Catholic Transcript Magazine of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Hartford Connecticut

Monday, June 25, 2018

cram_halfPart of an occasional series on living with hardship

Horatio Gates Spafford was a wealthy Chicago lawyer in the second half of the 19th century. He and his wife, Anna, led a storybook life until it was shattered by the death of their 4-year-old son during a scarlet fever outbreak.

A year later, the Great Chicago Fire left the Spaffords in financial ruin. They had invested much of their wealth in real estate by the shores of Lake Michigan, and the fire destroyed almost all of their holdings.

Despite personal tragedy and meager resources, Horatio and Anna devoted themselves to helping many of the 90,000 people left homeless by the fire. Together they fed the hungry, cared for the sick and consoled the bereaved.

After two years of grueling work with the displaced, Horatio arranged a boat trip to Europe to give his wife and four daughters a much-needed respite from tragedy. At the last minute, Horatio was unexpectedly detained by an urgent business matter, so he sent his family ahead aboard the steamship S.S. Ville du Havre. He planned to follow on another ship a few days later.

In the middle of the Atlantic Ocean, however, the Ville du Havre was struck by a British sailing vessel. Within 12 minutes, the steamer sank. All four of the Spafford daughters perished.

When Anna arrived in England, she sent her husband the heartbreaking telegram, "Saved alone."

Horatio Spafford took the next ship to England. As the ship passed over the sight where the S.S. Ville du Havre had sunk, Horatio Spafford penned the words to the famous hymn, "It is Well with My Soul." His message was clear: no calamity would shake his faith in Jesus’ all-consuming love.


It Is Well With My Soul by Horatio Spafford

When peace, like a river, attendeth my way, When sorrows like sea billows roll; Whatever my lot, Thou hast taught me to say, It is well, it is well with my soul.

It is well (it is well),

with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul.

Though Satan should buffet, though trials should come, Let this blest assurance control, That Christ hath regarded my helpless estate, And hath shed his own blood for my soul.

My sin, oh the bliss of this glorious thought!

My sin, not in part but the whole,

Is nailed to his Cross, and I bear it no more, Praise the Lord, praise the Lord, O my soul!

For me, be it Christ, be it Christ hence to live:

If Jordan above me shall roll,

No pain shall be mine, for in death as in life Thou wilt whisper Thy peace to my soul.

And Lord haste the day, when my faith shall be sight, The clouds be rolled back as a scroll; The trump shall resound, and the Lord shall descend, Even so, it is well with my soul.

It is well (it is well),

with my soul (with my soul),

It is well, it is well with my soul.


Even after all had been lost, Horatio Spafford could say that it was well with his soul. Can we say the same?

Regina Cram lives in Glastonbury and is a freelance writer.