PBEH Discussion: A Mighty Fortress Is Our God
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,192
    Although this hymn is largely, laudably based on Psalm 47, it is also closely associated with the Protestant Reformation.

    On a theological note, I would also question the assertion of the hymn that "on earth is not [Satan's] equal." Christ remains present on the earth in the Blessed Sacrament and in his Church, and the Holy Spirit is surely with us.

    From Wiki (The last paragraph strikes me as very interesting, as the wiki writer considers the inclusion of the hymn in a Catholic hymnal to be a Catholic endorsement of the hymn):

    "A Mighty Fortress" is one of the best loved hymns of the Lutheran and Protestant traditions. It has been called the "Battle Hymn of the Reformation" for the effect it had in increasing the support for the Reformers' cause. John Julian records four theories of its origin:

    Heinrich Heine: it was sung by Luther and his companions as they entered Worms on April 16, 1521 for the Diet;
    K.F.T. Schneider: it was a tribute to Luther's friend Leonhard Kaiser, who was executed as a Protestant martyr on August 16, 1527;
    Jean-Henri Merle d'Aubigné: it was sung by the German Lutheran princes as they entered Augsburg for the Diet in 1530 at which the Augsburg Confession was presented; and
    the view that it was composed in connection with the Diet of Speyer (1529) at which the German Lutheran princes lodged their "protest" to Emperor Charles V, who wanted to enforce his Edict of Worms (1521).

    Rare early printing of "A Mighty Fortress."The earliest extant hymnal in which it appears is that of Andrew Rauscher (1531), but it is supposed to have been in Joseph Klug's Wittenberg hymnal of 1529, of which no copy exists. Its title was Der xxxxvi. Psalm. Deus noster refugium et virtus.[1] Before that it is supposed to have appeared in the Hans Weiss Wittenberg hymnal of 1528, also lost.This evidence would support its being written in 1527-1529, since Luther's hymns were printed shortly after they were written.

    Tradition states that King Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden had it played as his forces went to battle in the Thirty Years' War. The psalm had been translated into Swedish already in 1536, presumably by Olaus Petri. In the late 1800s the song also became an anthem of the early Swedish socialist movement.

    It was first translated into English by Myles Coverdale in 1539 with the title, Oure God is a defence and towre. The first English translation in "common usage" was God is our Refuge in Distress, Our strong Defence in J.C. Jacobi's Psal. Ger., 1722, p. 83.

    The hymn is now a suggested hymn for Catholic masses, appearing in the second edition of the Catholic Book of Worship, published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Its enduring popularity in Western Christendom has breached boundaries set in the Reformation.


    The wiki article leans heavily on John Julian's Dictionary of Hymnology, which can be found here http://www.ccel.org/ccel/julian_j/hymn1.html
    and here http://www.ccel.org/ccel/julian_j/hymn2.html
  • don roy
    Posts: 306
    as luther himself said

    "why should the devil have the best tunes?"
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Ah, but there is (was) a very Catholic version in the ca. 1966 "NEW SAINT JOSEPH SUNDAY MISSAL & HYMNAL". I have used it a couple of times - once for a wedding where the soprano soloist (and cantor) knew the verse by heart!

    I personally would not mind using a good orthodox Catholic text to any well known hymn. To paraphrase Martin Luther: "Why should the Protestants have have the best tunes?"
  • Kathy
    Posts: 5,192
    Worship III has Christopher Idle's Christ Church Shall Glory in His Pow'r, set to the same tune. It's copyright 1982, so unlikely to be in the public domain. I think Idle is the world's greatest living hymn writer. Also his: Wake, O Wake, And Sleep No Longer.

    When was the Saint Joseph Missal version written, I wonder?
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,518
    I would have no problem with "A Mighty Fortress" disappearing. I never use it.
  • Steve CollinsSteve Collins
    Posts: 1,003
    Yes, it was the St. Joseph publication. I like the tune, and could live with the text since I'm used to paraphrases of the Psalms. But I would use it more if the text were more Catholic. I seem to remember a copyright to that text, but it was a private person, not one of the corporations. I think it's worth a shot at getting a blanket permission.
  • This Charles is in concert with our other Charles with this hymn.
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,870
    we don't need any denominational hymns in the catholic hymnal. there are plenty of good catholic tunes that far outweigh them in both melodic sublimety and theological content. truth alone is the ultimate golden rule.
  • priorstf
    Posts: 460
    francis said it well
  • RobertRobert
    Posts: 343
    It is such a good hymn tune, one of the best really. Surely good music can go beyond historical associations - after all, AUSTRIA is sung in churches all over the English speaking world and it no longer makes people think of Nazis, who I dare say were rather worse than Protestants.

    I cannot imagine a decent hymnal omitting it--for heaven's sake, keep this one in the PBEH!
  • CharlesW
    Posts: 10,518
    "A Mighty Fortress" has always seemed to me a bit tedious and boring. It is the anthem of the Protestant revolt, and that alone should disqualify it from a Catholic hymnal. That it is uninteresting is just another reason for leaving it out. Surely we have a good Catholic hymn to put in its place.
  • G
    Posts: 1,389
    OT, I love AUSTRIA -- what text is usually sung to it as a hymn in Catholic churches?
    I think I have only heard it at one parish.

    (Save the Liturgy, Save the World)
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,331
    "Glorious Things of Thee Are Spoken"
  • francisfrancis
    Posts: 8,870
    Tantum Ergo
  • GavinGavin
    Posts: 2,799
    I suppose it would surprise few to know that I support this hymn's use in Catholic parishes. It's not the protestant battle hymn, it's the Christian battle hymn. Do we not wage war with evil powers today? "This world with devils filled" sounds particularly appropriate on election day :)