Catholic Activity: Carol Singing
Singing carols, for Christmas, even Lent and Easter carols, is a great family and group activity. This can be a tool to bring Christmas joy to orphanages and nursing homes. The author highly encourages rediscovering obscure carols, and to bear images, at least of Our Lady and the Christ Child, when caroling.
A great many people seem to think that no carols exist beyond "Good King Wenceslaus" and one or two others. The Oxford Carol Book would be a revelation to them with its collection of lesser known songs for all the liturgical seasons — for carols are not necessarily Christmas songs — there are others for Easter, for Passiontide as well. Many of the old, lesser known carols have a simple rhythm and if necessary they could easily be sung to tunes more familiar.
It is worth a little trouble to find some of these obscure carols and it is surprising how often one's local public library can help in the matter. Here for example is a translation of a carol, which comes from Carmichael's translation of Ortha Nan Gaidheal, the standard collection of Hebridean folk songs.
That night the star shone Was born the Shepherd of the flock. Of the Virgin of the hundred charms, The Mary Mother.
The Trinity eternal by her side, In the manger cold and lowly. Come and give to her of thy means, To the healing Man.
The foam-white breastling beloved. Without one home in the world, The tender holy Babe forth driven, Immanuel!
Ye three angels of power, Come ye, come ye down; To the Christ of the people Give ye salutation.
Kiss ye His hands, Dry ye his feet With the hair of your heads; And O! Thou world-pervading God, And ye, Jesu, Michael, Mary, Do not ye forsake us.
Where there is a large family, or in any youth group, it should be easy enough to get together a party of carol singers. Traditionally, they should sing on the three Thursdays before Christmas and on Christmas-eve. It is worth mentioning that there are other places than people's houses at which carols could be sung — why not in orphanages, hospitals, institutions of one sort or another?
Christmas is the feast of lights, so all the singers should be armed with candles. What is more they ought to take with them a crib, or at least two figures, our Lady and the Child. These could be fixed securely on a shelf set on a pole, which one of the singers carries. This custom of bearing the images with the carol singers, so obviously Catholic, was flourishing in this country as late as the middle of the nineteenth century. It is mentioned too, by Archbishop Ullathorne, when he describes the old women in Yorkshire who used to trudge from house to house, collecting halfpennies while they showed their images to the families and sang The Seven Joys of Mary. This song, which is included in The Oxford Carol Book might well form an essential feature in any caroling expedition.
Activity Source: Candle is Lighted, A by P. Stewart Craig, The Grail, Field End House, Eastcote, Middlesex, 1945