When Father Frederick Faber died in September 1863 after a long illness, there was an outpouring of grief for this Oxford Movement convert. The Freeman’s Journal in Dublin remarked that Faber’s death, “though so long expected, has come with a seeming suddenness…. [T]he name of Father Faber has become a household word as his beautiful hymns have been adopted by every congregation.” The funeral, which was held at the Brompton Oratory that Faber had established ten years earlier, attracted a great crowd. Many of Faber’s fellow Oratorians attended, including John Henry Newman. A number of diocesan priests came as well, including Monsignor Henry Manning, who would soon be appointed Archbishop of Westminster. Also participating were Dominican and Capuchin friars along with priests from France, Belgium and Germany. A correspondent for the Freeman’s Journal recounted the ceremony: “A procession was formed down the centre of the church, the cross being borne in front, and the clergymen walking two by two between the vast crowd which thronged the building. It was a sight calculated to cause deep feelings.”
Faber had accomplished much in the 49 years that God had allotted him. He had arrived at Oxford University in the early 1830s just as the Oxford Movement was taking shape. Like Newman, Faber was drawn to the Church Fathers and hoped that Anglicanism would accept the Early Church understanding of sacraments and liturgy as its own. Ordained an Anglican minister in 1839, Faber quickly lost confidence in the Church of England and wanted to convert to Catholicism. Newman, however, urged him to wait. By the fall of 1845, Newman, too, had despaired of Anglicanism and was received into the Catholic Church. Faber followed a month later. Newman and Faber and the dozens of other Oxford ministers who entered the Catholic Church knew they were taking a bold and radical step. Catholics in England were a small, suspect group, associated in the public imagination with “Bloody Mary,” the Spanish Armada and the Gunpowder Plot. When reporting on the conversions, some English newspapers described them as “perversions.” . . .
In recent years, however, Faber’s reputation has suffered. Some Catholics have found him too Roman, too Marian, too exuberant in his piety. Some Newman scholars have sided with Newman in his quarrel with Faber and have written disparagingly of Faber. . . .
Father Frederick Faber died on September 26, 1863.
There's a wideness in God's mercy
like the wideness of the sea;
there's a kindness in his justice,
which is more than liberty.
There is welcome for the sinner,
and more graces for the good;
there is mercy with the Savior;
there is healing in his blood.
There is no place where earth's sorrows
are more felt than in heaven;
there is no place where earth's failings
have such kind judgment given.
There is plentiful redemption
in the blood that has been shed;
there is joy for all the members
in the sorrows of the Head.
For the love of God is broader
than the measure of man's mind;
and the heart of the Eternal
is most wonderfully kind.
If our love were but more faithful,
we should take him at his word;
and our life would be thanksgiving
for the goodness of the Lord.