Editor’s Note — It’s been said that Christmas is one of the few holidays that has its own “sound track.” While everyone is familiar with “The 12 Days of Christmas,” The Times-Gazette is presenting a special 12-part series entitled The 12 Carols of Christmas that will appear daily through Christmas Eve, relating the stories behind some of the best-loved sacred songs of the season.
Political unrest that resulted in an attempt to regain the British throne led to persecution and turmoil, and caused John Francis Wade to flee England in 1745.
He was one of thousands of Catholics who fled to France and Portugal to seek out other English-speaking Catholics, and according to Robert Morgan’s two-volume collection of hymns “Then Sings My Soul,” as a refugee, Wade ended up as a music teacher and later a renowned musical score copyist in Douay, France.
Morgan wrote that two years prior to his hasty departure, Wade produced a copy of a Latin Christmas carol that began with the phrase “Adeste Fidelis, Laeti triumphantes.”
Historians believed at one time that he had simply discovered an ancient hymn by an unknown author, but Morgan said most now believe that Wade himself composed the lyrics after seven original hand-copied manuscripts were discovered bearing his signature.
Wade died in 1786 at the age of 75, and in time English Catholics began to return to England carrying with them Wade’s Christmas carol.
A little over a century after Wade composed it, Morgan said an Anglican minister named Frederick Oakeley came across it and was so moved by what he read, he translated it into English for so it could used at the church he pastored — Market St. Chapel in London.
Oakeley’s original title had translated into “Ye Faithful, Approach Ye,” but after converting to the Catholic faith in 1845, he began going over and over in his mind the original Latin phrase until finally re-translating it “O Come, All Ye Faithful, Joyful and Triumphant!”
In similar fashion to the Bible, which contains 66 books written by 40 authors who lived on three continents, and was written over a span of nearly 1,600 years in three major languages, Morgan said that “O Come, All Ye Faithful” came to pass by two Catholic Englishmen with a love for music, living a hundred years apart and who wrote from two different nations and two different languages.
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