On the third Sunday of February, we will sing Lord make us servants of your peace written by James J. Quinn, and sung to the tune Dickinson College composed by Lee Hastings Bristol, Jr. Bristol was born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1923. After receiving his college degree, he pursued and obtained graduate degrees in music in London and Geneva, Switzerland. From 1948 until 1962 he worked in his family business, the Bristol-Meyers Company, but later began a career as an administrator in academia during which he pursued his passion of composing music. A prominent Episcopalian, he composed the tune Dickinson College to honor his alma mater, Dickinson College in Pennsylvania.
Quinn was a Jesuit priest, born in Glasgow, Scotland, in 1919. In 1950, he was ordained priest at Stonyhurst College, and completed his last year of spiritual formation at St. Beuno’s College in North Wales. He served in parish ministry for a period of time, but eventually began to focus on ecumenical matters promoting Christian unity. He was appointed Episcopal Vicar for Ecumenism in 1987 for the Archdiocese of Edinburgh by Cardinal Keith O’Brien. A prolific writer, he wrote articles on theology and docrine for publication in multiple journals.
He also compiled an extensive collection of hymns, which he published in two collections. His obituary, published in the Independent Catholic News, quoted the Journal of the Association of Anglican Musicians that lauded “Fr. Quinn’s ability to articulate the orthodox aspects of Christianity in new and fresh ways.” The journal further said that Fr. Quinn’s texts were filled with “Celtic influence.” He died in Edinburgh on April 8, 2010, of Alzheimer’s Disease.
Among his hymns is Lord make us servants of your peace. This hymn is based on the text of a prayer attributed to St. Francis, found on page 833 of our Book of Common Prayer. St. Francis was the scion of a wealthy family, but he renounced his wealth and founded one of the world’s most familiar religious orders, the Franciscans. He is now known as the patron saint of animals and of the environment.
St. Francis’ prayer calls on us, as does Fr. Quinn’s hymn, to go into the world as agents of God’s love, forgiveness, unity, faith, hope, light, and joy.