“But if people do not understand what is sung, to them all this is lost.”
— Dr. Adrian Fortescue, 1913, writing about the importance Missals at Mass.
HE CAMPION MISSAL contains an extensive collection of metrical hymns in English, and our selections are distinctive for two reasons. First of all, in honor of St. Edmund Campion, great emphasis was placed on the Catholic poetry of England. We included more than twenty hymns by English martyrs like St. Thomas More (†1535), and several of these texts were written in the Tower of London, as the saint awaited martyrdom. We also gave prominence to hymns by the English Oratorians (Bl. John Henry Cardinal Newman, Fr. Edward Caswall, and so forth), often in rare settings that appear for the first time in our publication. The second distinguishing characteristic is our avoidance of the “fatal flaw” of so many Catholic hymnals published over the last 150 years. For those unaware of this plague, the authors of the New St. Basil Hymnal (1958) explain in very clear terms [original emphasis]:
The majority [of popular Catholic hymns] reflect the sentimental, individualistic piety of the late Victorian period. Too frequently their melodies are poor copies of the secular music of that era, while their texts unduly emphasize the human nature of the Savior, tending to bring God to a purely human level rather than to lift man’s thoughts to God. Such hymns are more than dated; they are positively harmful in that they attempt to express a religious emotion which is exaggerated, over-familiar and, eventually, false—since they teach the singer to pray badly. In the present collection, then, they have yielded place to better, and in some cases older hymns of genuine piety and dignity.
We cannot add anything to this statement, except to note what a stark and unwelcome contrast these overly sentimental hymns make with the Traditional Latin Mass of the Roman Rite, the prayers of which are unfailingly lucid, austere, and (as Fr. Adrian Fortescue notes) eminently “Roman” in expression. Fr. Fortescue (†1923) has been a special influence on our work, and we strongly urge every Catholic to become familiar with the basic facts of his life. Writing in 1916, Fortescue seemed to be in total agreement with the St. Basil Fathers (four decades earlier!):
In nothing are English Catholics so poor as in vernacular hymns. The real badness of most of our popular hymns, endeared, unfortunately, to the people by association, surpasses anything that could otherwise be imagined. When our people have the courage to break resolutely with a bad tradition, there are unworked mines of religious poetry in the old hymns that we can use in translations. If we do, there will be an end of the present odd anomaly, that, whereas our liturgical hymns are the finest in the world, our popular ones are easily the worst.
Fortescue goes on to recommend in particular the English translations of Latin Breviary hymns by Alan McDougall. Our book features several of these elegant hymns, set to music for the very first time (as Fortescue desired a century ago). Furthermore, many have been given exquisite settings by Kevin Allen. To get a sense of Allen’s masterful treatment of Cardinal Newman’s poems, please listen to “Lead, Kindly Light” or “St. Philip in his school”.
We also highly favored translations of Dr. John Neale (†1866), about whose fine work Fortescue wrote in 1913:
After Dr. Neale’s beautiful poetic translations of nearly all our hymns it seems vain for anyone else to try to rival them.
In addition to these special hymns, we have, without fail, included all the hymns normally sung by Traditional Catholic communities. That is to say, a major effort was made to include all the “standard” hymns, lest the book be filled with texts and tunes that nobody knows. Our book, then, is a mixture: the common hymns of Catholic communities along with some treasures that will enrich.
Finally, it must be remembered that, in the final analysis, it is not what is included in a book of Catholic hymns, but what is left out. Nothing would have been easier than simply including “everything” from the old hymnals, and (in essence) saying to the Catholic choirmaster, “You must now spend your time deciding what is good and what is not.”
Carefully searching about 35 hymnals, including rare Catholic collections, has proven very helpful. Here is a partial bibliography:
Arundel Catholic Hymnal (1898)
Hymns, Psalms, & Spiritual Canticles (Theodore Marier)
New St. Basil’s Hymnal (1958)
Fr. Matthew Britt, OSB: Hymns of the Breviary and Missal (1922)
Latin Hymns (Fortescue, 1913)
Pange Lingua (McDougall & Fortescue, 1916)
New English Hymnal (1999)
The Hymnal of St. Pius X (Fr. Percy Jones, 1952)
A Catholic Sunday-School Hymn Book (Henry McGrath, 1850)
The Catholic Hymn Book (Edward Dunigan & Brothers, 1851)
Catholic Hymnal, by Fr. John Hacker, S.J. (1920)
A Treasury of Catholic Song (1915)
American Catholic Hymnal (Marist Brothers, 1913)
The Parochial Hymn Book (Fr. Anatole Police, 1897)
Summit Choirbook (Dominicans, 1983)
Hymnal of the Polish National Catholic Church (2011)
St. Basil’s Hymnal (Canadian Basilian Fathers, 1918)
Alverno Hymnal (1948)
St. Andrew Hymnal (Philip G. Kreckel, 1945)
Laudate Hymnal (Fr. Herman J. Koch & Fr. Andrew Green, OSB, 1957)
The Monastery Hymnal (Achille P. Bragers)
Parochial Hymnal (Rossini, 1951)
Pius X Hymnal (Marier, 1950)
Sing to the Lord (Most Rev. Richard J. Cushing, 1946)
Liber Hymnarius (Solesmes, 1982)
Cantus Selecti (Solesmes, 1949)
Liber Usualis (Solesmes, 1961)
Antiphonale Monasticum (Solesmes, 1934)
Parish Book of Chant (Church Music Association of America, 2008)
Mundelein Psalter (2007)
Hymns Ancient & Modern (1981)
Hymnal 1982 (Church Hymnal Corporation)
St. Gregory Hymnal (Society of St. Gregory, 1920)
St. Joseph Sunday Missal & Hymnal (1966)
Hymnal 1940 (Church Pension Fund)
The Catholic Hymn Book (London Oratory, 2006)
Adoremus Hymnal (2011)
St. Michael Hymnal (2011)
Vatican II Hymnal (Corpus Christi Watershed, 2011)
UE TO THE CONSIDERABLE RESEARCH done for the hymnal section, we have discovered numerous hymns that are really beautiful and ought to be sung. After the publication of the St. Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal, we plan to publish an 1100-page book with nothing but hymns.
If your congregation is not familiar with a particular tune in the Campion book, play it as an organ interlude during, before, and/or after Mass. Once this has been done, the congregation will “magically” know the tune when it is time to sing it. Do not “assault” your congregation with tunes they have never heard before, in spite of how beautiful the tunes may be.
At last, thanks to the Campion book, congregations can have beautiful Catholic hymns that actually fit the feasts! We took great pains to include hymnody for the different Seasons and Feasts of the Church, unlike so many other hymnals containing, for instance, a disproportionate amount of Advent and Christmas hymns.
We have left all the original language in the hymns, with one small exception. In a few cases, we replaced “Jesu” with “O Lord.” This was done primarily in places where the musical accent was quite jarring with the holy name (in other words, to make up for a defect in the poem itself). We believe that the translator would not mind the freedom in this instance . . . freedom the translator did not have. Finally, the word “Jesu” does not have the same place in the English language as it did in the 19th century.