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.
OTICE CAREFULLY the final sentence in a statement from Daniel Craig’s June 7th survey—which was generally full of praise—regarding the Brébeuf hymnal: “While many of the hymns are ‘standards’ from the core repertoire familiar to Catholics (All Glory, Laud, and Honor; Hark! The Herald Angels Sing; Hail, Holy Queen Enthroned Above; etc.), the Brébeuf Hymnal also introduces quite a number of less familiar tunes, such as FORTESCUE, ALTONA, and NOTRE DAME. I would like to see more done to help musicians utilize these; it should be remembered that a great many Catholics have never received proper instruction in the liturgy. Could not Brébeuf hymn tables be created and distributed?”
Daniel is hitting upon something that particularly differentiates the Brébeuf hymnal from other hymnals: it comes at a time when technology has the power to make authentic Catholic music highly accessible. Not only are there already numerous rehearsal videos available for free, but Daniel’s call for hymn tables has recently been fulfilled in a very useful online HYMN TUNE INDEX. This contains brief “snippets” of each tune categorized by season and occasion. I’ll even show you how easy it is to use:
You can also click on this direct link to my YouTube video.
While you are online, you can scroll down to see this useful tip from my colleague Keven Smith for staying recollected even when on your computer.
HENEVER I AM CONSIDERING what to sing for a given Mass, I am on my guard against selecting hymns that are Protestant. Once upon a time during my pre-Catholic days, I sang in a Life Teen Band during my journey towards God. Nowadays my husband likes to tease me by singing “Our God is an Awesome God”, which causes me to clap my hands over my ears and moan, “Nooooooo!!!” And we laugh about how terrible those hymns are. But the truth is that even these bad hymns inform our faith. Unfortunately, if they are Protestant songs, then they are teaching us Protestant values. The fact that the Brébeuf hymnal was conceived with Roman Catholic hymns from the start is—I would hope—a well-known fact by now. But I have to reiterate the point made by some of my colleagues because it’s an important one: it is absolutely imperative that Catholics hear authentic Catholic music at Mass. If we are working out our salvation in “fear and trembling” as St. Paul exhorts (Phil 2:12), then surely it is no small matter to allow theological error to enter our minds for even a moment. And because there is such a vast treasury of authentic Catholic hymnody, it is an absolute scandal that more churches don’t use it. For this reason, I think it is important to rely upon authentic Catholic hymnals. 1
But lest you think that I am getting something out of recommending this hymnal over other possibilities, let me reassure you that I receive absolutely nothing for doing so. I am simply expressing a strong personal opinion. And I stand behind it to the point that I have even volunteered to sing some of the practice recordings—for which I have never received, nor will I ever receive, a single cent. I get nothing out of this except the hope that someone out there will come to realize that they don’t need their pretend-Catholic hymnal, and that there is a perfectly good hymnal available with authentic Catholic hymns in it.
If you prefer, you can also download this SEASONAL INDEX in PDF format, posted by my colleague Veronica Moreno.
NOTES FROM THIS ARTICLE:
1 This is not to say that absolutely every Protestant hymn was excluded from the Brébeuf hymnal. If somebody looks hard enough, they will be able to find a few Protestant texts, such as “Hark! The herald angels sing.” I spoke on the telephone to one of the editors, who told me this was mainly done as a concession to the current state of the Church. In other words, it is not pastoral to take away from our Catholic congregations everything they have ever known and been familiar with, especially when many Protestant hymns are not heretical—and many are more dignified than emotional, gushy ditties such as “On Eagles’ Wings.”
The Brébeuf hymnal cites all sources, and in the rare event that a Protestant hymn is included, the footnotes demonstrate it has already been “established” by citing numerous Catholic hymnals which also included it, such as the New Saint Basil Hymnal. In my view, this is an honest and straightforward departure—a welcome departure—from the “tricks” certain Catholic hymnals used to play. An example of trickery would be Vox Angelica: a new collection of Catholic hymns, published in 1913. This “Catholic” collection is almost entirely Protestant, but they hide the names of the hymn writers in an attempt to fool the user.