Brought up as an Anglican, Frederick Faber was ordained in the Church of England. But, at the age of 31, he converted to Roman Catholicism and became a Catholic priest. In 1849, Frederick decided to open an oratory – a place of prayer in London. The word “oratory” comes from the Latin word oratorio – which is often used to describe a composition uniting a biblical text with music. Frederick was concerned that British Roman Catholics did not have a heritage of hymn-writers like Isaac Watts. So he began writing hymns so Catholics could also be a hymn-singing people. Just as there is “a wideness in God’s mercy”, so there was a width to Frederick’s hymns… which soon became more familiar to Protestants than to Catholics1.
There’s a wideness in God’s mercy,
Like the wideness of the sea.
There’s a kindness in God’s justice,
Which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
And more graces for the good.
There is mercy with the Saviour,
There is healing in his blood.
But we make God’s love too narrow
By false limits of our own,
And we magnify its strictness
With a zeal God will not own.
For the love of God is broader
Than the measures of the mind,
And the heart of the Eternal
Is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more simple,
We should rest upon God’s word,
And our lives would be illumined
By the presence of our Lord.