Sunday, 23 March 2014

Hymn to Saint Patrick

Last year I reproduced some hymns in honour of Saint Brigid taken from a compilation for children by the (in)famous 'Nun of Kenmare', Mary Frances Cusack. I turned back to this volume to see how Saint Patrick was featured and again found the same mixture of historic sources combined with contemporary compositions. Saint Patrick, however, is much less well-represented in this hymn book than either of our other two national patrons and I found this surprising. For our primary patron is allotted only two hymns, one ancient and the other modern, whereas Saint Brigid has six in her honour and Saint Colum Cille five. In her translation of Saint Sechnall's hymn, Cusack struggled to retain its alphabetical character, but as the text is already available at the blog here, I instead reproduce the contemporary composition. I won't pretend it has any special merit, as with many hymns of the Victorian era there is an emphasis on the Irish as a long-suffering people who cling to their faith in spite of persecution and poverty.  The first verse contains a reference to Ireland's 'martyred hosts' which I can only assume is a reference to those who suffered for the faith during the Reformation and Penal times, for the introduction of Christianity to Ireland was a bloodless affair. Verse three alludes directly to poverty but counsels patience and acceptance on the part of the poor. As with the Hymn to Saint Brigid, in 1868, twenty years after the 'year of revolutions' of 1848,  the then Archbishop of Westminster, Henry Edward Manning, granted an indulgence for the recitation of this Hymn to Saint Patrick. The Church was offering the spirit of the Beatitudes as its prescription for coping with poverty, reminding the reader that it is the meek who will receive their reward in heaven. Indeed, the final verse specifically exhorts the reader to pray for rich men as well as poor and for priests and nuns, sentiments in sharp contrast to those contained in the outlook of contemporary European radicals. Overall, my impression is that this hymn is not concerned with the Saint Patrick of the fifth century but rather with his patronage of Ireland as it was in the author's own day.


St. Patrick, for our country pray, 
Our ever faithful land, 
Whose martyred hosts so gloriously 
Before God's great throne stand; 
Look down upon thy children here,
Look down upon our race, 
And bless, dear Saint, this little isle 
And each one's native place. 

Chorus — From foes without, from fears within. 
From every evil, every sin, 
St. Patrick, set us free. 

Oh, hear us, Patrick, while we pray, 
Thou art our own dear Saint, 
Uphold the weak, protect the young. 
Strengthen the souls that faint; 
Thou know'st how we are tempted still — 
Thou know'st how we are tried — 
Thou know'st that we are faithful too, 
Whatever ills betide. 
Chorus. — From foes without, &c., &c. 

Oh, help our poor in patient love 
To bear their suffering life, 
To think of that great victory 
Which Cometh after strife; 
Keep from them all revengeful thoughts 
Whene'er they suffer wrong- 
The meek alone are crowned in heaven. 
And heaven will come ere long. 

Chorus, — From foes without, &c., &c.  

We are thy children, blessed Saint, 
The children of thy love, 
We know how mighty is thy prayer, 
How it was heard above; 
Pray for us now, for priest and nun. 
For rich men and for poor, 
That to the end, however tried, 
Our faith may still endure. 

 Chorus, — From foes without, &c., &c.* 

 Haily Mary. 

* " We hereby grant an Indulgence of Forty Days to all who shall devoutly recite the Hymn of St Patrick, with one Hail, Mary. 


 "Archbishop of Westminster,  February 20th, l868."

Sister Mary Francis Clare, Cloister Songs and Hymns for Children (London and Dublin, 1881), 154-155.

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