The French creator of the soul-stirring Pie Jesu, Gabriel Fauré, was one of the premier composers and directors of the 19th/20th centuries though, surprisingly, he was not a man of deep faith. Yet, he must have had a mystical soul. The Pie Jesu is the centerpiece of Fauré’s Requiem, which he completed in 1890, and which is often considered his greatest composition. It is undoubtedly imbued with the deepest sentiments of devotion.
A requiem, as such, is a distinct musical genre and a Christian liturgical art form. In essence, it is a small symphony meant to provide deep solace to mourners at the loss of a loved one, although it is rarely played at funerals. Full requiems are generally too long for that! Nonetheless, all the great composers from the 15th century onward created their own requiems.
It is believed that Fauré composed this piece in honor of his own father a few years after the elder Fauré’s death, but the composer never revealed his motive. This Requiem was, fittingly, performed at Fauré’s own funeral in 1924.
Notes on the Requiem itself
Fauré’s Requiem has seven sections, and the Pie Jesu (Merciful Jesus) is easily the most beautiful of the seven, but not by much. The Agnus Dei and In Paradisum are exquisite in their own right.
It is interesting to note that Fauré replaced the Dies Irae (Day of Wrath) of traditional requiems with the Pie Jesu, emphasizing mercy rather than judgment, and also anticipating in some way the Divine Mercy devotion of the 20th century.
In the video below, the incomparable lyric soprano, Kathleen Battle, performs her ravishing interpretation of the lovely Pie Jesu. If you are as taken by this musical masterpiece as I am, you will want more of it, so I have provided a few other performances in various voice styles below the first.
As you listen, I’m sure you will agree that the Pie Jesu, in its sublime beauty, emerged directly from the mystical heart of a consummate musician.
Lyrics in Latin and English
Pie Jesu, Domine,
dona eis requiem.
dona eis requiem,
Merciful Jesus, Lord,
Grant unto them rest.
Grant them, grant them,
Grant unto them rest,
The Performance (duration, 3:04)
Catholics believe in the tender mercy of God toward all His children. We take seriously the spiritual obligation to pray for those who have gone before us. In fact, that is why we have funerals in the first place. Pieces like the Pie Jesu remind us of Christ’s great love for humanity and our duty to extend that mercy to our deceased brothers and sisters through prayer.
As you listen to these performances of Fauré’s Requiem, call to mind the many faces of friends and family members who have preceded you into the Kingdom of Heaven, and offer prayers for their souls. We have no authority to determine their eternal fates – God alone does that – but we know that our prayers can assist them in entering the fullness of life.
Then, pray for those most in need of God’s Mercy in this life. Our Lady of Fatima said that many souls go to hell because they have no one to pray for them. Let’s be that force of prayer and mercy for those who need it most – before they die.
Leave A Comment