HE PREËMINENT SCHOLAR of the English-speaking world during the early 20th century was probably Father Adrian Fortescue (d. 1923). He earned three doctorates (!) at the same time, and this was so rare that the Emperor Franz Joseph personally awarded him a special prize. At the time of his death, Fortescue was professor of church history at Saint Edmund’s College, Ware (the oldest Catholic school in England) just north of London. A footnote in the newest edition of the SAINT EDMUND CAMPION MISSAL mentions how Monsignor Ronald Knox, Dr. Fortescue, and Fulton J. Sheen all taught at Saint Edmund’s around the same time. [More on that below.] Due to his exceptional musical talent, Fortescue had served as organist while studying at the Scots’ College in Rome. About hymnody, Father Fortescue wrote:
In nothing are English Catholics so poor as in vernacular hymns. The real badness of most of our popular hymns, endeared, unfortunately, to the people by association, surpasses anything that could otherwise be imagined. […] Whereas our liturgical hymns are the finest in the world, our popular ones are easily the worst. […] Other religious bodies take all their best hymns in translations from us. It would be a disgrace if we Catholics were the only people who did not appreciate what is our property. […] Nor shall we find a better expression of Catholic piety than these words, hallowed by centuries of Catholic use, fragrant with the memory of the saints who wrote them in that golden age when practically all Christendom was Catholic.
Released Today! • Today, we release a musical setting of an ancient hymn for the Feast of All Saints (1 November) called “Ad Honórem Salvatóris.” A marvelous English translation was sent to me on the feast day of Father Brébeuf (19 October), and I’ve included it alongside the musical notation. As far as I can tell, this is the first time a musical score has been made available for this venerable text:
* PDF Download • Hymn for All Saints (SATB)
—“Ad Honórem Salvatóris” with English Translation by Father Seraphim.
How It Sounds • I believe the sentiments expressed are powerful. I hope you’ll meditate upon each verse. To hear how the melody sounds—including rehearsal videos for each individual voice—listen to the following. In other words, the following tune is identical to the Latin score above:
To access this hymn’s media in the Brébeuf Portal, click here.
Fulton J. Sheen • As a young priest, Father Fulton J. Sheen knew and admired Monsignor Ronald Knox (d. 1957). In his autobiography, Sheen tells some fascinating stories about Knox:
Toward the end of his life, Fulton J. Sheen said that “anything he had ever said of significance was taken from either Knox or Chesterton.”
Random Addendum • Bishop Sheen, in his autobiography, claims he would sometimes reject deacons. That is to say, when they presented themselves for priestly ordination, as bishop of Rochester, Sheen would reject them (based upon his experiences with them and other factors). I doubt that happens these days. Because of the vocations crisis, something tells me deacons are never rejected. I’m not advocating for or against what Sheen did. On the other hand, I do know that many universities have reached a point where “you pay the money, you get the degree” regardless of qualifications—and that situation seems rather undesirable.