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"Impelled by the weightiest of reasons, we are fully determined to restore Latin to its position of honor, and to do all We can to promote its study and use. The employment of Latin has recently been contested in many quarters, and many are asking what the mind of the Apostolic See is in this matter. We have therefore decided to issue the timely directives contained in this document, so as to ensure that the ancient and uninterrupted use of Latin be maintained and, where necessary, restored.”
— Pope John XXIII (22 February 1962)

Comparison of Catholic Hymnals
published 1 March 2012 by Guest Author
The following article by Dan Craig first appeared on the Church Music Association of America forum.  It is reproduced here with permission from the author.

*  [PDF] Comparison Chart of Catholic Hymnals (“Traditional Catholic Pew Books”)

485 Comparison Catholic Hymnals HIS IS AN EXCITING time for church musicians like myself attending Catholic colleges and waiting to go “into the world” and make a difference. More Catholic pew books are available than ever before. I will begin by a quick overview of each, followed by a more detailed exploration. All the major books (except the Tietze and Worship IV) have the Mass Ordinary in Latin/English and ICEL setting, so I will not mention this each time:

1. Adoremus Hymnal: First “traditional” hymnal to be published (I was six years old when it came out); 149 hymn tunes (the newest edition has a few more); contains seven Gregorian chant Masses and four English chant Masses (MR3); all hymn tunes are beautiful and traditional; lacks readings, responsorial psalms, propers.

2. Vatican II Hymnal: Most “complete” hymnal to appear; 131 hymn tunes (all of them beautiful and traditional); complete Readings for all Sundays and major feasts (liturgical years ABC); complete Mass propers with Latin incipit from Roman Gradual; easy-to-follow format requires minimal page turning; readings embedded with optional propers—Gradual/Responsorial and Gregorian Alleluia/Gospel Acclamation; 100+ pages of Mass settings in English/Latin by Ostrowski, Esguerra, Weber, Rice, Ford, Simms, and Allen as well as eight full Gregorian Masses and twenty-five additional chant settings; beautiful line art (only hymnal to have this); numerous other features, including ten settings of the sprinkling rite and text of the Extraordinary form.

3. St. Michael Hymnal: “Transitional” hymnal; 255 hymn tunes (most are traditional, some are secular, others are Spanish); includes musical settings of the entrance antiphons by Richard Rice; ten English Masses and seven Gregorian Masses; includes Gospel acclamations; lacks responsorial psalms, readings, Mass propers; currently lacks organ accompaniment edition.

4. Lumen Christi Missal: “Sing the Mass” in Gregorian chant; 1100 pages; three Mass settings by Bartlett and several Gregorian Masses, complete Readings for all Sundays and major feasts (liturgical years ABC); uses square notation for entire book; includes antiphons that can be sung by congregation and daily responsorial psalms; includes texts of spoken propers for Sundays and major feasts; lacks daily readings; lacks any hymn tunes; currently no organ accompaniments provided.

5. Introit Hymns for the Church Year: 51 hymn tunes; a different hymn text (Introit) created for each Sunday and major feast.

6. Worship IV: Numerous songs included (everything from Zimbabwean tunes to traditional hymns); 1400+ pages; complete Readings for all Sundays and major feasts (liturgical years ABC); Gelineau & Guimont psalmody; very little Gregorian chant; many song texts with troubling lyrics; no Mass propers of any kind included.

7. The Catholic Hymn Book — details below.

8. The Summit Choirbook — details below.

Adoremus Hymnal
Ignatius Press

This contains 149 Hymn tunes (Adoremus hymn tunes index), all of them traditional and beautiful. I believe the new edition also includes some additional hymns and the Latin Sequences. The new edition of Adoremus includes four new Mass settings (one each by Weber, Buchholz, Rice, and Haynes). It also has a “Missa Simplex,” Mass I, Mass VIII, Mass IX, Mass XI, Mass XVII, and the Requiem Mass.

The Adoremus hymnal first appeared when I was six years old. When it appeared, it was basically the only hymnal available that contained no “sacro-pop,” so it needs to be viewed with this fact in mind.

Potential flaws: The website for this book is the least advanced of any of the major hymnals. The typesetting does not compare to the Lumen Christi Missal, Vatican II Hymnal, or St. Michael’s Hymnal (here is a sample page). Extremely limited content: no psalms, no readings, very few Gospel acclamations and settings of the Mystery of Faith, very few Mass settings, etc.

Vatican II Hymnal
Corpus Christi Watershed

This beautifully typeset book includes 131 hymn tunes (Vatican II index), organized in a very user friendly fashion. The first section gives numerous carefully chosen hymns for entrance and recessional. The second section gives more Communion hymns than I have ever seen in a Catholic hymnal, and the third section contains additional Communion hymns assigned by liturgical season (which can also sometimes be used for entrance/recessional). None of the sections repeat any hymn texts. The book also lays out the hymns very cleanly, and employs a single numbering system throughout, which congregations will appreciate.

