Firmly I Believe

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CatechisminPcs56The words for this hymn are found in Cardinal Newman’s poem the Dream of Gerontius. It is the prayer of a soul preparing for death. Later in the poem the angels sing another of Cardinal Newman’s famous hymns, Praise to the Holiest. It is a fantastic read.

It also gives something like a chorus to this hymn:

Sanctus fortis, Sanctus Deus,
De profundis oro te,
Miserere, Judex meus,
Parce mihi, Domine.

This chorus is given first and last and in the middle. A rough translation would be Holy Mighty One, Holy God, out of the depths I cry to There. Have Mercy, my Judge, spare me, Lord.

Edward Elgar made the poem into an oratorio, which is why most places use his tune, Drakes Broughton. It can be a majestic tune, but can be prone to plodding or even dragging.

I have enjoyed singing Firmly I Believe to the tune some call Omni Die, which sounds like a reference to the popular Marian hymn, Daily, daily sing to Mary.  Here’s my easy organ music:

However you sing it, call to mind the profession of faith of a soul on the brink of eternity.

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

And I hold in veneration,
For the love of Him alone,
Holy Church as His creation,
And her teachings are His own.

And I take with joy whatever
Now besets me, pain or fear,
And with a strong will I sever
All the ties which bind me here.

Adoration aye be given,
With and through the angelic host,
To the God of earth and Heaven,
Father, Son and Holy Ghost.

That second last verse is often left out – it’s more specific to the departing soul.


O purest of creatures

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immaculate-heart-of-maryHere’s a hymn, the source of much consternation in the organ loft. Many people sing it to the tune of the Lourdes Hymn, but all hymnbooks set it to the German tune from the Paderborn Gesangbuch. Because hymnbook writers prefer the proper tune, but lazy pew potatoes go for the easy one.

Note, there are no “Ave”s in this one. That’s a Lourdes Hymn thing. Just a straight hymn to Our Lady. Written by the oratorian priest, Fr Frederick Faber. Famous for veering towards the sentimental side with his hymn writing. I’m sure he would have worn a surplice with a good 5 inches of lace at least.

O purest of creatures! sweet Mother, sweet Maid;
The one spotless womb wherein Jesus was laid.
Dark night hath come down on us, Mother, and we
Look out for thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

2 Deep night hath come down on this rough-spoken world.
And the banners of darkness are boldly unfurled;
And the tempest-tossed Church—all her eyes are on thee.
They look to thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

3 He gazed on thy soul, it was spotless and fair;
For the empire of sin, it had never been there;
None ever had owned thee, dear Mother, but He,
And He blessed thy clear shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

4 Earth gave Him one lodging; ’twas deep in thy breast,
And God found a home where the sinner finds rest;
His home and His hiding-place, both were in thee;
He was won by thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.

5 Oh, blissful and calm was the wonderful rest
That thou gavest thy God in thy virginal breast;
For the heaven He left He found heaven in thee,
And He shone in thy shining, sweet Star of the Sea.
Frederick William Faber, 1814–63

Here are my files – I’ve only typed up the soprano and bass lines for playing on the organ because I don’t do my regular practice.
Lilypond source and midi file: OPurestSource
And the printable pdf: OPurest

And here is a karaoke version with full organ and congregation joining in.

Te lucis ante terminum

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Each night our family sings Compline, the night time prayers of the Church. We learnt the way from the Maternal Heart Church. Since then they have shifted to singing the Divine Office from the Benedictine books, so they have slightly different words and tunes. Here is the Roman one that most 1962 books use. In 1974 there was yet another change.

The hymn for Compline is very beautiful. The prayers to ward off bad dreams are helpful when getting children off to bed. Each new season brings a new tune, the words staying the same. They’re all pretty simple, as you don’t need complicated stuff to learn just before bed!

John Mason Neale’s translation runs thus:

To Thee, before the close of day
Creator of the world, we pray
that with Thy wonted favor, Thou
wouldst be our Guard and Keeper now.

From all ill dreams defend our eyes,
from nightly fears and fantasies:
tread under foot our ghostly foe,
that no pollution we may know.

