READERS: Help a new parish priest choose a good hymnal!

From a priest:

Can you suggest some good hymnals? I just became pastor and we are in great need of change.

Let’s help this guy.

Readers! Have at.

First: For the Extraordinary Form – HERE

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
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  1. For an OF parish, I’d think the “Vatican II Hymnal” might be almost as obvious as the Campion is for the EF.

    Vatican II Hymnal

    750 pages long • Complete Readings for all Sundays and Major Feasts (Years ABC) • First Hymnal ever printed to contain complete texts for the Sung Propers • More than a hundred pages of Mass Settings (Roman Missal, 3rd Edition) • Complete texts in Latin and English for Ordinary & Extraordinary Forms of the Mass • Beautiful Hymns, including more than 100 pages of Communion Hymns • Chabanel Responsorial Psalms, Garnier Alleluias, Motets, and much more!

  2. Arele says:

    This is a great new hymnal. The conservative and reverent parishes in our area all use them and love them.

    The St. Michael hymnal takes the practical approach in that it includes and focuses on traditional and reverent music, including Latin mass parts, Gregorian chant, etc, but understanding that Rome wasn’t built in a day and people who are used to the music of the 40-50 years are not going to change in a day, so it also includes music that people have become familiar with over recent times.

    It’s hardbound and so it’s an investment, but it’s made to last for years.

    But don’t take my word for it. Read about it here:

  3. Precentrix says:

    Well, my real vote (for English) would be:
    The Simple English Propers
    plus the Ordinaries found here:

    Or failing that, as above.

    St. Gregory Hymnal:

    “The Catholic Hymnal” or the “Pius X Hymnal” if you can find copies (out of print?).

    Laudate is tolerable.

    I used to hang out a lot with Anglicans and I quite like the NEH, but I’m probably not allowed to say that.

  4. Geoffrey says:

    I’ve heard good things about The Adoremus Hymnal, which is used by the congregation on EWTN’s daily Mass.

  5. Rellis says:

    +1 for the V2 hymnal. My parish (St. Rita’s of Alexandria, VA in the Diocese of Arlington) uses it, and we love it. It has nice, booming hymns for before and after Mass, and everything you want in between.

    I know that the iPadre (Fr. Finelli of Holy Ghost Parish in Tiverton, RI in the Diocese of Providence) also uses the V2H. He even installed ribbons!

    If a non-hymn hymnal is up for consideration, we should also not leave out the Lumen Christi Missal, which has no hymns but sets the entire Ordinary Form to music. Ideally, this would be what every parish would have. I view the V2H as a bridge in this regard, even as the St. Michael Hymnal is a bridge to the V2H.

  6. Jamie says:

    If we are talking about the Extraordinary Form, I agree with Father; use the St. Edmund Campion.

    I am not a big fan of the Vatican II Hymnal, simply because it has no Credo and a very limited selection of Hymns.

    I would give a definite recommendation to the St. Michael Hymnal (; it has the full order of Mass – with notation – in both Latin and in English, loads of latin chants, loads of good, traditional hymns and the ordinary of Mass with benediction and even some Psalms that can be used for Vespers such as the Nunc Dimittis!

  7. kateriwriter says:

    My parish uses the St. Michael Hymnal (link in a previous comment), which has upward of 400 excellent hymns (almost all of which are very traditional, with perhaps half a dozen more contemporary ones popular at special events like funerals, a few in Spanish, and several dozen in Latin and several with a Latin/English combination), numerous Mass settings in English and Latin, and about 100 assorted antiphons. It also has the Order of the Mass in both English and Latin and uses chant notation as much as possible (for the congregation, at least; the choir editions usually have modern notation because they’re typically paired with organ accompaniment).

    Another nice aspect of the St. Michael Hymnal is that the hymns are organized alphabetically, which makes hymns easy to find by either number or title, but there are several indexes which include a Liturgical Year index, a Liturgy of the Hours index, and a Rites of the Church index if a hymn is wanted for a specific date or occasion. I grew up with the Adoremus Hymnal, which is a nice hymnal with numerous traditional hymns, but it is organized by the Liturgical Year, which can make it difficult to find something without checking in the back. It also doesn’t have as many hymns as the St. Michael and (an OCD thing of mine) it skips numbers.

    An additional resource is the Parish Book of Chant (linked in a previous comment). I was recently given this amazing little book and it has everything a Latin-loving Catholic could wish for in one place: the Order of Sung Mass (Ordinary Form and Extraordinary Form), Latin Mass settings, and hymns and chants in quantities that would make Gregory the Great jealous. They’re all additionally accompanied by translations underneath, so people like me, who don’t actually know Latin, can still understand what’s being said. Everything is done in chant notation and the book also has a “guide to singing chant” section, which walks the user through everything from the different neums, clefs, and rhythmic markings to the proper pronunciation of liturgical Latin. The second edition is over 300 pages long but is nevertheless both compact and easy to read. The only issue of any sort I’ve run into with this little gem is that the organization seems somewhat willy-nilly, and although there is some rhyme and reason to it most of the time it’s just easier to check the table of contents to find a particular piece. Again, this would probably work better for a choir than a congregation. My parish does this, and we in the choir sometimes will sing a piece or two out of it during the Offertory or Communion and have the opening and closing hymns be from the St. Michael hymnal so everyone can sing if they wish.

