  ‘ Darling, don’t be afraid, I have loved you for a thousand years / I’ll love you for a thousand more’.

This interplay between divine love and human response, divine self-sacrifice and human self-sacrifice makes St Thérèse’s writings rich in challenge and affirmation.

I was profoundly moved by her description of her discovery that she had contracted tuberculosis:

"I thought immediately of the joyful thing I had to learn... Ah! my soul was filled with a great consolation; I was interiorly persuaded that Jesus…wanted to have me hear His first call!" (‘Story of a Soul’)

Thérèse had embraced her call to die a little more everyday for Christ, inspiring us still today.

3. St Francis of Assisi:  Rag’n’Bone Man, "Human"

The dramatic call and conversion of Francis of Assisi (1181-1226) to a life of radical poverty and prayer was deeply countercultural.

At a time when material wealth was viewed as a sign of success-even in the church- Francis re-connected with the humble, self-emptying nature of the suffering Christ.

‘Human’ by Rag’n’Bone Man strikes me as a song which resonates with Franciscan themes.

Repeating ‘I’m only human’, the singer starkly compares other people’s unrealistic expectations with the assertion that we are all fallible and broken beings.

However, there are two things to remember.

Firstly, whilst the song argues that we’re only human, Francis’ lived theology points to humanity as something sacred and honourable.

In one sense, we are indeed only human, but in another way, this is an affirmative, rather than a deflecting, statement.

Secondly, Rag’n’ Bone Man sings ‘I’m no prophet or Messiah / Should go looking somewhere higher’, underlining that our humility is only authentic when we realise that answers truly lie in Christ.

Many other songs could accompany the Saints. Imagine St Joan of Arc while listening to "Fight Song" by Rachel Platten.

Over to you: who is your favourite Saint, and what would their theme tune be?

  • Matthew van Duyvenbode is Director of National Programme and Research for Bible Society

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