Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hymn of the Week--I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

This hymn of the week is another of those "darned if you do/darned if you don't" things. As a very low-church-sympathizing Anglican, I like it a lot. It has exactly the via media touch: On the one hand, the writer of the words is clearly thinking of specific people who have been saints historically. Both in that fact itself and in the whole implication of the words there is none of the rather lazy idea one sometimes got in Baptist circles that Christians are all automatically saints, even if we live like the devil. The words say, "I mean to be one, too," implying that there's some remaining question about the matter.

But there's no denying that it has a rather more Protestant notion of sainthood than a Catholic one, in its idea that we are all, as it were, "candidate saints" and "there's not any reason, no not the least, why I shouldn't be one too."

The upshot of which is that, though I like it, the high churchers think it's too Protestant, and the Baptists would probably think it's too Catholic. I haven't actually sounded any of my Baptist and unspecified evangelical Protestant friends on it yet, though, so I could be wrong about that second part. But as for the first, I know it rarely seems to get picked at church for All Saints' Day. I have to squeeze it in by playing it as the postlude. (Heh, heh.)

If you know the 1940 Hymnal, you'll know the tune. You can hear it here. But beware: Somebody's gone and changed the words on that page and several others I've seen on line. Must be from some gol'darned revised hymnal. Mine are the real ones. I gather the "shops or at tea" stuff was too un-American sounding for some people!

I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong.
And they followed the right for Jesus’ sake the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast,
And there’s not any reason, no not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.

They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints, who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
For the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.


Anonymous said...

I love this hymn. I'd like to know who the specific saints are--the doctor, queen, shepherdess, soldier, priest, and wild-beast victim.

***Dave said...

According to a couple of sources I found, the saints mentioned are:

Doctor: Luke (the Evangelist)
Queen: St Margaret of Scotland
Shepherdess: Joan of Arc
Soldier: Martin of Tours
Priest: John Donne
Victim: St Ignatius