Listers, our study of the best hymns within the treasury of the Church continues with a look at the Latin hymns all Catholics should know. A previous look at the best English hymns can be found at 5 English Hymns All Catholics Should Know.
1. O Sanctissima
Mater amata, intemerata: ora, ora pro nobis!
Believed to be a traditional Sicilian mariners folk song, O Sanctissima is most often heard today on Marian feasts. In Germany and Spain, this hymn has become closely associated with Christmastide.
2. Tantum Ergo Sacramentum
Salus, honor, virtus quoque: sit et benedictio!
Really the last two verses of the larger hymn Pange Lingua Gloriosi, this sublime piece was written by the revered St. Thomas Aquinas, a talented hymnologist as well as theologian. Historically, the complete Pange Lingua hymn is associated most closely with the rites of Maundy Thursday and Corpus Christi. In more modern times, the Tantum Ergo has become a staple of the Roman rite of Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament.
3. Salve Regina
O clemens, O pia, O dulcis Virgo Maria!
The “Hail, Holy Queen” in English — and one of the four principle Marian antiphons of the Roman Breviary — the Salve Regina dates at least to the 11th century. According to legend, St. Bernard of Clairvaux was moved by divine inspiration to add to the hymn the final three-fold petition to Our Lady. St. Alphonsus Liguori found this hymn so beautiful that he wrote an entire treatise on it in his book The Glories of Mary. Every Latin Catholic should strive to memorize this beautiful song of praise to our Mother.
4. O Salutaris Hostia
O salutaris Hostia, quae caeli pandis ostium!
Another hymn written by St. Thomas Aquinas, this piece is actually the last two verses of the Corpus Christi hymn Verbum Supernum Prodiens. Along with the Pange Lingua, this hymn was written at the request of Pope Urban IV, who instituted the Feast of Corpus Christi in AD 1264. Today, O Salutaris is most often heard in the ritual of Exposition of the Blessed Sacrament.
5. Ave Verum Corpus
O Iesu dulcis, O Iesu pie, O Iesu, fili Mariae.
A beautiful Eucharistic hymn dating from the 14th century, this has often been attributed to one of the mediaeval Popes Innocent, though historians are unsure of its actual origin. In the days of the pre-Tridentine liturgies, it was not uncommon for this hymn to be sung during the elevation of the Host at the Mass. Today, Ave Verum is most often associated with Christmastide and Eucharistic liturgies.