Archive for the ‘Joseph Mohr’ Tag

Feast of Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber (December 4)   Leave a comment

Above:  Stille Nacht

Scanned from The Pilgrim Hymnal (1912) by Kenneth Randolph Taylor

Notice that the translation is not the one we usually sing these days.

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JOSEPHUS FRANCISCUS MOHR (DECEMBER 11, 1792-DECEMBER 4, 1848)

Austrian Roman Catholic Priest

collaborated with

FRANZ XAVER GRUBER (NOVEMBER 25, 1787-JUNE 7, 1863)

Austrian Roman Catholic Teacher, Musician, and Composer

Father Mohr and Herr Gruber come to this, my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days, via Stille Nacht, their famous Christmas carol, which they debuted at Midnight Mass at St. Nikolaus Church, Oberndorff, Austria, on December 24, 1818.  Accounts tell us that Mohr sang tenor and Gruber played guitar and sang bass, and that Gruber had composed the tune for Mohr’s text.

Franz Gruber, born into poverty, resisted his family’s intentions when he became a musician.  He, born at Unterweizberg, near Hochburg, Austria, on November 25, 1787, was a son of Josef and Maria Gruber.  Josef was a linen weaver.  Young Franz secretly studied violin and organ.  He openly worked as a weaver until he was 18 years old.  His parents, like many other well-meaning relatives of a host of people over time, encouraged their son to enter a lucrative profession.  Our saint understood his vocation, though.  He became a teacher at Arnsdorff, working there from 1807 to 1829.  In 1808 he married his first wife, Maria Elisabeth Fischinger Engelsberger (d. 1825), a widow.  They had two children, who died young.  In 1816 Gruber started to work as the organist at St. Nikolaus Church, Oberndorff.

Joseph Mohr was, according to conventional social standards, illegitimate–a bastard.  (Actually, no human being is illegitimate and the proper standard of being a bastard is having bad character.  Mohr was no bastard.)  Mohr, born in Salzburg, Austria, on December 11, 1792, was the son of Anna Schoiber and mercenary Franz Mohr.  Franz was away from home much of the time.  Father Johann Nepomuk Hiernle, on staff at Salzburg Cathedral, became young Joseph’s father-figure.  Father Hiernle guided the youth’s education and musical training.  Mohr studied violin and sang in the choir.  He sang in the choir at Salzburg Cathedral then in the choir at the University Church and the choir at the Monastery Church of St. Peter.  Our saint studied at the monastery of Knemsmünster in 1808-1810, resumed studies in Salzburg in 1810-1811, then attended seminary.  He graduated and became a priest in 1815.  He served in various parishes through 1828, before transferring to Hintersee (1828-1837) and Wagrein (1837-1848).

In 1817-1819 Mohr was the assistant priest at St. Nikolaus Church Oberndorff.  He and Gruber collaborated on Stille Nacht, of course, and on at least one other composition, a setting of the Te Deum.  The traditional story that Mohr wrote Stille Nacht on short notice may not be true; he probably had composed the text some time prior, and merely pulled it out of a drawer.

Gruber continued to teach, work as a musician, and marry.  In 1829 he began to teach at Berndorff.  Gruber, the headmaster, starting in 1833, also worked as a musician at Hallein, near Salzburg.  He sang, played the organ, and conducted the choir.  Maria Breitfuss, his second wife, died in 1841.  Four of their ten children lived to adulthood.  In 1842 he married Katherine Wimmer.

Gruber died on June 7, 1863.  He was 75 years old.

Mohr served as the village priest in Wagrein from 1837 to 1848.  In 1838 he founded the village school and created a scholarship program that allowed impoverished children to attend.  Our saint also turned his attention to the effective care of the elderly of the village; he helped both the young and the old.

Mohr died in Wagrein on December 4, 1848.  He was 55 years old.

Morh and Gruber contributed much to the world via their famous Christmas carol.  That was only a portion of their positive work, however.

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Loving God of the Incarnation, we thank you for your servants Joseph Mohr and Franz Gruber,

who improved their corners of the world in practical ways and who left an enduring legacy with Stille Nacht.

May the examples of their holy lives inspire us to add beauty to the world and to care for those who need assistance,

to the glory of God and for the common good.  In the Name of God:  Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Leviticus 19:9-10

Psalm 84

1 Corinthians 13

Luke 2:8-20

KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR

JUNE 25, 2019 COMMON ERA

THE FEAST OF SAINT WILLIAM OF VERCELLI, ROMAN CATHOLIC HERMIT; AND SAINT JOHN OF MATERA, ROMAN CATHOLIC ABBOT

THE FEAST OF SAINT DOMINGO HENARES DE ZAFIRA CUBERO, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP OF PHUNHAY, VIETNAM, AND MARTYR; SAINT PHANXICÔ DO VAN CHIEU, VIETNAMESE ROMAN CATHOLIC CATECHIST AND MARTYR; AND SAINT CLEMENTE IGNACIO DELGADO CEBRIÁN, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP AND MARTYR IN VIETNAM

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