Musical settings of the Mass (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition) are included in English: four complete Masses by Jeff Ostrowski, two Masses by Aristotle Esguerra, two Masses by Richard Rice, a Mass by Fr. Samuel Weber with numerous alternative movements, Mass settings by Bruce Ford, and a Mass by L. Columbkille Simms. Latin settings are also included: a setting by Kevin Allen, Gregorian Mass I, Mass VIII, Mass IX, Mass X, Mass XI, Mass XII, Mass XIII, Mass XVII, plus more than 25 additional selections (like Kyrie IV, Sanctus II, Agnus Dei, IV, etc.).

More importantly, this hymnal contains all the readings for years ABC (Sundays and major feasts) as well as all the Mass propers. Latin incipits allow the congregation to follow whether the propers are sung in Latin or English. The complete sung propers are used, so the choir can sing from Simple English Propers or Graduale and congregation can follow along with ease. This is the only hymnal I have seen that prints all the graduals in addition to the responsorial psalms and all the gregorian alleluias in addition to the gospel acclamations. The layout of the Mass ordinary in Latin/English is superb and clear. The line art is spectacular.

As a college student who is very much aware of iPads, iPhones, iPods, etc. what I really love about the Vatican II Hymnal is that all the organist scores, choir scores, practice videos, MP3 recordings, and so forth are provided on the website free of charge. For instance, I notice that the Adoremus hymnal even charges $6.00 for the accompaniment to the Mass by Fr. Haynes (through the St. John Cantius web store). I can tell you that these things are off-putting to my generation, and I feel that the Vatican II Hymnal has caught the zeitgeist by making every single harmonization for the Vatican II Hymnal available for free. The organist editions for all the Masses and hymns are also being sold in bound editions for obscenely low prices; e.g. the 196-page keyboard accompaniment for the hymns is less than $7.00 (softcover 8.5×11).

The scope of this review does not allow me to address all the other “add-ons” included in the Vatican II Hymnal, like six settings of the “Asperges me,” five settings of the “Vidi Aquam,” the ordinary in Latin/English of the Extraordinary form (true to Summorum Pontificum), the complete ICEL setting with its Latin counterparts, Esguerra’s additional psalter, Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament, and so on. Suffice it say that this hymnal is absolutely packed with good stuff, and the binding seems incredibly durable. A way to describe the Vatican II Hymnal might be as a “modern update” of Theodore Marier’s Hymns, Psalms, Spiritual Canticles, since, like Marier’s work, it “has it all” as far as the Catholic organist and parish musician is concerned.

Potential flaws: Some may question why three metrical Masses were included, as the other 100+pages are all Gregorian chant inspired. Some may desire the Eucharistic Prayers of Reconciliation (the Vatican II Hymnal only included the four most commonly used Eucharistic prayers in Latin/English). Occasionally, a less known tune is given in one of the hymns (in an attempt to “educate” according to my reading of the author’s Preface) and the more common tune is given as an “alternate.” Some might prefer that the order be reversed.

St. Michael Hymnal

Beautifully typeset, this hymnal includes 255 hymn tunes (St. Michael index). Many of the hymn tunes are traditional and beautiful, while others employ a secular style. The fourth edition of St. Michael has attempted to purge many tunes that use a secular style (see this list), but some examples of questionable entries still remain, such as BALM IN GILEAD. The fourth edition includes a Mass by Richard Rice, four Masses by hymnal editor Brother Michael O’Connor, two Masses by James MacGregor, and four other Masses. A new edition to the fourth edition are musical settings of the entrance antiphons composed and harmonized by Richard Rice. The fourth edition seems to have added a whole bunch of Spanish hymns and also many hymns I have not heard before (link). I am not really sure about the admixture of Spanish hymns in an English hymnal as it seems to be “throwing a bone” to Spanish-speakers, while not really giving them anything substantive or, frankly, useful over the course of each liturgical year.

Potential flaws: In general, this is a very good hymnal because there is no shortage of hymns and they keep the traditional language (just like the Vatican II Hymnal and the Adoremus). However, the “ethos” of Catholic worship seems lacking. In other words, the emphasis is almost entirely on hymns. For the Catholic Mass, the emphasis should be on the Mass itself: graduals, communions, responsorial psalms, antiphons, readings, and so forth that actually make up the Mass. The advice of Pope Pius X is worth heeding: “Do not pray at Mass—pray the Mass!” If the Mass were a protestant service, the St. Michael hymnal would be perfect. Also, the organization of hymns in this book could be improved.

Lumen Christi Missal
Illuminare Publications

The entire book is in Gregorian chant notation, which shows just how far the chant movement has come in America. This is a beautiful book that will propel the chant movement forward. The typesetting is excellent, and the settings are beautiful. The resources for this will be included online once they are completed.

