“They lived not only in ages past…”

A priest friend sent this, which I now share while it is still (for me) All Saints.

By the Choir of Grace Cathedral, San Francisco.

Play

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.

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13 Responses to “They lived not only in ages past…”

  1. HyacinthClare says:

    Oh, what a happy memory! All my years as an Episcopalian, before I converted back in 1992, we sang that song with the children leading us. I miss hymns some days … I grew up with them. Before Eucharist, they WERE worship. For All the Saints was a particular favorite, which I learned even before I was an Episcopalian. The Methodists taught me that one. “From earth’s wide bounds, from ocean’s farthest coast, through gates of pearl, streams in the countless host… singing to Father, Son and Holy Ghost, Alleluia!”

  2. APX says:

    I think this song needs to go on heavy rotation for recessional hymns.

  3. Venerator Sti Lot says:

    Thank you!

    I see it has its own Wikipedia article, saying the tune was composed for it by the nephew of the author/composer of “We Three Kings…”. (As recently as 1898 its own author could be innocently given her first name…)

  4. JimP says:

    Wonderful! I miss that (and many other great English hymns) from my days in an Anglican community. In my current parish On Eagle’s Wings is about as good as it gets. I Sing a Song of the Saints of God was written as a children’s hymn. We recently had This Little Light of Mine as a processional/gathering hymn. Whatever that says about changes in Christian formation over the last 75 years is not good.

  5. Kathleen10 says:

    Oh I love it. I’m not familiar with it, but hymns like these remind me of childhood where I did hear Protestant hymns and loved them. How hymns we know take us back! They sing this beautifully.
    A tiny point, but I think the 8th line that says “God helping to be one too” is actually “God help me to be one too”.
    Our churches in our area often sing Evangelical hymns, particularly the southern ones. “Old Rugged Cross”, etc. They are beautiful hymns but in my opinion they just don’t fit in a Catholic church, and why, why, do we not sing all of the uplifting hymns that are our Catholic heritage.

  6. yatzer says:

    I also miss that one from my Episcopalian youth. I am still puzzled why current Catholic music has to be so awful and trivial, for the most part.

  7. stephentamke says:

    Still an Episcopalian, but on the trad side of things. Thankfully my parish is also!

    My two favorite hymns in the Hymnal are Sine Nomine (“For All the Saints”) and “I sing a song of the saints of God…”

    Our five sons have sung (two still do as adults) in our Men and Boys’ Choir.

    It was heaven this morning singing both hymns.

    Solemn Evensong (Vespers) this afternoon. Wonderful!

  8. msc says:

    Put simply, I think it verges on the heretical to think that God would prefer to hear Marty Haugen to Mozart or Palestrina or Tallis or Byrd or Victoria or Elgar or Macmillan …. When we are so concerned that worship be reverent in dress or movement, why indeed does the Church seem to think that reverence in music means nothing.

  9. Joe in Canada says:

    It’s not a question of who God would prefer to hear – He prefers to hear us – but what does He prefer to hear us doing? Especially at Mass? This ‘hymn’ might have some fine sentimentality and some fine pedagogy, but is it worship of God? To whom is it directed? To me this is just a high church version of “Gather us in”.

  10. edm says:

    We too sang it for All Saints at Mass in my Episcopal parish. Everyone loves it and I think it does teach lesson: saints can come from all walks of life and not just in the far past. It was written as a teaching tool and it does it beautifully.

  11. edm says:

    We too sang it for All Saints at Mass in my Episcopal parish. Everyone loves it and I think it does teach lesson: saints can come from all walks of life and not just in the far past. It was written as a teaching tool and it does it beautifully.

  12. Vox Laudis says:

    Kathleen10–it is correct as originally given. The thought is: “And I mean to be one, too (God helping me).” The BCP is full of dependent clauses, so that construction used to come easily to Anglican hymn lyricists.

    APX, LOL! At the local Anglican school, the children sing this as the recessional after every chapel service. The latest choir director has trained them out of the tradition of singing exceedingly fortissimo (aka, nearly shouting) at FIERCE WILD BEAST, but the grandparent and parent alums still do it when they are there. It certainly would beat the recessional ‘hymn’ at most Catholic parishes.

    We are fortunate enough to assist at two parishes for the EF, so although we did not have “I sing a song of the saints of God” we did have all eight verses of Sine Nomine (For all the saints) as the recessional at the All Saints Missa Cantata on Saturday. (Kudos to Fr. M for his habit of letting us sing all the verses of great hymns instead of truncating them at some strange place; this choral director appreciates it.)

  13. Michael in NoVA says:

    As a former Episcopalian, I too remember this song fondly. Of course, I also remember, with the encouragement of a few of the priests and priestesses, a youth movement I was a part of changing the second verse to:

    “And one was a soldier, and one was a BEAST,
    And one was slain by a fierce wild PRIEST…”

    For that matter, I believe one of the priests had a chasuble made with “Fierce Wild Priest” embroidered on the back. I haven’t yet looked to see if that one made the Bad Vestments website.

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