Sep 2, 2006

Onward, Christian Soldiers!

My dad was a convert to Catholicism back in the 1930s who loved the song, Onward, Christian Soldiers! He taught it to us and we kids would march around the house singing this Protestant song, much to the dismay of my very Catholic mother. Actually, the words of the song did not offend against Catholicism, so mother held her peace.

Onward, Christian Soldiers! seems to exemplify militant Catholicism to which we are called by the sacrament of Confirmation. As defined in the Catholic Encyclopedia and Baltimore Catechism, Confirmation is a sacrament in which the Holy Ghost is given to those who are already baptized in order to make them strong and perfect Christians and soldiers of Jesus Christ.

In Scripture, several references refer to being a good soldier for Christ. For example Paul says to:
11 Put you on the armour of God, that you may be able to stand against the deceits of the devil. 12 For our wrestling is not against flesh and blood; but against principalities and power, against the rulers of the world of this darkness, against the spirits of wickedness in the high places. 13 Therefore take unto you the armour of God, that you may be able to resist in the evil day, and to stand in all things perfect...16 In all things taking the shield of faith, wherewith you may be able to extinguish all the fiery darts of the most wicked one. 17 And take unto you the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit (which is the word of God). (Ephesians 6)

Labour as a good soldier of Christ Jesus. (Timothy II 2:3)

I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith. (Timothy II 4:7)
Fr. John Hardon, S.J., repeats the traditional definition of the Communion of Saints as consisting of three levels:
the Church Militant on earth, the Church Suffering in purgatory, and the Church Triumphant in heaven. After the last day, there will be only the Church Triumphant in heavenly glory.
However, the new Catholic Catechism issued in 1992 obscures the definition of the Communion of Saints by referring to those alive in this world as "pilgrims on earth." No. 962 states
We believe in the communion of all the faithful of Christ, those who are pilgrims on earth, the dead who are being purified, and the blessed in heaven, all together forming one Church; and we believe that in this communion, the merciful love of God and his saints is always [attentive] to our prayers" (Paul VI, CPG § 30).
Onward, Christian Soldiers! was published in 1865 by the Anglican clergyman and prolific writer, Sabine Baring-Gould, who prepared it for a group of schoolchildren who were to march to the next village. Baring-Gould is thought to be the man who inspired Pygmalion, a story later made into My Fair Lady. He fell in love with a simple mill girl and sent her away to be educated for two years before he married her. The couple were married for 48 years and had 15 children.

Here are the words to Onward, Christian Soldiers:

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
Forward into battle see His banners go!

Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
With the cross of Jesus going on before.

At the sign of triumph Satan’s host doth flee;
On then, Christian soldiers, on to victory!
Hell’s foundations quiver at the shout of praise;
Brothers lift your voices, loud your anthems raise.


Like a mighty army moves the church of God;
Brothers, we are treading where the saints have trod.
We are not divided, all one body we,
One in hope and doctrine, one in charity.


What the saints established that I hold for true.
What the saints believèd, that I believe too.
Long as earth endureth, men the faith will hold,
Kingdoms, nations, empires, in destruction rolled.


Crowns and thrones may perish, kingdoms rise and wane,
But the church of Jesus constant will remain.
Gates of hell can never gainst that church prevail;
We have Christ’s own promise, and that cannot fail.


Onward then, ye people, join our happy throng,
Blend with ours your voices in the triumph song.
Glory, laud and honor unto Christ the King,
This through countless ages men and angels sing.


1 comment:

Jovan-Marya Weismiller, T.O.Carm. said...

Baring-Gould was an High Church Anglican who consider himself a Catholic priest. The very fact that the song was for a procession is evidence of this. Protestants in XIXth cent. Englad did not go in for manifestations of "popery" like processions! It was one of my favourite hymns as an Anglican and, after over 25 years as a Catholic, still remains a favourite. Your Mother was right! There is nothing in the hymn to offend against our Holy Faith.