Treasures of the Faith, Part 10: O Gloriosa Virginum, the Hymn St. Anthony of Padua Asked His Friar Brothers to Sing as He Died

“The musical tradition of the universal Church is a treasure of inestimable value, greater even than that of any other art. The main reason for this pre-eminence is that, as sacred song united to the words, it forms a necessary or integral part of the solemn liturgy. […] The Church recognizes Gregorian chant as being specially suited to the Roman liturgy. Therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.”

(Vatican II, Constitution on the Liturgy SC, Articles 112 & 116)

“Gregorian Chant has always been regarded as the supreme model for sacred music, so that it is fully legitimate to lay down the following rule: the more closely a composition for church approaches in its movement, inspiration and savor the Gregorian form, the more sacred and liturgical it becomes; and the more out of harmony it is with that supreme model, the less worthy it is of the temple. The ancient traditional Gregorian Chant must, therefore, in a large measure be restored to the functions of public worship, and the fact must be accepted by all that an ecclesiastical function loses none of its solemnity when accompanied by this music alone.”

(Pope St. Pius XTra le Sollecitudini, 1903)

As exemplified in the quotes above from Pope St. Pius X and the Second Vatican Council, the Church has repeated many times that Gregorian Chant is the official and most perfect music of the liturgy,1 yet—sadly—many Catholics across the globe have now forgotten these treasures. I have chosen here to share one of those simple chants that connects us to great Saints through the ages, and most especially with St. Anthony of Padua, the great Franciscan Saint and Doctor of the Church. St. Anthony had a great devotion to the Mother of God, and especially to Her Virgin Motherhood, which he staunchly defended. He was known to have a beautiful singing voice and he loved to sing with devotion; thus, he asked to visit parishes and sing difficult pieces such as the Allelujah of the Mass, and to preach.

This Marian hymn, O Gloriosa Virginum, was so beloved by the Saint, that he asked his friar brothers to sing it to him devoutly as he breathed his last.

I am not a professional singer and have a physical voice impairment, but I think my recording is good enough to help you learn it and to pray it devoutly with me and with St. Anthony. I have provided my English translation in the video on the right. I hope you find it helpful. God bless. Virgin Mother of God and St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!

1. Why? Gregorian chant is written according to the rhythm, accent, and melody of the Latin language and to highlight the text. Since that rhythm changes between 1, 2, & 3 beats, that results in a sort of non-rhythm. Now add the fact that it was forbidden to sing harmonies (more than one pitch) on each note, and you get a type of music that doesn’t take over the body (like a more tribal rhythm), but allows the heart and mind to soar in concentrated and enhanced contemplation of the sacred text (often from Scripture).