Feast of Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale (July 1)   4 comments

Above:  The Flag of England

Image in the Public Domain



Translator of Hymns



Anglican Priest, Hymn Writer, and Hymn Translator


That these hymns and tunes first sprang up on a foreign soil is no reason why they should not take root among us; all who use our Common Prayer know well how the unity of the Christian sentiment is felt to swallow up all diversity of national origin.  In truth, any embodiment of Christian experience and devotion, whether in the form of hymn or prayer or meditation, or whatever shape art may give it, if it do but go to the heart of our common faith, becomes at once the rightful and most precious inheritance of the whole Christian Church.

–Catherine Winkworth, The Chorale Book for England (1862), vii


The thought that, in conclusion, strikes one is this:  the marvellous ignorance in which English ecclesiastical scholars are content to remain of this huge treasure of divinity–the gradual completion of nine centuries at least.  I may safely calculate that not one out of twenty who peruse these pages will ever have read a Greek ‘Canon’ though; yet what a glorious mass of theology do these offices present!  If the following pages tend in any degree to induce the reader to study these books for himself, my labour could hardly have been spent to a better result.

–John Mason Neale, Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862), xli




Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale were Anglicans who enriched English-language hymnody with their translations–Winkworth contributed translations of German hymns while Neale, her contemporary, delved into the treasures of Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism.

To celebrate the lives of these saints is appropriate.  My Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days now follows the custom of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA) and the Evangelical Lutheran Church in Canada (ELCIC), which, since the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), have commemorated Winkworth and Neale in one feast, dated July 1.  The Episcopal Church, my denomination, also celebrates these saints, but in separate feasts, both on August 7–Neale since at least 1970 and Winkworth since 2009.  The Church of England’s feast day for Neale is also August 7.  In this post I follow the Lutheran feast, but with the Episcopal propers–certainly an ecumenical approach.




John Mason Neale, whose health was always fragile, entered the world at London, England, on January 24, 1818.  He studied at Sherborne Grammar School as well as privately under the tutelage of the Reverend William Russell and one Professor Challis.  Next Neale was a student at Trinity College, Cambridge, at which he matriculated in 1836.  Our saint, who graduated with his undergraduate degree in 1840 and his M.A. five years later, became involved in the Anglo-Catholic movement at Cambridge, as an undergraduate.  Between degrees Neale joined the ranks of the clergy–as a deacon in 1841 and a priest the following year.  Our saint, near death in 1843, could not accept the Incumbency of Crawley, Sussex; we went to Madeira instead, and there remained until the summer of 1844.  He also married Sarah Norman Webster in 1842.

Neale, back in England, and his lungs in somewhat better condition than 1843, settled into the obscure and low-paying position of Warden of Sackville, College, East Grimland, in 1846.  There he spent the rest of his life as a studious servant of God.  At a time when many Evangelical Anglicans and other Evangelicals considered the Anglo-Catholic movement to be in league with Satan, Neale’s Anglo-Catholicism was quite controversial.  Somehow he remained good-natured despite vitriolic and even violence.  At Sackville College our saint delved into ancient and medieval liturgies and hymnody, publishing the following:

  1. Medieval Hymns and Sequences (1851);
  2. The Hymnal Noted (1851);
  3. Hymns, Ancient and Modern (1859);
  4. Hymns of the Eastern Church (1862);
  5. Essays on Liturgiology and Church History (1863); and
  6. Hymns, Chiefly Medieval, on the Joys and Glories of Paradise (1865).

Original Sequences, Hymns, and Other Ecclesiastical Verses debuted posthumously.

In 1854 Neale co-founded the Sisterhood of Saint Margaret.  Members lived in convents, operated orphanages, helped women escape prostitution, and visited ill girls and women in their homes.  His last pubic act was to lay the foundation for a new convent.

On August 6 (the Feast of the Transfiguration), 1866, Neale died after having been seriously ill for months.  He was 48 years old.




Catherine Winkworth did not survive past the age of 48 years.  Her contributions to English-language hymnody, like those of Neale, have survived her and blessed many.

