The setting was intended to focus on a setting of the Prayer of St Francis, which is the Communion hymn. But Suffer Little Children became very popular in its own right, reaching number three on the Irish charts in September 1973, and it was widely used in Ireland and around the world in the 1970s - even reaching New Zealand.
Although the chorus words are the same as the 1863 Stephen Foster song of the same name, the tune and verses are quite different.
The original recording, featuring Canon Sydney McEwan, celebrant, and Bernadette Greevy and the Cork Children’s Choir, is now available on iTunes.
The original sheet music was published by Belwyn Mills Music Ltd, who are associated with Aldred Music in the US, and Faber Music in the UK. No current source of published sheet music (new or second-hand) has been found.
Suffer little children, to come unto me,
For theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
Suffer little children to come unto me.
For theirs is the kingdom of the Lord.
There came unto him children, little children,
That he might lay his hands upon them,
Pray for and bless them, children little children,
Gathered round our Lord.
The disciples said:
"Children, little children, leave the master to his Prayer.
Be gone and stay not children, little children
Gathered round our Lord"
But Jesus said:
"children, little children, stay my blessing to receive.
Forbid you not that children, little children
Shall gather round the Lord."
"For you must be like children, little children,
Humble simple, pure at heart.
For it is to these children, little children,
The kingdom of heav’n belongs."