Sunday, July 1, 2012

Catherine Winkworth

Commemoration of Catherine Winkworth, Hymn Translator
Sunday, July 1, 2012

The Lord be with you

For those of you who follow the liturgical calendar keyed to the Lutheran Service Book, which is the one I follow, you may be scratching your head about this commemoration. Catherine Winkworth is not on our list of saints to be commemorated. However, she is commemorated as a hymnwriter with John Mason Neale on the liturgical calendar of the Episcopal Church (USA) (August 7) and on the Calendar of Saints of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (July 1).

When it comes right down to it, there are a countless number of saints worthy of being remembered and included on a liturgical calendar. If all were thus recognized, we would have hundreds for each day. Such a practice would hopelessly clutter a liturgical calendar, crowding out the regular days (Lent 4; Pentecost 10; etc), becoming impractical to use. So the people who make these calendars, for any denomination, have to make difficult choices. In the LC-MS, Catherine didn’t make the cut. However, each local church may select what saints they wish to remember (if any), and those saints do not have to be on their denomination’s official calendar (at least, that is how it works in the LC-MS). As I believe the contributions of Catherine are well worth remembering, I am providing this post and we, at Lamb of God, remembered her and her contributions in our worship service today.

I first became aware of Catherine Winkworth back in the days we used The Lutheran Hymnal. I noticed that her name kept appearing as a translator at the bottom of different hymns. In fact, for 73 of the hymns in that hymnal, she was either the translator, or her translation was modified slightly. In subsequent hymnals her work was not used as much, but still a significant number of hymns bear her mark. Lutheran Worship: 41; Lutheran Service Book: 49. This, in my opinion, is reason enough to remember her for her work has certainly been a blessing to the LC-MS.

Catherine Winkworth was born in London on September 13, 1827. She was the fourth daughter of Henry Winkworth, a silk merchant. She was a life-long member of the Church of England. After her birth, the family soon moved to Manchester where she lived most of her life. Her mother died in 1841, and in the spring of 1845, when her father remarried, she went to Dresden to stay for a year with an aunt. It was during her time in Dresden that she first became interested in German hymnody.

Apparently after her return to England, Bunsen, the German ambassador to England, gave her a copy of Andachtsbuch, a German devotional book with German hymns which, it is said, “opened [the] treasures of German hymnody to her.” She went on to publish two series of Lyra Germanica, 1855 and 1858. The first series had 103 translations of German hymns and the second had 121 more. Both books saw many editions. “Winkworth had a remarkable ability to preserve the spirit of the great German hymns while rendering them in English, and she has remained the foremost translator of German hymns into English.” (Pfatteicher) She published several other books related to hymns.

Her interests were not limited to German hymns. In 1852, Catherine undertook active work among the poor in the newly-established Sunday School & District Visiting Society. She was regarded with extreme affection by the poor. Long after she left the neighborhood, she used to receive occasional letters from them.

She was also interested in promoting issues relating to women. To that end, she translated two German biographies: The Life of Pastor Fliedner (1861) and The Life of Amelia Sieveking (1863). These two were founders of sisterhoods for the poor and the sick. She became the secretary of the Clifton Association for Higher Education for Women, a supporter of the Clifton High School for Girls (where a house is named after her), a member of the Cheltenham Ladies’ College, and governor of the Red Maids' School in Westbury-on-Trym in the city of Bristol, England. In 1869, the year her father died, Catherine went with her sister Susanna to Darmstadt, Germany as delegates to the German Conference of Women’s Work, presided over by Princess Anne. In 1870 she was made secretary of the Committee to Promote the Higher Education of Women.

According to her niece, Catherine went to Mornix near Geneva in 1878 where she joined Annie Shaen to help her in the care of their nephew Frank Shaen, then an invalid. She arrived on June 17, and on the 21st they proceeded to Monnetiex in Savoy, France. On the morning of the July 1 she was suddenly attacked by a pain at the heart, and in half-an-hour all was over. A few days later, Catherine was laid to rest in the corner of the churchyard set aside for Protestants. In her memory her friends raised a sum sufficient to endow two "Catherine Winkworth" scholarships for women at the Bristol University College, and also to erect a memorial tablet to her in Bristol Cathedral.

Catherine’s translations (either straight or altered a bit) can be found in the following hymns in the Lutheran Service Book.

333      Once He Came in Blessing
340/1   Lift Up Your Heads, Ye Mighty Gates
347      Comfort, Comfort Ye My People
352      Let the Earth Now Praise the Lord
358      From Heaven Above to Earth I Come
360      All My Heart Again Rejoices
390      Let Us All with Gladsome Voice
420      Christ, the Life of All the Living
439      O Dearest Jesus, What Law Hast Thou Broken
448      O Darkest Woe
516      Wake, Awake, for Night is Flying
590      Baptized into Yo0ur Name Most Holy
592      Dearest Jesus, We Are Here
607      From Depths of Woe I Cry to Thee
608      Lord, to You I Make Confession
615      When in the Hour of Deepest Need
636      Soul, Adorn Yourself with Gladness
642      O Living Bread from Heaven
655      Lord, Keep Us Steadfast in Your Word
663      Be Strong in the Lord
666      O Little Flock, Fear Not the Foe
674      Jerusalem, O City Fair and High
694      Thee Will I Love, My Strength, My Tower
696      O God, My Faithful God
708      Lord, Thee I Love with All My Heart
732      All Depends on Our Possessing
734      I Trust, O Lord, Your Holy Name
741      Jesus Christ, My Sure Defense
742      For Me to Live Is Jesus
743      Jesus, Priceless Treasure
745      In God, My Faithful God
750      If Thou But Trust in God to Guide Thee
790      Praise to the Lord, the Almighty
818      In Thee is Gladness
819      Sing Praise to God, the Highest Good
820      My Soul, Now Praise You Maker
839      O Christ, Our True and Only Light
862      Oh, Blest the House
895      Now Thank We All Our God
897      O Rejoice, Ye Christians, Loudly
901      Open Now Thy Gates of Beauty
902      Lord Jesus Christ, Be Present Now
904      Blessed Jesus, at Your Word
913      O Holy Spirit, Enter In
953      We All Believe in One True God

Prayer: Lord God, throughout the ages You have granted to Your children many gifts and called us to use them in Your kingdom. Grant that we, inspired by the examples of Your children who have gone before us, may place our talents into Your service in Your Church, and beyond. In Jesus’ Name. Amen.

Other appropriate prayers:
  • For musicians
  • For composers of Christian music
  • For translators
  • For the use of good Christian music in our spiritual life
  • Thanks for the rich musical heritage of the Church

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor John Rickert

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