Monday 20 March 2023

Of Irish Interest: Hymn to St Patrick

Although in recent days I have been looking at the grave site of Saint Patrick in Down, the cause of our national apostle has always been championed by Armagh, Ireland's seat of ecclesiastical authority. The city's historic Saint Patrick's cathedral was appropriated by the new state church at the time of the Reformation, so it was not until after Catholic Emancipation was achieved in 1829 that the building of a Catholic cathedral could commence. The foundation stone was laid on Saint Patrick's Day in 1840 and work continued until 1873 when the cathedral was dedicated and opened. Michael, Cardinal Logue (1887-1924), continued work on the interior of the building, which was rededicated and reopened in 1904, and below is the text of a hymn which was sung on that occasion. It was published in the American Catholic newspaper The Sacred Heart Review in its 'Of Irish interest' column aimed at the large expatriate community of Boston. The sentiments of the hymn mirror those of similar compositions of the time, and interestingly this one was also translated into Irish:
Of Irish Interest.
A notable feature of the exercises incident to the rededication and reopening of the Armagh Cathedral, the other day, was the "Hymn to St. Patrick" originally written by the Rev. G. O'Neill, S. J., and translated into Irish by Tadhg O'Donoghue. The Irish words were sung in unison by the choir, the tune being an ancient Irish air of extreme beauty which had been adapted to them, and which fitted the hymn as happily as if they had been composed for each other. The Hymn in English is as follows; —
Dear Apostle, blessed Patrick, faithful lover of our land; 
Thou so tender in compassion, in thy fortitude so grand, 
See thy children gathered round thee, let thy heart be opened wide 
To the voice of their appealing; be our father and our guide. 
At thy word the pagan island blossomed red and blossomed white,
As a garden of God's pleasure, in the dawning of the light; 
And the evil spirits fleeing from each holy rite and prayer 
Left to Jesus and to Mary evermore that land so fair. 
Blessed Patron, make us faithful, as thy martyr sons of old; 
Loving still the Church, our Mother, with an ardent love and bold. 
Make us wise to battle Satan in his cunning and his might; 
Give us strength to conquer sorrow, give the scorn of base delight. 
O  console our drooping courage, as we battle day by day 
'Gainst the world and its beguiling and our hearts that still betray; 
Let thy prayer, on earth so mighty, be our aid till peril cease, 
Till we hail thee in the gladness of the everlasting peace!

The Sacred Heart Review, Volume 32, Number 7, 13 August 1904, p.13.

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