  8. Lisa Freeman says:

    I own the Adoremus Hymnal, and I do like it. However, a parish near us just purchased the St. Michael Hymnal, and I am *very* impressed with it. The front pages with the mass texts (and chants) are very helpful, and the number of hymns is greater than the Adoremus.

    How blessed is your new parish! I hope they realize it.

  9. FoolishThomist says:

    I suggest the St. Michael Hymnal. It’s the one use most frequently at the Dominican House of Studies and the best I’ve seen.

  10. Dave N. says:

    Why not just use the official hymnal published by the U.S. Conference of Catholic…oh, wait….

    Definitely St. Michael Hymnal over Adoremus Hymnal. Maybe Vatican II Hymnal over St. Michael Hymnal.

    This post might be helpful:

  11. Of those mentioned here, I’ve seen only Adoremus, and the difference is obvious. That’s a shame, though; I’m sure the others are also worthy. Makes me kind of wish that one could find out what hymnal was in use before strolling into a parish– by their hymnals they will be known.

  12. William says:

    St. Michael Hymnal for sure! Adomremus is quite good, too. Vatican II Hymnal contains very, very few recognizably Catholic hymns and is poorly organized.

  13. Brent S says:

    St. Michael Hymnal!

    Adoremus and Vatican II Hymnal are both too limited in their hymn offerings.

  14. Adoremus Hymnal is my favorite. It has the Gregorian Chant notations for the different mass settings, the print is large for readers of all types, and the music selection is reverent and fitting. Sections for the liturgical year make this hymnal a very fitting use for the ecclesiastical year.

  15. JaneC says:

    If I could have only one hymnal, I would choose the St. Michael Hymnal. If your parish is like ours–trying to get the choir to learn chant, trying to accustom the congregation to hearing the propers, but not yet ready to give up the four-hymn-sandwich, the Vatican II Hymnal will not have enough hymns in it for you to keep a decent variety. If you’re already singing all the propers and only using one or two hymns per Sunday, then go for it with the Vatican II Hymnal, or Adoremus, which has essentially the same problem–it’s just not big enough. (I really love Adoremus, and we use it at the school where I work, but kids tolerate frequent repetition of hymns better than adults.)

    My personal ideal would be to have two books: the Lumen Christi Missal and The Catholic Hymnal. But U.S. singers are not accustomed to the English hymn format (music at the top of the page and text at the bottom, instead of text lined up with the notes) and sometimes freak out when they see it –at least, my choir acts like they’ve suddenly forgotten how to sing and start complaining vociferously when presented with hymns arranged that way. So, our parish will probably never have The Catholic Hymnal.

    Another problem that I hope the pastor doesn’t have is the issue of needing a bilingual missal/missalette. That is obstacle #2 for our dream of a Lumen Christi Missal/Catholic Hymnal combo in our pews. I don’t think there are any really good English/Spanish Missal/Hymnal books out there. The groups that put out the great hymnals have focused exclusively on English-language resources, which limits their practicality for bilingual parishes.

  16. John 1 14 says:

    Former high church Episcopalian here…
    With the creation of the Anglican Rite, would the Episcopal Hymnal 1940 count as a Catholic hymnal now? (please…?)

  17. Joy says:

    I would like to suggest a hymnal separate from the Mass readings. For many years my parish has had “Worship III” (yuk) and the book is too heavy for me to hold it for any length of time. I see several other ladies having to rest the book on the back of the pew in front. Not only older people either.

  18. Elizium23 says:

    Brent S: Have you seen the new edition of Adoremus? It is greatly expanded – and yet the hymn numbers from the old book did not change – I love it!

    Now it has already been mentioned, but I would like to add my plug for the Lumen Christi Missal. Not a hymnal, but a complete resource for singing the Mass. It includes a Kyriale and a simple gradual. One of its best features is that much of the material is licensed under Creative Commons, which means that the publisher does not have a lockdown on the copyrighted material like OCP/GIA/WLP does. This is stuff that you can freely photocopy and share and reuse without having to negotiate all kinds of hairy licensing deals. What’s more, there is more being published online all the time. Editor Adam Bartlett is working on a complete gradual edition for choirs. The current edition is an ideal pew book but lacks all the music that a choir book would have. That is the beauty of the material being published online. If you are willing to go and grab the latest week’s work and print it out, then you will have everything.

    Unfortunately our implementation of the Lumen Christi Missal is piecemeal and incomplete. We have not replaced any hymns with chanted propers. We recently added the Missa de Angelis Gloria in Latin, though. Our priest is trying to sing more of the Order of the Mass. Little by little we are making it.

    I also should mention that Adam Bartlett’s previous work is worth seeing: Simple English Propers. This is a great resource for your choir or schola that wish to chant the propers as the Church intends.

