Faith of our Fathers

This hymn commemorating the English martyrs of the 16-17th centuries and the perseverance of the Catholic faith through the continuing persecution during the 18th and early 19th centuries was written by various people:
  • Frederick William Faber (1849) - wrote the verses, originally seven for use in Ireland and four for use in England
  • James George Walton (1821-1905) wrote the chorus 
  • Alternative 3rd verse, and 4th verse - unknown

The words and structure have been altered to fit with the various national / denominational uses, and tunes: Many Americans incorrectly believe it was written about the founding fathers of their country.   Some notes about the different versions are given below.

With meter 8.8.8.8.8 with refrain, tunes it is set to include:
  • ST CATHERINE by H W Hemy - most-commonly used in the USA
  • SAWSTON, composer unknown but pre 1864, and named after Sawston Hall in Cambridgeshire - most commonly used in the UK and Ireland
  • An unnamed tune by A E Tozer in Praise Songs, a Collection of Hymns and Tunes‎ 1871
  • An unnamed tune by I MĂșller in the The Army and Navy Hymnal (1921)
  • An unnamed tune by Nicola Montani in The St. Gregory Hymnal and Catholic Choir Book. Singers' ed., Melody ed. (1920)
  • CRUCIFIXION by Walther (1530) in Hymnal and Liturgies of the Moravian Church (1920)

This hymn fell from favour among people who observed the difference between the hymn's description of a faith passed on through the paternal line, and the reality that faith is often "caught not taught" through the maternal line. However some communities do still use it in it's original form, while others have altered it in various ways. For example, GIA Publications' Worship 4 includes it with title “A Living Faith” including the first verse of the original text and new verses about mothers, brothers and sisters.


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Original universal 3rd verse

SAWSTON

ST CATHERINE

Examples

Solo singer with orchestral backing and choir - SAWSTON


Choir, with organ backing. ST CATHERINE


A service with examples of both tunes, and explaining the differences:


Lyrics

Faith of our fathers, living still,
In spite of dungeon, fire and sword;
O how our hearts beat high with joy
Whene'er we hear thy wondrous voice!

Chorus:
Faith of our fathers, holy faith!
We will be true to thee till death,

Our fathers, chained in prisons dark,
Were still in heart and conscience free.
And blest would be their children's fate
If they, like them, should die for thee.

Original third verse:
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.

Original third verse - universal 
Faith of our fathers, Mary’s prayers
Shall win our country back to Thee;
And through the truth that comes from God,
Our nation shall then indeed be free.

Adapted third verse:
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.

Faith of our fathers, we will love
Both friend and foe in all our strife;
And preach Thee, too, as love knows how
By kindly words and virtuous life.

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