OU EXPECT to be able to recognize a hymn by its title. Except Pange Lingua, but most of the time it’s going to be Thomas Aquinas’ Pange Lingua and any book that includes both is going to be smart enough to distinguish between the two by adding a few clarifying words.
My son asked to sing that hymn that made him cry—God of Mercy and Compassion. It’s not that often you get tears from a very-nearly-teenage boy over a hymn.
From the comments it seems this recording is from the Cardinal Vaughan Memorial School in London under the direction of Charles Cole. It also turns out this hymn was the last played as the Titanic went down, and not Nearer My God, as is popularly believed.
It is written by Rev Edmund Vaughan—not the Herbert Cardinal Vaughan, namesake of the school mentioned above, nor the Bishop Roger Vaughan of early Australian history, although they were related, and Edmund Vaughan was tipped to succeed Bishop Roger Vaughan, but the Irish Cardinal Moran was chosen instead.
Fr. Edmund Vaughan was a Redemptorist priest who led a mission to Australia in 1882. He was recalled to England in 1894 and died there in 1908.
It’s hard to peg down a date for the hymn, but something very like it appears in a 1849 hymnal : The Advent Harpist according to Hymnary.org. Vaughan would have been only 22 when that was published, which raises the question whether he adapted a pre-existing hymn. As Fr Rutler says in his BRIGHTEST AND BEST: hymns were made anonymously for God’s glory and our modern ideas of intellectual property were “odd and uncouth”.
UT, if you were to look up God of Mercy and Compassion in the Catholic Worship Book, 1985, you would find a vague piece full of abstract truisms, seemingly designed to avoid any feelings of contrition. This new hymn is credited to Michael Hodgetts – though in the hymnbook it is spelled Hodgets in the footer and Hodgetts in the header.
I assume the piece is still in copyright, though no date is quoted, so here is a link to the newer text.
Where as the earlier one was focused on personal contrition and amendment, the new uses plural personal pronouns—“us” and “our” instead of “I” ,“me” and “my”. Note, no “we”—which would denote action on our part. The force of the earlier works is diluted and our agency is minimised. Pardon and suffering are mentioned, but coupled with peace and love to soften any possible move towards compunction.
Another disturbing theme repeated in the new hymn is the idea of God forcing gifts on us. That would be great wouldn’t it? I’m having trouble being patient with my kids—please God, force me to do your holy Will. No, that’s not how Christian prayer generally goes. We need to subject ourselves to God’s Will rather than telling God to force us to do things. And what is this Gift of Life and Growth anyway?
I haven’t found any information about Michael Hodgets or Hodgetts. I don’t know why the hymnbook editors sought permission to use his work rather than the older Public Domain text beloved by generations of English speaking Catholics. I don’t know lots of things, but I know which hymn I would choose, especially entering the season of Lent.