  19. phlogiston says:

    Anything but the aptly named “Gather” hymnal. Aptly named, because they should all be gathered … and burned.

  20. Mike Morrow says:

    When you are ready to get serious about Church music for the Extraordinary Form, you are ready for the ageless standard classic…the Liber Usualis, preferably 1961 edition. On-line pdf versions are readily available as well.

    The first original that I acquired, the 1938 Liber Usualis, helped get me though the very tragic post-1965 forced imposition of newchurch-tm liturgical Muzak.

  21. Charivari Rob says:

    I’ve heard good things about the St. Michael Hymnal, too. I’ve seen it in a place or two, haven’t had much of a chance to go through it yet.

    Father NewPastor might also want to consider the Lead Me, Guide Me (2nd Edition).

    I’ve been singing from this for a year and have barely scratched the surface of what’s in there. There’s a selection for Liturgy of the Hours, another for Rites of the Church, the Order of Mass, 9 Mass settings (including Latin chant), over 750 hymns and songs arranged thematically, 200+ settings for psalm responses (covering the entire three-year Sunday Mass cycle), and multiple indexes.

  22. Titus says:

    People more or less have the options laid out.

    The Adoremus Hymnal is to be commended. I believe the 2d Edition has a lot more material than the previous version.

    The Vatican II Hymnal is fantastic, but it’s really a pew missal for a parish that’s using mostly propers. It has even fewer hymns than the Adoremus Hymnal, but that’s not the end of the world, of course. It also has the ordinary for both Forms, so it would be a useful investment if one were saying the EF and OF at a parish.

    The Lumen Christi Missal is also a great collection. I haven’t held the book in my hands, but the whole content is previewable online.

    The Parish Book of Chant, 2d Edition, is supposed to be a masterpiece, but, of course, it’s all chant. If you’re looking for just one book and you want some hymnody, it might not be the best one.

    I don’t know anything about the St. Michael Hymnal.

    Some of the other titles mentioned might have been fine hymnals, but if they’re out of print, it’s just straight up not practical to try to stock a parish with them. Everyone should be able to recognize that.

    The Liber is not a realistic option for a pew hymnal. It’s terribly expensive and not organized in a manner that’s conducive to use by the pew-sitting laity. Scrape some pennies together and get them for the schola. I also don’t think Lead Me, Guide is likely what Father is looking for. One, it’s GIA, one of the real oppressors of American Catholic liturgical music over the last few decades. Two, GIA’s description suggests that it’s sort of a, well, niche title.

    Finally, I don’t know how meaningful the criticism that “it doesn’t have enough hymns” is. Your average leaflet hymnal has worlds too many hymns. Most of them are dreck, some of them are heretical, and even some that are orthodox and melodious are completely unsingable. Especially if a parish is going to implement even limited propers use, a vast collection of hymns simply isn’t needed. You want the congregation to be at least vaguely familiar with what’s being sung. The one thing that could be said for having a big hymn collection is that it might include songs for lesser feasts, but I’m sure the internet can fill that gap if need be.

    As a final note, one should bear in mind 1) that the initial capital investment from buying hard back hymnals over leaflets should pay for itself quickly and 2) the hymns in books from OCP and GIA are invariably bowdlerized in bizarre and disconcerting ways.

  23. Titus says:

    Hmm, I didn’t close my italics tag in that last comment. Apologies for that.

  24. bartlep says:

    Vatican II Hymnal. Copyright 2011 Corpus Christi Watershed

    Includes chant, Latin prayers for Mass.

  25. Mike says:

    I agree with Father Z… the St. Edmund Campion Missal & Hymnal is great for the Extraordinary Form.

    For the Ordinary Form I suggest two… both of which my parish uses:

    The St. Michael Hymnal

    The Vatican II Hymnal, which was originally produced by the same folks as the Campion Missal & Hymnal. This selection contains Ordinaries for both the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms in addition to the reading cycle of the Ordinary Form.

  26. idatom says:

    Fr. Z;
    I would suggest Pie Jesu.
    Translation ?

    Tom Lanter

    Tom Lanter

  27. JaneC says:

    Titus said:

    Finally, I don’t know how meaningful the criticism that ‘it doesn’t have enough hymns’ is…Especially if a parish is going to implement even limited propers use, a vast collection of hymns simply isn’t needed.

    I guess that depends on how long it takes you to sing the propers, and how long the relevant action during Mass takes at your parish. At our parish, we sing the proper Offertory and Communion chants (using a variety of sources–Communio/Roman Gradual; American Gradual; Simple English Propers). Even if we sing all the verses, we still have plenty of time for a hymn afterward. So, we have implemented limited propers use and yet we still sing 4 hymns every Sunday. It is a genuine concern–moreso with “Adoremus” than with the Vatican II Hymnal.

    I also dislike the Vatican II Hymnal’s innovative layout for the hymns. I have no doubt that it is helpful for some people, but my experience as a music teacher tells me that people with limited musical experience and knowledge are easily confused by novel arrangements on the page.

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