O Father, that we ask be done
through Jesus Christ Thine only Son,
who, with the Holy Ghost and Thee,
shall live and reign eternally.

For lyrics in Latin and English go to Te lucis at Thesaurus Precum Latinarum.

The tune I’ve got here today is the regular Sunday and other minor feasts tune you can use most of the time. Here’s a pdf, gregorio51d606b280f881.81872940 mostly taken from GregoBase.

Here is how we sing it: Te Lucis

And here is the serious rendition with the music scrolling past.

Who are these like stars appearing?


cartoo10215This Saturday is the feast of St Peter and St Paul. So I started hunting for a hymn for them. If you would like to pursue that, This Post looks great.

Instead I got sidetracked with a hymn for priest saints, which should be alright for the feast too.

Who are these like stars appearing,
These before God’s throne who stand?
Each a golden crown is wearing;
Who are all this glorious band?
Alleluia! Hark, they sing,
Praising loud their heav’nly King.

These are they who have contended
For their Saviour’s honour long,
Wrestling on till life was ended,
Following not the sinful throng;
These who well the fight sustained,
Triumph through the Lamb have gained.

These, your priests, have watched and waited,
Offering up to Christ their will;
Soul and body consecrated,
Day and night to serve Him still:
Now in God’s most holy place
Blest they stand before His face.

More verses here but check the slight change in the last verse. I’m going with “your priests” from Fr Paul Newton’s hymn book Pange Lingua. I think it might be a case of Catholics adapting a Protestant hymn! Good to see it works both ways.

The tune is called All Saints. Get your sheet music and karaoke backing tracks from

As for recordings, the tune is so cool, the organist tends to put the pedal to the metal and drown out the congregation. Which is fabulous when you’re singing along, but for learning the tune, you might like this one – different words.

Excerpts from When the Patriarch was returning:

Wondrous gift! The Word who fashioned
All things by His might divine,
Bread into His Body changes,
Into His own Blood the wine;
What though sense no change perceives,
Faith admires, adores, believes.

He who once to die a Victim
On the Cross did not refuse,
Day by day upon our altars,
That same Sacrifice renews;
Through His holy Priesthood’s hands,
Faithful to His last commands.

I have that down as an offertory, but might make a fine recessional for this Sunday.

And, of course, now, at the end, I stumble across the perfect article Not Your Grandmother’s–or Your Mother’s–Eucharistic Hymn.

I hope this tune adorns your internal soundtrack now for the weekend.

I will go round…

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TB2-300x199This week I’ve been drilling the propers for this Sunday. We’re hoping to have a sung Mass at Mulgoa to see off our priest. This is the priest who sings the Passion on Palm Sunday and Good Friday, solo.

Now, the propers, “What are they?”, you ask. I’m glad you asked that, because they are one of the hidden treasures of the Catholic Church which should be known more widely. You might have seen them in your Sunday or Weekday Missal. They’re the little snippets labelled “Entrance Antiphon” or “Communion Antiphon” that sometimes someone at a weekday Mass will read out from in the pews, finishing just as you go to pick up your book to join in.

They are centuries old, mostly derived from the Psalms, and they all have music. There are four for each Mass: Introit (or Entrance), Gradual/Tract/Alleluia (sorry, I’ll lump them all together for now, but I know they are separate), Offertory and Communion. The Communion is often the shortest and simplest. The Introit is usually pretty straightforward to learn too. The Gradual is the amazing soaring high point. The Alleluia is very cool too. The Offertory is a little less ornate.

So, here is the communion antiphon for this Sunday:

Circuibo et immolábo in tabernáculo ejus hóstiam jubilatiónis: cantábo et psalmum dicam Dómino.

I will go round, and offer up in His tabernacle a sacrifice of jubilation; I will sing, and recite a psalm to the Lord.

Here’s the sheet music: circuibo
(which is mostly from Gregobase, with added translation from Maternal Heart)

And here’s my rendition: circuibo.mp3

And here’s the way the professionals do it: at CC Watershed

Hark! an awful voice is sounding

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WHole013This time picking a hymn for a feast day coming up this week: The Nativity of St John the Baptist. The timing matches in with the feasts of the Annunciation (when Elizabeth was in her 6th month) 25th March, and the Nativity of Our Lord – 25th December. Most saints’ feast days commemorate the day of their death (or birth into eternal life), except Our Lord, our Lady and St John the Baptist. What do they have in common? They were all born without original sin! St John Baptist was conceived with original sin, but his encounter with Jesus in utero was his own baptism.

