Abide With Me

Something for the weekend.  No hymn seems to me more appopriate for a Palm Sunday weekend than Abide With Me, a song that reminds us that we all must die and that death is only a new glorious beginning for those who die in Christ.  The song was written in a magnificent act of faith by Henry Lyte, a supporter of the Oxford Movement, as he lay dying of tuberculosis in 1847.

In the movie A Bridge Too Far, wounded survivors of the British First Airborne Division are shown singing the song as they await capture by the Wehrmacht at the conclusion of Operation Market-Garden.

And here we have a fine rendition by Hayley Westenra.

Abide with me;  fast falls the eventide;

The darkness deepens;   Lord, with me abide;

When other helpers fail and comforts flee,

 Help of the helpless, oh, abide with me.

Swift to its close ebbs out life’s little day;

Earth’s joys grow dim, its glories pass away;

 Change and decay in all around I see—

O Thou who changest not, abide with me.

I need Thy presence every passing hour;

 What but Thy grace can foil the tempter’s pow’r?

Who, like Thyself, my guide and stay can be?

Through cloud and sunshine, Lord, abide with me.

I fear no foe, with Thee at hand to bless;

Ills have no weight, and tears no bitterness;

Where is death’s sting? Where, grave, thy victory?

I triumph still, if Thou abide with me.

Hold Thou Thy cross before my closing eyes;

 Shine through the gloom and point me to the skies;

Heav’n’s morning breaks, and earth’s vain shadows flee;

In life, in death, O Lord, abide with me.

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Donald R. McClarey

Cradle Catholic. Active in the pro-life movement since 1973. Father of three and happily married for 35 years. Small town lawyer and amateur historian. Former president of the board of directors of the local crisis pregnancy center for a decade.


  1. Unfortunately it is too redolent of Victorian Anglican hymnody to resonate much with Catholics. Traditionally it was sung before the FA Cup Final at Wembley, which says a lot about the English character. This morning I attended Palm Sunday Mass at the Birmingham Oratory according to the 1962 Missal. The traditional processional chants, not to mention the solemn singing of the Passion in Latin, are far more redolent of the feast than a maudlin funeral hymn. Sadly the Church’s authentic response to these mysteries is not offered to the majority of Catholics

  2. “Unfortunately it is too redolent of Victorian Anglican hymnody to resonate much with Catholics.”

    It resonates quite a bit with this particular Catholic John. Thanks to the Oxford Movement quite a few hymns of this nature became Catholic hymns, including Newman’s Lead Kindly Light, and Faber’s Faith of Our Fathers.

  3. Faber’s Faith of our Fathers was written after he became a Catholic and is a plea for the conversion of England: Faith of our Fathers, Mary’s prayers shall win our country back to thee/ And through the truth that comes from God, England shall then indeed be free. It is always sung to the tune Sawston (never to Hemy’s Tynemouth which is used for O Bread of Heaven). It is the English Catholic anthem par excellence, although I believe Faber produced a version for Ireland. A lot of Faber’s hymns were bowdlerized by Protestants and I have even come across a feminist version which (horror of horrors) is sung in some US Catholic parishes.

  4. The feminazi version is sung all the time here in the States John. I, and a good many others judging from the drop off when that stanza is hit, refuse to sing it. The verison we have about Mary’s prayers:

    “Faith of our Father’s, Mary’s prayers shall win our nation unto thee, and from the truth that comes from God our nation shall be truly free.”

    That stanza is rarely sung here anymore which is a demonstration of the Church Militant transformed into the Church Mushy.

    Faith of our Fathers is popular with all sorts of Protestant churches over here which they sing with the following third stanza:

    “Faith of our fathers, we will strive To win all nations unto Thee; And through the truth that comes from God, We all shall then be truly free.”

  5. One of Faber’s hymns which was once frequently sung in Passiontide is “O come and mourn with me awhile”. The second line “See, Mary calls us to her side” is changed in the Anglican ‘Hymns Ancient and Modern’ to “O come ye to the Saviour’s side”. Mind you, the line in the second stanza “While soldiers scoff and Jews deride” is changed even in the Oratory hymnal, “crowds” replacing “Jews”. Done for the best of reasons, but I am slightly uneasy about altering a poet’s text to suit modern sensibilities.

    One of his finest hymns, “Sweet Saviour bless us ere we go” sung to George Herbert’s tune ‘Sunset’ is alas rarely heard these days, as evening devotions have all but disappeared. Another great Oratorian hymn-writer, born in the same year as Faber (1814) was Edward Caswall. Probably best known for the carol “See amid the winter’s snow”, he translated many hymns from Latin and Greek.

    Newman’s “Praise to the Holiest” is popular with Anglican congregations, but not to Sir Richard Terry’s tune ‘Billing’ which is the one we use. And although liturgical horrors abound this side of the pond, tampering with F.O.O.F. in the name of Political Correctness would be about as popular as changing the words of ‘Rule, Britannia!’.

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