August 7: John Mason Neale, Priest, 1866

Welcome to the Holy Women, Holy Men blog! We invite you to read about this commemoration, use the collect and lessons in prayer, whether individually or in corporate worship, then tell us what you think. For more information about this project, click here.

About this commemoration

John Mason Neale
John Mason Neale

John Mason Neale was a priest of many talents. As a hymnodist, he furnished The Hymnal 1982 with several original hymns and more than thirty translations of Latin and Greek hymns. As a priest, he gave active support to the Oxford Movement in its revival of medieval liturgical forms. As a humanitarian, he founded the Sisterhood of St. Margaret for the relief of suffering women and girls.

Neale was born in London in 1818, studied at Cambridge, where he also served as tutor and chaplain, and was ordained to the priesthood in 1842. He was both a scholar and a creative poet, whose skills in composing original verse and translating Latin and Greek hymns into effective English speech patterns were devoted to the Church. With such familiar words as “Good Christian men, rejoice,” “Come, ye faithful, raise the strain,” and “Creator of the stars of night,” he has greatly enriched our hymnody.

Gentleness combined with firmness, good humor, modesty, patience, and devotion, with “an unbounded charity,” describe Neale’s character. Despite poor health, he was a prolific writer and compiler. Among his works are Medieval Hymns and Sequences, Hymns of the Eastern Church, Liturgiology and Church History, and a four-volume commentary on the Psalms. In a busy life, he also found time to establish the Camden Society, later called the Ecclesiological Society.

Though he never received preferment in England, his great contributions were recognized both in the United States and in Russia, where the Metropolitan presented him with a rare copy of the Old Believers’ Liturgy. He died on the Feast of the Transfiguration at the age of 46, leaving a lasting mark on our worship.

No future hymnal is conceivable without the inclusion of some of Neale’s fine devotional poetry. The Prayer Book, for example, cites two of his translations by name as being especially appropriate for Palm Sunday and Good Friday: “All glory, laud, and honor” for the procession with the palms, and “Sing, my tongue, the glorious battle” at the climactic point of the Good Friday service.

Collect of the Day

Grant, O God, that in all time of our testing we may know your presence 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

1 Corinthians 1:1–9

Matthew 13:44–52

Psalm 106:1–5

Preface of the Dedication of a Church

We invite your reflections about this commemoration and its suitability for the official calendar and worship of The Episcopal Church. How did this person’s life witness to the Gospel? How does this person inspire us in Christian life today?

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From Holy, Women, Holy Men: Celebrating the Saints © 2010 by The Church Pension Fund. Used by permission.

6 thoughts on “August 7: John Mason Neale, Priest, 1866

  1. Though JM Neale is already a part of the Church’s calendar, he certainly deserves to be among the commemorations. We all are blessed by his talent to ‘lift our hearts to God on high’. (H82 # 3).

    Bio: Perhaps his bio could be improved by citing the H82 numbers for the five hymns cited.

    The new NT Reading: The reading from 1st Corinthians seems to fit him nicely..

  2. I know it’s the old collect from LFF, but the biography given doesn’t support it. Either tell how he showed “courage” and “integrity” in a “time of testing” or rewrite the collect. His poor health might support courage, but not integrity, and I don’t think failure to obtain preferment — by which I assume you mean being denied a shovel hat and lawn sleeves — is all that much of a burden.

  3. I think we should avoid the anachronism in the first and second lines:

    As a hymnodist, he furnished The Hymnal 1982….

    Something like this might work better:

    His work as a hymnodist is demonstrated by the inclusion in The Hymnal 1982 of several original hymns…

  4. I gather from various undependable electronic sources that John Mason Neale was largely responsible for the translation of the O Antiphons we enjoy in our current hymnal as “O come, O come, Emmanuel” (Hymnal 1982, #56).

  5. The quality of the prose in this tribute is at a higher level than others, which argues for the inclusion of this in a collection.

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