The corresponding chant of the week post has an English hymn which is a better fit for the feast, but not as commonly sung in English. It tells more the story of the actual birth of St John. Another tack could have been to look at the Canticle the Bendictus.

Instead I’ve picked the first hymn in the Old Westminster Hymnal, a hymn more for Advent, but still a beautiful reflection on the role of St John the Baptist.


Hark an awful voice

Hark, a herald voice is calling;
“Christ is nigh,” it seems to say;
“Cast away the dreams of darkness,
O ye children of the day.”

2 Startled at the solemn warning,
Let the earthbound soul arise;
Christ her Sun, all sloth dispelling,
Shines upon the morning skies.

3 Lo, the Lamb so long expected,
Comes with pardon down from heav’n;
Let us haste, with tears of sorrow,
One and all to be forgiv’n.

4 So when next He comes with glory,
Shrouding all the earth in fear,
May He then as our defender,
On the clouds of heav’n appear.

5 Honour, glory, virtue, merit,
To the Father and the Son,
With the co-eternal Spirit
While eternal ages run.

Tr. Edward Caswall, 1814–75

Clyde McLennan has some great backing files – make your own Karaoke mix!

This tune is also a great match for Cardinal Newman’s hymn Firmly I Believe.



Ut queant laxis

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Plaque of Guido Monaco, ArezzoNext Monday is the feast of the nativity of St John the Baptist. Great time to bring up the origins of “Do Re Mi”. A great intro is this exclusive interview with Guido d’Arezzo.

Here is the sheet music for the Vespers hymn of the Nativity of St John the Baptist.


I’ve added in the translation from CPDL – though they have an extra verse that isn’t in the vespers hymn in the Liber Usualis, but it is in the Laudes hymn.. But good as a bare bones literal translation.

Below is the text as in the Liber, plus a versified translation:

1. Ut queant laxis resonáre fibris
Mira gestórum fámuli tuórum,
Solve pollúti lábii reátum,
Sancte Joánnes.

2. Núntius celso véniens Olýmpo
Te patri magnum fore nascitúrum,
Nomen, et vitae sériem geréndae
Ordinae promit.

3. Ille promíssi dúbius supérni,
Pérdidit promptae módulos loquélae:
Sed reformásti genitus perémptae
Organa vocis.

4. Ventris obstrúso récubans cubíli
Sénseras Regem thálamo manéntem:
Hinc parens nati méritis utérque
Abdita pandit.

5. Sit decus Patri, genitaéque Proli
Et tibi, compar utriúsque virtus,
Spíritus semper, Deus unus, omni
Témporis aevo. Amen.

1. O for your spirit, holy John, to chasten
Lips sin-polluted, fettered tongues to loosen;
So by your children might your deeds of wonder
Meetly be chanted.

2. Lo! a swift herald, from the skies descending,
Bears to your father promise of your greatness;
How he shall name you, what your future story,
Duly revealing.

3. Scarcely believing message so transcendent,
Him for a season power of speech forsaketh,
Till, at your wondrous birth, again returneth,
Voice to the voiceless.

4. You, in your mother’s womb all darkly cradled,
Knew your great Monarch, biding in His chamber,
Whence the two parents, through their offspring’s merits,
Mysteries uttered.

5. Praise to the Father, to the Son begotten,
And to the Spirit, equal power possessing,
One God whose glory, through the lapse of ages,
Ever resounding. Amen.

Thanks to Catholic Culture. Looks like they typed up the words from The Hymns of the Missal and Breviary by Michael Britt, partially transcribed here. The English is a cento from The Hymner, based on a translation by W.J. Blew.

A suggestion for a tune for the English is Iste Confessor

Now have a listen to the chant from a monastery somewhere…

Now go get The Ut Queant Laxis Mug

Or see a fancy reverberating version here.

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