Editor’s Note: Each contributor is reflecting upon Comparison of 15 Traditional Catholic Hymnals. Rather than rehashing Mr. Craig’s article, they were given freedom to “expand upon” this vast subject. Click here to read all the installments that have appeared so far.
VERY MUCH ENJOYED reading Daniel Craig’s article. I love looking through hymnals. Of his list, I have on only two titles: the Adoremus Hymnal and the Brébeuf Hymnal. Of the others, I have seen only a few more. These books are not widely available here in Australia, especially not in use in parishes. Here is my attempt at a diagram depicting the hymnals in use in Australia. The shaded ones are my favorites. I haven’t included the old Pius X Hymnbook as I haven’t seen any copies of the people’s book still in use, only a few copies of the accompaniment book.
Most of these are currently out of print. As One Voice and Catholic Worship Book II are the two currently available. They are polar opposites. As One Voice is cheap and almost totally bereft of any traditional hymns. Being cheap, it seems to have the most widespread use in Catholic parishes in Australia. Catholic Worship Book II is a weighty tome and includes a good smattering of actual Gregorian Chant. I haven’t had the opportunity to look through a copy properly, but I know people who rave about it. The earlier edition is still in use in many parishes, which is unfortunate as the editors of that edition seemed intent on erasing any reference to the True Presence of Christ in the Eucharist. It is still considered “more traditional” compared to the other modern offerings, but I have major issues with it.
Many traditional groups carefully harbor dwindling collections of The Living Parish Hymn Book. These little books are small collections of lyrics in a style very similar to the Westminster Hymnal. The Accompaniment Book was published later in response to demand. I think these little books of texts were very popular and could be very useful in supplanting the likes of As One Voice.
So, with one thing and another, this rather serious dearth of good economical hymnals has induced me to make my own. Right now I am working on a Benediction Booklet and a combined Missal and Hymnal. If anyone would like to proofread a copy, please get in touch. The Benediction Booklet is currently at 71 pages and the Missal and Hymnal 333 pages.
I have said in the past that compiling an hymnal has to be one of the more constructive ways to lose friends and alienate people. I love this quote from Daniel Craig’s review of the New Westminster Hymnal:
Knox admired Fortescue, and could not have been ignorant of Father Fortescue’s strong complaints about Catholic hymnody. However, they had to carefully avoid disparagement of the “popular” hymns, and the Preface to the New Westminster Hymnal is hilariously subtle, saying: “Exigencies of space have forbidden the present compilers to make a wider selection from Fr. Faber and Fr. Caswall…”
Music has a way of stirring the emotions and many hymns gain personal and local baggage over time, like barnacles clinging to the hull of a ship. Of course, you cannot please everyone all the time. I love Fr Caswall’s hymns. Fr Faber I love in moderation. They have their place, and for every hymn which is unequivocally denounced as schmaltzy, you are going to find someone for whom that hymn is what sustained them through a particularly bleak time. Even Fr Knox’s hymns can be grating with their cleverness, unless interspersed with other less mentally taxing lyrics. These are my personal opinions and I’m happy to differ with you. The main advantage of purchasing a ready-made hymnbook is to avoid the disputes about the pros and cons of individual hymns.
The process of selecting hymns and tracking down original versions, peeling off editorial changes for inclusive language and modern pronouns, is a wonderful work. You can learn so much. The Brébeuf Hymnal is a particular pleasure to use in this respect as it provides copious footnotes on each hymn with more information than usual. Having a good arsenal of really old hymnbooks available is great too.
But after spending all this time comparing different books and typesetting things nicely and weeding out typographical errors, you do begin to wonder if the medieval way of hand copying may have actually turned out to be quicker. Especially when aiming to make only a hundred copies for just one location in order to minimize the complications of copyright hymns and ecclesiastical permission to publish books of prayers.
Nevertheless, following the path of making your own hymnbook is definitely a possibility in this age of desktop publishing software and print on demand publishers. Reading Daniel Craig’s analysis helps give an idea of the high expectations which you probably won’t encounter in your day to day parish life. If you do find someone with these high expectations, recruit them into your music program. Be ready for a roller coaster ride of personal opinions and have a trusted person to be able to debrief with.