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Who Wrote Our Anthems?

  by David Crank, OFM

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Central Canada also has the song, which it reportedly received from the Belgian Province. Word from Puerto Rico seems to indicate the song is also known in Spanish and Latin American Provinces.

It would seem the song originated in Germany, since the Latin and German words seem to be generally the same everywhere. There is actually one slight variant: for at least 40 years now, Pittsburgh has had "mit dem Tod einst ringen" where Cincinnati friars have had "mit der Tod's Angst ringen." The Spanish and English versions are quite varied, as the following examples demonstrate.

Calvary and New York friars: On our last and needful hour/ come and save us with thy power./ Happiness for us to obtain/ Virgin Mother, fairest queen.

Cincinnati friars: When our day of life is ending/ Mary with your Son attending,/ Lead us home. To you we call/ Virgin Mother, Queen of all.

Pennsylvania friars: When our earthly course has run,/ Pray that thy beloved Son,/ Grant us grace in peace to die,/ Virgin, Mother, Queen most high.

It's believed the author of this beautiful and touching hymn is unknown. It is suppose to have been written by the saintly friar and able musician, Peter Singer, OFM of the Tyrolean Province, the province of the early friars that now make up St. John the Baptist Province, Cincinnati, OH. Up till now many have searched for the origins of the "Ultima. If you feel called to continue the research, Bro. David Crank, OFM will be happy to provide you with all information acquired from Marcan Hetteberg, OFM of the Archives and Provincial Library at St. Anthony Shrine, Mt Airy.

Reprint in part with permission from SJB Provincial Newsletter 3/16/87.

The Enigmatic origins of the "Ultima" are still being sought. From time to time the question arises as to the origin of our much-beloved community hymn, "The Ultima." As reported in the January issue of The Province Porter by the Capuchins of Mid-America:

The Cincinnati Franciscans of St. John the Baptist regularly reprint the "Ultima" on death cards, and a version of the song which appears in
Franciscan at Prayer (Pulaski, WI. Franciscans, 1982) lists a 1946 copyright by the Cincinnati friars on the John de Deo Oldegeering, OFM arrangement of the same song.

Pulaski's book provides the test in

Latin, German, English, Spanish and Polish, as well as an alternate melody. The Cincinnati friars speak of receiving the tradition of singing the song from the Tyrolese Order of Friars Minor Province.

Mid-America and the old Pennsylvania Province trace the same custom back to the Bavarian Capuchins and regularly use the song, referred to in earlier manuals as "oratio horaria," for funerals and many other special celebrations of the friars.

The Calvary Province and New York / New England Province also have the song, but traditionally sing it after lunch on Sundays to an entirely different melody.