This is basically a Sunday Missal—the readings for daily Mass are not included—which also includes the responsorial psalms for daily Masses. No hymns are included, because the emphasis is on singing the propers. Spoken propers are included, but no graduals, alleluia verses, etc. The translations do not seem to match the Simple English Propers. The Revised Grail was chosen as the psalm translation, which gives continuity with the Divine Office. Indeed, this book seems destined for monastic use, owing to its emphasis on the unaccompanied chanting of psalms. When the Mass is sung, the Revised Grail is allowed, but it will not appear in Lectionaries until the Lectionary itself is revised. Currently, there are no plans to revise the Lectionary. The Lumen Christi Missal is currently in a “testing” stage before production, and I would urge the editors to consider using the current Lectionary translation. Those of us who attend daily Mass on campus would appreciate being able to read the same translation at a spoken Mass.

Potential flaws: “Seeing is believing,” but I worry about an 1100 page book in terms of fitting in the majority of pew holders. Perhaps they are using very thin pages. Currently, the book is not complete, as it lacks most of the choir scores and all organ accompaniments, but these may be added at a later date.

Introit Hymns for the Church Year
Christoph Tietze

This collection has a very noble aim as it seeks to allow congregations to join in singing the proper Introit each Sunday. It employs a total of 51 hymn tunes (Tietze index), all of them traditional and beautiful. The Latin incipit is included for each. It covers the Sundays of the entire church year and all major feasts (even those that do not always occur on Sunday, like the Nativity of St. John the Baptist). The typesetting is beautiful and clear. The pew edition includes SATB chords, which organists will appreciate.

Potential flaws: The only major drawback to this otherwise amazing work is the amateurish poetry of the hymn texts, which to my ear is quite forced at times. I understand it must be difficult to “cram” the psalter into metrical hymns, but the rhymes often strike me as uninspired and artificial:

  Let God arise and scatter those / Who scorn his law, his ways oppose.
    As fire melts wax and smoke recedes, / They perish when God’s face they see.

  But let the righteous shout with glee, / Let them exult exceedingly.
    Let your melodious music ring; / O praise the Lord and dance and sing!

  God helps the orphans, widows, lone; / He gives the desolate a home.
    Then prisoners are truly free; / He leads them to prosperity.

Worship IV
GIA Publications

When I received my copy of Worship IV, I was totally floored: touted as a completely new edition, this book is practically the same as the edition I have from 1986 (five years before I was born). The fonts are exactly the same. The titles and layout are practically identical.

More importantly, the same trendy songs they included in the 1980’s—“The Summons” by John Bell; “Lord of the Dance” by Sydney Carter; “Gather us in” by Marty Haugen; and so forth—are still there! It looks like they didn’t even bother to re-typeset most of these since 1986, for instance “Help us accept each other” has not changed. The book could be vastly improved by getting rid of 90% of the songs, and reverting to more authentic (hierarchical) language in those remaining, just as in the Adoremus, Vatican II, and St. Michael Hymnals. Examples of songs that have been added since 1986 would be “God has chosen me” by Bernadette Farrell; “Uyai Mose” by Alexander Gondo; and “If you believe and I believe” by Herman Steumpfle.

The poetry in most of these is just awful:

  You are called to set the table, / Blessing bread as Jesus blessed,
  Then to come with thirst and hunger, / Needing care like all the rest.
  Christ be known in all our sharing, / Feeding all with signs of love.

GIA needs to realize that my generation will never accept these kinds of texts.

The only real positive thing about this book is its inclusion of the Sunday readings. However, it includes no Mass propers of any kind, which is unbelievable considering the current movement for the propers. Even companies like OCP will normally include at least the spoken propers for Introit and Communion. GIA’s choice is hard to understand, except in the context of their company promoting the replacement of Mass propers with songs.

The Catholic Hymn Book

The Catholic Hymn Book, published by Gracewing and compiled at the London Oratory, first appeared in 1998 (reprinted in 2006).

The book contains numerous hymns. All of them are beautiful, traditional, and Catholic, with a few minor exceptions like “Amazing Grace.” The book lacks the readings, responsorial psalms, etc. However, 3-4 Mass settings are included (Gregorian Mass VIII, XI, and a few others). Some common Latin hymns are included like the Te Deum and the Te Lucis Ante Terminum. The book does not have the ICEL chants or the new translation since it was published prior to 2011. As a book of hymns, it is a very good compilation, just like the St. Michael Hymnal. However, the Catholic liturgy is more than just hymns.

For my part, the “fatal flaw” of the book is the “English” way of typesetting: the words are not placed under the notes. I thought the reason this was done was to encourage congregational SATB singing. However, the pew book does not have SATB settings. I find their method inexplicable.

