About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he resides with his wife and children.
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Some are called not to much speaking, | nor to conversations about the Church, | but, rather, to a deep silence | and to a life hidden in the heart of the Church, | far from wrangling tongues, from speculations, and discord. […] This is the essence of a Eucharistic monastic life.
— Fr. Mark Daniel Kirby (Meditation on Colossians 3:3)

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“Adoro Te Devote” • A Bad Translation in Hymnals
published 22 August 2018 by Jeff Ostrowski

N MORE THAN ONE OCCASION, members of the Brébeuf hymnal committee have questioned whether we are placing too much emphasis on language. Before choosing a hymn translation, we study all that have been made—especially those by Catholic priests. 1 Sometimes the committee will argue over a single word for weeks. Contrariwise, in other Catholic hymnals we observe an insane amount of sloppy choices—and it sometimes makes us wonder if people will appreciate our unprecedented effort.

For example, a popular translation of the “Adóro Te Devóte” was published in People’s Mass Book (1964), which was very widely disseminated in Catholic churches. How can people claim this is a translation of the hymn by Saint Thomas Aquinas?


Version by Melvin L. Farrell:

1. Humbly we adore thee,
Christ Redeemer King;
Thou are Lord of heaven,
thou to whom we sing.

God, the Mighty, thou hast come,
bearing gifts of grace;
Son of Adam still thou art:
Savior to our race.


2. Jesus, Lord we thank thee
for this wondrous Bread;
In our land thou dwellest,
by thee we are fed.

We who share this Mystery
in thee are made one:
Every act we offer thee
in thy Name is done.


3. Thou who died to save us
livest as our Light:
Though our eyes are blinded,
yet our Faith gives sight.

Christ, do thou be merciful,
Lamb for sinners slain,
We in grief confess our guilt:
cleanse our souls of stain.


4. Christ, our God and Brother,
hear our humble plea:
By this holy banquet
keep us joined to thee.

Make us one in loving thee,
one in mind and heart,
Till in heaven we are thine,
nevermore to part.


5. Hail, thou Word Incarnate,
born from Mary’s womb;
Hail thou Strength immortal,
risen from the tomb.

Share with us thy victory,
Savior ever blest:
Live more fully in our hearts;
be our constant Guest.


6. Faith alone reveals here
Bread of paradise;
Faith alone may witness
Jesus’ sacrifice.

Therefore, Lord, as once of old
Thomas gained his sight,
Now increase our feeble faith:
shed thy healing light.


7. Christ, at his Last Supper,
breaking bread, decreed:
“This, my Body, take and eat“—
heavenly Food indeed!

Then he blessed the cup of wine—
“Take ye this” he said:
“Drink the chalice of my Blood,
soon for sinners shed.”

Accurate Translation of the Latin:

1. I adore You devoutly,
Godhead unseen,
Who truly lies hidden
under these sacramental forms.

My soul surrenders itself
to You without reserve,
for in contemplating You
it is completely overwhelmed.


2. Sight, touch and taste
are no guide in finding You,
and only hearing
is a sure guide for our faith.

I believe everything
that the Son of God has said,
and nothing can be truer
than this word of the Truth.


3. Only the godhead
was hidden on the cross,
but here the humanity
is hidden as well.

Yet I believe and
acknowledge them both,
and make the same request
as did the repentant thief.


4. I do not see the marks
of the wounds,
as Thomas did,
and yet I too own You as “My God.”

Grant that I believe
in You more and more,
that I put my hope in You
and that I love You.


5. Living bread, that ever recalls
the Lord’s death
and gives life
to His servants,

grant to my soul
to live by You
and always to taste
Your sweetness.


6. Lord Jesus,
loving pelican of heaven,
cleanse me, a sinner,
with Your blood;

for a single drop
can save
the whole world
from all its sin.


7. Jesus, as I look
on Your veiled presence,
I pray that what I long for
so ardently may come about,

and that I may see
Your face unveiled
and be happy
in the vision of Your glory.

This “translation” even appears in reputable hymnals, such as the Saint Michael Hymnal.

Does nobody care this translation is a total fraud?

UR COMMITTEE has discovered several breathtaking translations of the “Adóro Te Devóte,” and these have been set to marvelous melodies in the Brébeuf hymnal. Some of the melodies were composed specifically for our book by excellent composers.

By the way, in the Brébeuf Hymnal, we provide the actual Latin (with literal translations) so people can know what the authentic prayers say. You would be astounded at how often Catholic hymnals—even very good ones—delete and omit verses, sometimes more than 70%. But that’s another topic for another day.




NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:

1   The St. Jean de Brébeuf Hymnal will soon be released, and people will be astonished by the interesting hymn translations by Catholic priests we have discovered. Many have never been published before!