The Right Place at the Right Time

While attending the Mariological Society of America's annual meeting outside of Corpus Christi, Fr. Thomas Thompson, S.M., IMRI faculty and former director of the Marian Library, was not expecting to receive a gift. And not just any gift, but one he had sought after for quite some time.

Rich May, while wandering in a book store in Houston, Texas, found a copy of an 1841 French hymnal. He remembered hearing Fr. Tom say that he would like to find a hymnal with the Marian songs the first Marianist Brothers sang in the 1840s. Who would have ever thought that this 19th century French hymnal would be found in a bookstore in Houston!

About the hymnal:

by Fr. Thomas Thompson, S.M.

Chants à Marie pour le mois de Mai
Et les Fêtes de la sainte Vierge

Paroles de M. abbé Lefebvre
Musique d M. abbé Lambillotte

Dedicated to the Archbishop of Paris
Paris: 1841

Fr. Lambillotte wrote the melodies for the hymns in this collection. (Among the hymns in English we sing, Lambillotte wrote the melodies for "On this Day O Beautiful Mother," "Come Holy Ghost," and "Panis Angelicus.")

Included in this 1841 hymnal were several songs for the month of May, but also songs on the infancy of Mary, her "First Communion," and the death of St. Joseph.

What is most extraordinary are the elaborate piano accompaniments for these hymns. Until Vatican II, only Latin could be sung at Mass, so the people sang these hymns in French at evening devotions or at home around the piano. The piano accompaniments are quite elaborate: some involve large two-handed full chords with eighth and sixteenth notes in quick ascending and descending octave runs.


Ah! Qu'elle est bonne Marie (ter.)

Elle me porte en ses bras,
Et vers la belle patrie
Elle dirige mes pas;
Si contre moi le ciel tonne,
Elle montre ma patronne
Marie! oh quelle est bonne!

Look to the gallery for images of pages of this beautiful hymnal.

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