We love receiving mail from readers. When possible, we share such letters with you. We seldom reveal names, although our posted policy does allow that. Normally, we create a fake name—to protect the reader’s privacy. The following was sent to us by “Brooklyn.”
WRITE IN RESPONSE to your article published on 25 September 2023 titled: “Slander” • Response to an Accusation We Received, an essay I read with great interest. I would like to say that I have never, in church, used a hymnal which was organized alphabetically, and my parish doesn’t have the ADOREMUS HYMNAL. One thing I don’t like about TOPIC HYMNALS is that sometimes a hymn listed under “funerals” is appropriate for a Sunday Mass. Sometimes a “gathering” hymn is great for the recessional. Sometimes an “Easter” hymn is also appropriate for the offertory. See what I mean? I’m sure that you and your fellow publishers of the ADOREMUS HYMNAL probably didn’t label any hymn so strictly, but that would be a reason to list alphabetically. 🔴 Sincerely yours, Brooklyn.
Now follows a response to Brooklyn by Jeff Ostrowski.
ROOKLYN, I want to thank you for your thoughtful letter. First of all, I had nothing to do with producing the ADOREMUS HYMNAL, which appeared when I was still in high school. I can assure you it does not use an alphabetical arrangement. I’m familiar with that book, because when I was teaching at a Catholic high school many years ago, that was the book they purchased. Now is not the time for me to provide an “evaluation” or “review” of the ADOREMUS HYMNAL. Indeed, I doubt many would be interested in hearing my opinions about it. I do remember their numbering system was problematic, because it skips tons of numbers. For example, it skips from number 404 to 410, and from number 563 to 570, and from number 592 to 600. I remember this vividly, because the principal would constantly complain to me about “missing pages.” Regarding your specific comment, the ADOREMUS HYMNAL does include headers—and these caused me headaches when I was teaching those high school students. They would protest and gripe when I would assign the “wrong” hymn (in their mind) for a particular feast. Looking back, I admit it’s possible they were doing this to annoy their teacher! For example, in the ADOREMUS HYMNAL, number 411 is eminently suitable as a communion hymn, but look how it is labeled:
Striking A Chord With Jeff • To be clear, Brooklyn, what you wrote struck a chord (pardon the pun) because I remember so well fighting with those high school students about hymnal headers. Let me move away now from speaking about the ADOREMUS HYMNAL, because I don’t wish to denigrate something which—at the time it came out—was a noble and praiseworthy effort. Indeed, when the ADOREMUS HYMNAL first appeared, it signaled an important “turning point” at a time when church music in the United States was in terrible straits.
Make No Mistake • Please understand, Brooklyn: the Brébeuf Catholic Hymnal does not employ headers—such as you describe—for the precise reason you indicate. The reality is, certain hymns are appropriate for multiple feasts. An example would be the “Ave Maris Stella,” which is assigned as the VESPERS HYMN for innumerable feasts throughout the liturgical year.
Have Care! Beware! • Over the last five years, I have tried to emphasize that hymn melodies (and hymn texts) must be chosen carefully. The congregation’s sensibilities must be taken into account. For example, the melody for O SANCTISSIMA is reserved for Christmas Eve in certain parts of Germany, and is sung at no other time. But in the United States, that is not the case. Perhaps I can illustrate my point by talking about a hymn called TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM. In America, that tune is normally reserved for the season of Christmas. According to the footnotes in the Brébeuf Hymnal, it was originally a song for springtide—but that association faded away many years ago. I would strongly advise against using it as a “spring” song in America. Nevertheless, Dr. Ralph Keifer did precisely that in his 1975 hymnal:
* PDF • A Reprehensible Hymn Pairing (In Jeff’s Opinion)
—THE CATHOLIC LITURGY BOOK: The People’s Complete Service Book (1975).
The Brébeuf Hymnal pairs TEMPUS ADEST FLORIDUM with a Marian text, and the females in my choir often sing that hymn during the season of Christmas (or the season of Epiphany):
Conclusions • Brooklyn, let me reiterate that I had nothing to do with producing the ADOREMUS HYMNAL. Neither did any of my colleagues. Moreover, the ADOREMUS HYMNAL doesn’t use an alphabetical system for its hymns. I hope that nobody reading this article will take the comments I made about experiences with the ADOREMUS HYMNAL (when I was teaching high school) as an “attack” on that fine and praiseworthy effort. Indeed, my teacher and mentor was part of its production team. On the other hand, in the context of your email, I felt it was okay to share my personal experiences.