Scots Hymn supplement for Feast Days

A collection of hymns, songs and resources for feast days in Scotland will be launched by St Mungo Music in February. The contents include music, prayers and intercessions for feast days.

Some of the hymns are popular ‘Golden Oldies’ which are no longer available in contemporary hymnbooks, others are taken from the St Andrew Hymnal which is no longer in print, and others are contemporary.

They include: hymns for the feasts of Sts Ninian of Galloway, Columba, Mungo, Patrick, Our Lady, Margaret , Joseph, John Ogilvie, Eunan or Adamnan, St Bride, St Andrew, Blessed John Duns Scotus, Gregory the Great, Peregrin, and even a setting of a Litany of Celtic saints. A Workshop launching this book is being planned for February

The musical Preface is:


The hymn has a long history in Christian worship but an uneven one! The songs of the bible were given a special respect, but, strange as it may seem to us now, non-scriptural material was not always so readily accepted. From the 4th century until the period of the Reformation, hymns by writers such as St Ambrose, St Hilary, Rabanus Maurus, Venantius Fortunatus , Hermannus Contractus, St Bernard, St Thomas Aquinas and others seem to have been used in Morning and Evening Prayer, but not usually in the Eucharistic liturgy.

At the Reformation Luther and his followers created and used hymns both to instruct people and to allow them to participate more easily in public worship. Calvinists rejected any songs that were not scripture, but they promoted the metrical psalms very effectively, while Roman Catholics continued to use Latin.

By the late 18th century English writers such as Isaac Watts and John Wesley were paraphrasing scripture especially the psalms, and they then moved on to writing devotional songs. Catholic liturgy was still in Latin but there was an outburst of creativity in vernacular hymn writing for devotional use from early in the 19th century by Fr Faber (Sweet Saviour Bless us; By the blood; Faith of our fathers; Jesus gentlest saviour; Jesus, my Lord, my God, my all; Most ancient of all mysteries; Mother of mercy; My God, how wonderful thou art; O come and mourn with me; O Purest of creatures . . . . . ), by John Lingard, and many others including Cardinal Newman (Firmly I believe; Praise to the holiest. . . . ). Attention was also given to vernacular translations of some of the hymns from the first millennium.

I mention this because the immense creativity in hymn writing that took place after Vatican 2 was not something completely new! Rather, it was a renewal of what had begun more than 100 years previously – at about the same time as liturgists and musicians were beginning to think of restoring plainsong to the Church’s life in response to the excesses of secular styles in the music of the Mass – and its purpose was to promote faith, understanding, a sense of the holy – to provide people with accessible tools for public prayer.

Some of our favourite hymns of 50 years ago – many of them by Fr Faber -‘ date from the middle of the 19th century and they were written for parish ‘devotions’ or ‘Benediction’ or ‘the Novena’ but not for Mass. When our liturgy moved into the vernacular, then naturally many of these hymns – since it took time to find a new repertoire of music for the texts of the Mass – began to be used during Mass, but they were not exactly ‘fit for purpose’ having been created for something else! Our repertoires began to be enriched by hymns taken from the Reformed and Anglican traditions – such as Praise to the Lord the Almighty; The Lord’s my Shepherd (Crimond); Praise my soul; The church’s one foundation; Alleluia Sing to Jesus; The day thou gavest; There is a green hill; For all the saints; Mine eyes have seen the glory; O Perfect love; O Thou who at thy eucharist; Thine be the glory; Lord of all hopefulness; Now the green blade riseth; Christ be beside me; Be thou my vision . . .. .

Even before the Council writers and composers in Scotland were adding their contribution – people like Francis Duffy, Mother Turnbull, Joseph McHardie, William McLelland, David McRoberts, Charles Fraser, Desmond Gunning, John McQuaid, and many others.

With the altered expectations in liturgy after the Council, contemporary writers such as James Quinn SJ set out to create songs for the liturgy, hymns which were suitable for mass and other occasions : O Come, O Come; Sing all creation; This day God gives me (St Patrick 7th c); Christ be beside me; This is my will; Where true love; the Seven Last Words; the St John Ogilvie hymn and many others particularly in ‘New Hymns for All Seasons’

The Iona Community began to make a difference in hymn singing through John Bell and Graham Maule : Will you come and follow me; I cannot measure; Jesus Christ is waiting; Lord Jesus Christ. . . . The music of Taize – such as O Lord hear my prayer; Jesus remember me; the St Louis Jesuits, Hubert Richards, Damian Lundy and many others helped to change the way we pray.

When the St Andrew Hymnal came out in 1964 it was just a bit late for its full value to be appreciated at that time. The attention of parish priests and musicians was on finding music for the liturgy and the call of the Vatican Council to ‘full, conscious, active participation’ was understood to refer primarily to the liturgical texts of the Mass, specifically to those parts which are assigned to the congregation: the Kyrie and Gloria, the Psalm Response and the Gospel Acclamation, the Sanctus, Memorial, great Amen, the Agnus Dei and the Communion Song.

Clearly, hymns continue to be immensely valuable to promote faith and its expression, for feast days and special occasions, and to provide repertoire for ecumenical services, but they have a limited place at Sunday Mass, and careful planning will ensure that we get a chance to enjoy them but their use doesn’t crowd the liturgy or lengthen it unduly!

This small collection of hymns and songs, many of them from the St Andrew Hymnal and others created since for specific occasions, is offered for those who will find them useful for special occasions and feast days in Scotland, whether in school or church. There are many other hymns and songs, new and old, which hopefully will be made available in future collections.

Gerry Fitzpatrick,
Director of Music,
Archdiocese of Glasgow