Silent Night, the Christmas carol that has spread all over the world, translated into more than forty-five languages, began in a small town in Austria.
In 1816, a young Fr. Joseph Mohr, wrote the verses, some say inspired one Christmas night as he returned from visiting a family with a newborn babe high up in the Alpine hills.
When assigned as co-pastor to the charming village of Oberndorf in 1818, he looked for his friend, Franz Gruber, choir master, who set the inspired verses to a simple tune on his guitar.
At Midnight Mass that Christmas, the small church of St. Nicholas in Oberndorf resounded to the first strains of Silent Night. The two men who brought the song into being, could hardly have imagined that day, in a small snow-covered village in Austria, how their song would make the rounds of the world.
Divine Providence had a plan.
One day, an organ master from the Tyrol was called to Oberndorf to fix the church’s organ. When finished, he invited Franz Gruber to try out the keys, and the choir master played the new song. Enthralled by the attractive, simple “heavenliness” of the tune, the organ master took Silent Night back with him to his province.
Noticing that the mere first strains of the melody gathered a crowd, the little song became a favorite in their repertoire, winding its way even into courts.
Its origin having been lost, it was soon known as “The Song from Heaven”.
Finally, King Frederick William IV of Prussia, whose favorite Carol it had become, wishing to obtain the song in its purest format, insisted that the history of Silent Night be traced.
After a long search, Frederick’s emissaries were finally led to St. Peter’s Abbey in Salzburg, from whence the connection was made to Oberndorf. There, they found Franz Gruber advanced in age, who gladly confirmed the song’s origins.
Thus, the little tune penned by an unknown priest, and a village musician, conquered the world by a quiet storm. Indeed, wherever and whenever Silent Night is sung or played, hearts are quieted and spirits are lifted–after all, who says it isn’t “The Song from Heaven”?