Pew book from the Catholic Hymn Book. Organ accompaniments from the Catholic Hymn Book. Index of Hymns from the Catholic Hymn Book.

Summit Choirbook

The Summit Choirbook is a collection of hymns published by the Dominican Nuns of Summit, New Jersey, in 1983. This makes it the first of all these hymnals to be published, 13 years before the Adoremus Hymnal. It is strictly a hymnal, with no Order of Mass, Kyriale, readings, prayers, or propers. There are over 500 hymns, almost all of them are written with organ notation or in four-part harmony. Many of the hymns are not very usual or familiar: several were written by the nuns themselves. Many of the harmonies were also composed by the nuns. However, there is a good collection of traditional Latin hymns and solid english hymns, again with great harmonies (Christe Redemptor Omnium, Ave Maris Stella, Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones). Many of the hymns are written in an older, more reverent style of english, similar to the new translation of the Mass. There are many hymns that I have not seen in other hymnals but that are still very solid. The treatment of the liturgical year is also very thorough; there are five hymns for epiphany, six for the dedication of a church, and even a large section of hymns for specific saints. Although it does not have the Mass texts or readings, which may limit its use in the pews, this is a solid hymnal that would be beneficial to any choir loft.

Potential flaws: As mentioned, there are no Mass parts or proper parts, only hymns. A lot of the tunes and many of the original hymns will not be familiar to most people. Also, some of the language is older english, which may sometimes seem a bit “quaint” or unusual.

980 Comparison Catholic Hymnals

Additional thoughts about the Summit Hymn Book:

I have had some time to look through this book, and I would like an opportunity to add a few comments (reflections) in addition to the brief summary I gave above. The book is a tremendous accomplishment to be sure, but I must judge it from the same viewpoint as I viewed the other books. As mentioned, the Summit Choirbook was created originally for Dominican communities for the Office. Therefore, in some ways, it may not even “fit” in with the other books, or some may feel as though I am criticizing a box for being square or a circle for being round. In any event, I will examine the possibilities of using this book at the parish level. The Summit Choirbook is very well put together, especially considering when it was created (1970’s and early 1980’s). The typesetting, the layout, and so forth, are the careful work of dedicated nuns. That being said, I have to wonder if the format of the hymns would be helpful to a congregation. The first verse is usually printed under notes, but the others are all separated from the notes, like they do in the New English Hymnal. Some may prefer the Vatican II Hymnal method, where each verse is carefully placed under the notes, using all the capabilities of modern music notation programs. The advantage to the way the Summit treats the verses (without notes) is that the poetry is better preserved than say, the St. Michael Hymnal or Worship IV.

As I mentioned earlier, there is no service music in this book: no Mass settings, readings, Psalms, alleluias, and so forth. There is a great variety of songs, chants, and hymns which some will hate and others will love. For instance, they carefully printed the traditional Gregorian hymns, but also included pieces not suited for the liturgy like #157 (“The King of glory comes, the nation rejoices” by Willard Jabusch). However, the vast majority of the contents are “traditional hymns.”

Only the first 160 hymns are labeled for the different seasons of the liturgical year, the other 340 hymns being devoted to the Divine office (usually for the different saints: St. Patrick, St. Margaret, etc.). I was very surprised that there were absolutely no hymns assigned to Ordinary Time, while there were plenty for Advent, Christmas, Easter, and the other “common” seasons. What is the organist or choirmaster supposed to do during Ordinary Time (the longest season of the Church year) ??

Regarding the hymns for the Divine office, the contents are, to be frank, 360 hymns I’ve never heard before. Some musicians will be excited by this fact, yearning to search for potential “hidden treasures” — and I think there definitely are a few in there. However, from a pastoral point of view, it strikes me that the vast majority of these hymns would be greeted with a certain degree of hostility by a “typical” Catholic parish, because neither the tunes nor the texts are even remotely familiar. Sister Maria of the Cross edited the Choirbook, and none can doubt that she is a very serious, well-trained musician, indeed. I feel that this good sister will be rewarded by our Lord, for all the hours she put into this hymnal.

As I mentioned, the book is quite an accomplishment, and I would to conclude by showing an example from the book. I’ve never heard this tune or this text, but I think it is nice. Congratulations to the Summit Choirbook for doing the research which allowed gems like these to come to light: example score.


Again, these are exciting times for those of us who love liturgy and sacred music. The wealth of publications is encouraging. Perhaps the pace of renewal is not as fast as some of us would like, but let us remember that everything happens according to the designs of our Lord Jesus Christ at the precise pace He wishes.

Dan Craig, 21, is a sophomore at Franciscan University of Steubenville. Currently pursuing a degree in accounting, Dan can be reached via E-mail. Dan’s interests include the Catholic Liturgy, singing Gregorian chant, and playing percussion. His family is associated with the Society of Our Lady of the Most Holy Trinity.