About this blogger:
A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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“Philip the presbyter and legate of the Apostolic See said: There is no doubt, and in fact it has been known in all ages, that the holy and most blessed Peter, prince and head of the apostles, pillar of the faith, and foundation of the Catholic Church, received the keys of the kingdom from our Lord Jesus Christ, the Savior and Redeemer of the human race, and that to him was given the power of loosing and binding sins: who down even to today and forever both lives and judges in his successors. The holy and most blessed pope Celestine, according to due order, is his successor and holds his place, and us he sent to supply his place in this holy synod.”
— Council of Ephesus (A.D. 431)
Comparison of the Vatican II Hymnal With Other Hymnals
published 7 August 2011 by Jeff Ostrowski

Today, I received a very nice E-mail from a Catholic musician who told me that his priest had been “converted” to the Vatican II Hymnal because of the musicasacra.com forum: specifically the comparisons with other hymnals. It seemed appropriate then, to follow up by comparing the Vatican II Hymnal to several other hymnals. I have not done this in the past, but I’ve seen others on the forum doing so.


First of all, let me say that I think the St. Michael Hymnal and the Adoremus Hymnal have played important roles, and I support all the good things these hymnals have done for the Church. I had the great honor to contribute many harmonizations to the St. Michael Hymnal. I have also read the Adoremus bulletin for years. That being said, it is not forbidden to criticize either hymnal in a constructive way.


QUESTION: What is the purpose of the Vatican II Hymnal?

Well, it might be helpful to read the Editor’s Preface to the Vatican II Hymnal.

Let me also say, in brief:

(A) We tried to provide “solid, sturdy” hymns with good Theology. When I say “solid, sturdy,” I mean they work equally well with or without accompaniment. This cannot be said for many of the hymns in the St. Michael Hymnal.

(B) We tried to provide nice, well-known hymns for all the Sundays and feasts of the Liturgical year. This cannot be said about many other hymnals, for example, the Adoremus Hymnal. So many hymnals have a THOUSAND wonderful Hymns for Christmas and Advent, but lack nice hymns for other feasts (for example, the Baptism of the Lord). Having a THOUSAND hymns for Christmas is great . . . but Christmastide is only one small part of the Liturgical year. We tried our best to give a reasonable amount of hymns for each Feast.

(C) We carefully selected hymn TUNES. We believe that a common fault in Catholic hymnals is excessive use of the same tune (with different texts). For instance, in the Spanish books at the Cathedral where I work, they provide different hymns for Advent, Christmas, Ordinary Time, Easter, and Lent . . . but they all use the same melody!

Do we really want to be singing LASST UNS ERFREUEN or HYMN TO JOY during the entire year? Or does it make sense to reserve it for certain times only? In the Vatican II Hymnal, we spent a lot of time attempting to avoid falling into this trap.

(D) We also did not include Hymns that have only 1-2 verses. One of the major criticisms I have of the St. Michael hymnal is that so many of the hymns have but one or two (short) verses. If we are singing a Communion hymn (for instance) we don’t want the hymn to be finished by the time the congregation finds the page! Therefore, we chose hymns that have 4-6 verses.

(E) Although (of course) our book is not perfect, I am very proud of the Hymns we included in the Vatican II Hymnal. A careful comparison of the indices (see below) shows that our book has MORE Hymn tunes than the Adoremus Hymnal. I already mentioned that we were not really interested in using the same Hymn tune over and over for different texts. A careful comparison also shows we use the same number of “sturdy, traditional” hymn tunes that the St. Michael Hymnal does. Our book does not include songs like “We Remember” by Marty Haugen, “Yahweh, I Know You Are Near” by D. Schutte, or “Alabaré” by Pagán. The St. Michael Hymnal includes many songs like this: that is why (see below) they technically have a greater number of “hymns” than the Vatican II Hymnal. Congregations who wish to use these types of songs should use the Vatican II Hymnal in conjunction with another hymnal. The reason these types of songs are not included in the Vatican II Hymnal is that a good case could be made that such songs are not written in a Sacred style. Others will disagree. We also left out other songs like “Bring Flowers Of The Rarest” by Walsh (found in the St. Michael), because a case could be made that these songs are not really “lofty” or “dignified,” as Pius XII said Church music ought to be. Others will disagree.

St. Michael Hymnal Index of Hymn Tunes

Adoremus Hymnal Index of Hymn Tunes

Vatican II Hymnal Index of Hymn Tunes

(F) Great attention was paid to the avoidance of page turns in our book. (Perhaps too much attention was given!!!) The reason is because a major criticism I have of the Adoremus Hymnal is that almost every single hymn in the organist/choir book requires a page turn.

(G) Just like Adoremus and St. Michael, we did not change the words of the hymns to be “politically correct.” GIA and the other major publishing companies change all the words in their hymns (for various reasons). We do not. We leave the “thee’s and thou’s” in, just as we do in the Our Father at Mass.


As you can see if you view the Complete Vatican II Indices, our hymnal also includes the following:

(A) Complete Propers & Readings for all Sundays and Major Feasts for all three (3) liturgical years. (Yes! You read that correctly!!!)

(B) Chabanel Psalms, Latin Ordinaries, Garnier Alleluias, more than 100 pages of Mass settings, more than 100 beautiful Communion hymns, Motet translations, etc. etc.


Regarding the Mass Settings, some are listed and explained HERE.

We have a wide variety by such composers as Richard Rice, Fr. Samuel Weber, Aristotle Esguerra, L. Columbkille Simms, Kevin Allen, Bruce E. Ford, and others.

Our book is NOT heavy on metrical settings (we only give three): we realize some parishes will be using metrical settings. We encourage you to print a little “insert” if the Mass you want is not in our book. After all, we have no idea which “metrical” settings will catch on.

We also included numerous Ordinaries from the Kyriale, emphasizing the more “congregational” settings, rather than the beautiful melismatic ones (which are, perhaps, better suited to Gregorian scholae).