Amazement. Disbelief. Happiness.

There was a jumbled range of emotions set off Sept. 17 when St. Thomas artist-in-residence and research fellow in Catholic Studies, Father Jan Michael Joncas, read an email letting him know the news: His song “Exultate Justi” is going to be played at the papal Mass of Pope Francis’ visit to Philadelphia on Sept. 27.

“I’m pretty happy about it,” Joncas said.

With good reason: Even for someone like Joncas – already known around the world for his compositions, most notably “On Eagles’ Wings” – this kind of direct association with the pope is quite an honor.

While Joncas doesn’t know if the song – which he composed in 1998 – will be used before, during or after the papal Mass, he said the cathedral-style composition is scored for an organ, two trumpets, two trombones, French horn and timpani with congregation, SATB choir and cantor. The song’s refrain is sung in Latin, “Exultate Justi: Exultate justi in domino, in domino / Exultate justi cum magno gaudio,” meaning, “Exult, O just ones, in the Lord, in the Lord / Exult, O just ones, with great joy.” The verses are built on the canticle in 1 Timothy 3:16, with a cantor singing various epithets about Christ and the people responding: “Adoramus te,” or, “We adore you.”

Joncas will not be in Philadelphia for the Mass, but his connection to Pope Francis’ visit to the U.S. from Sept. 22-27 – including Washington, D.C., and New York City – is one of several for St. Thomas:

  • Massimo Faggioli, undergraduate theology faculty and director of our Institute for Catholicism and Citizens, will be in Washington doing commentary for Italian Public Radio.
  • Angela Senander, undergraduate theology faculty, will travel to all three cities and write op-ed articles for the St. Thomas Newsroom and St. Paul Pioneer Press.
  • Jonathan Liedl, graduate student and communications coordinator for Catholic Rural Life, a national organization headquartered on the St. Paul campus, will cover the visit for the National Catholic Register.
  • A St. Thomas-St. Catherine student group will be in Philadelphia.
  • A Saint John Vianney Seminary student group will be in Washington, D.C.
  • A Saint Paul Seminary School of Divinity student group will be in Washington and Philadelphia.
  • School of Social Work director Barbara Shank will be in Washington, D.C.
  • TommieMedia reporter Grace Pastoor will be in Philadelphia.
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