Winkworth, born in Ely Place, Holborn, London, England, on September 13, 1827 (not 1829, as some of the hymnal companion volumes I consulted stated), was a daughter of Henry Winkworth, a silk merchant of Alderley Edge, Cheshire.  Our saint, a well-educated woman, was a feminist who spent much of her adult life promoting the higher education of women.  She did this in various capacities over decades.  She, having grown up mostly in Manchester, moved with the family to Clifton, near Bristol, in 1862.  Thus the geographical concentration of much of her educational work was the area of Bristol and Clifton.

Winkworth, a devout Anglican, was deeply interested in economic justice, in literature, and in German hymnody.  Her translations of biographies–Life of Pastor Fliedner (1861) and Life of Amelia Sieveking (1863)–represented our saint’s social conscience.  The Reverend Theodor Fliedner (1800-1864) had renewed the female diaconate in the Lutheran Church.  Amelia Wilhemina Sieveking/Amalie Wilhemine Sieveking (1794-1859) had done much to help poor people and pioneer social work in Germany.

Winkworth, more than any other translator, was responsible for the revival of the English use of German hymns.  Her major works in this field were the two series (1855 and 1858) of Lyra Germanica as well as the Chorale Book for England (1863).  In Christian Singers of Germany (1869) our saint provided biographies.  John Percival (1895-1917), the Headmaster of Clifton College and later the Bishop of Hereford, commented on Winkworth:

She was a person of remarkable intellectual and social gifts and very unusual attainments; but what specially distinguished her was her rare ability and great knowledge with a certain tender and sympathetic refinement which constitutes the special charm of the womanly character.

–Quoted in Armin Haeussler, The Story of Our Hymns:  The Handbook to the Hymnal of the Evangelical and Reformed Church (St. Louis, MO:  Eden Publishing House, 1952), 989.

Winkworth, while traveling to an international conference on women’s issues, died of heart disease at Monnetier, Savoy.  She was 50 years old.




If one values quality in English-language hymnody, one should thank God for the legacies of Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale.  Winkworth’s contributions include “Now Thank We All Our God;” “Jesus, Priceless Treasure;” “If Thou But Suffer God to Guide Thee;” and “Deck Thyself, My Soul, with Gladness.”  She has 10 entries in the Episcopal Hymnal 1982 (1985), 30 in the Lutheran Book of Worship (1978), 41 in Lutheran Worship (1982), 19 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), and 40 in the Lutheran Service Book (2006).

Neale, responsible for translating or writing about one-eighth of the hymns in the first edition of Hymns Ancient and Modern, has bequeathed a glorious legacy of hymnody also.  If one has sung “Of the Father’s Love Begotten;” “Good Christian Men, Rejoice;” “What Star is This, with Beams So Bright;” and “All Glory, Laud, and Honor;” for example, one has encountered Neale’s work.  He has remained prominent in hymnals, with 45 entries in The Hymnal 1982, 21 in the Lutheran Book of Worship, 18 in Lutheran Worship, 14 in Evangelical Lutheran Worship, and 26 in the Lutheran Service Book.

I thank God for the legacies of Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale.









Grant, O God, that in all time of testing we may know and obey your will;

that, following the example of your servant John Mason Neale,

we may with integrity and courage accomplish what you give us to do,

and endure what you give us to bear;

through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with

you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.  Amen.

2 Chronicles 20:20-21

Psalm 106:1-5

1 Corinthians 1:1-9

Matthew 13:44-52

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 511


Comfort your people, O God of peace, and prepare a way for us in the desert,

that, like your poet and translator Catherine Winkworth,

we may preserve the spiritual treasures of your saints in former years

and sing our thanks to you with hearts and hands a voices,

eternal triune God whom earth and heaven adore;

for you live and reign for ever and ever.  Amen.

Exodus 6:28-7:2

Psalm 47:5-9

1 Corinthians 14:20-25

Mark 1:35-38

Holy Women, Holy Men:  Celebrating the Saints (2010), 513


4 responses to “Feast of Catherine Winkworth and John Mason Neale (July 1)

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  1. Pingback: Catherine Winkworth | GATHERED PRAYERS

  2. Pingback: John Mason Neale | GATHERED PRAYERS

  3. Pingback: Feast of Martin Rinckart (April 23) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

  4. Pingback: Feast of Thomas Helmore (July 7) | SUNDRY THOUGHTS

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