Frequently Asked Questions
The St. Michael Hymnal is published by St. Boniface Parish in Lafayette, Indiana. The contents of the hymnal are professionally typeset by World Library Publications. The hymnal is printed on quality paper and bound with a handsome hardcover.
The high quality of the third edition pew book has been maintained in the fourth edition. In addition, the choir/accompaniment book for the fourth edition is now produced with the same professional quality of the pew book.
How did the St. Michael Hymnal come to be?
In 1992, Linda Schafer undertook direction of St. Boniface’s choir, later entitled the St. Boniface Schola Cantorum, a post she retained when Fr. Timothy Alkire became pastor of St. Boniface Parish in 1994. Together, church organist Scott Kemmer, Linda Schafer, and Fr. Alkire began a project to renew liturgical music at St. Boniface in the spirit of the directives of the Second Vatican Council. The challenges were these:
- To obey the directives of the Council by giving Gregorian chant ”pride of place” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #116), and also to orient the music to the standards first articulated by Pope St. Pius X in 1903: holiness, true artistry, and universality (Tra lle sollecitudini, #8).
- To form a repertoire for the choir with increasing emphasis on Gregorian chant, polyphony, and more traditional hymnody; and to assist the congregation with “full, conscious, and active participation in liturgical celebrations” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, #14) by producing a usable collection of music which could serve the needs of a bi-lingual parish of over 3,000 members in all the diverse aspects of parish life from Mass, weddings, and funerals, to Benediction, Vespers, and Eucharistic Processions.
The goal was to begin at St. Boniface, in a small way, with patience and charity, the reclamation and restoration of the musical patrimony of the Catholic Church. The St. Boniface Schola Cantorum and the St. Michael Hymnal were the final result of this effort. The St. Michael Hymnal was first published for the use of the parish in 1998. Growing interest, beginning first with several parishes in the Diocese of Lincoln, and then spreading by word of mouth, convinced Fr. Alkire to publish the hymnal officially and make it available to parishes around the country.
The hymnal went into its fourth edition in the Summer of 2011. Since then it has seen numerous printings and has sold tens of thousands of copies. Its reputation continues to grow, both for the orthodoxy of its texts and for the beauty of its musical collection.
What makes this hymnal unique?
First of all, the hymnal retains the original language of the hymns, with no politically driven language. The very few changes in texts are poetic or practical choices.
Secondly, as far as we know, the St. Michael Hymnal is still the only Catholic hymnal in this country that includes (and has included since the first edition) substantially the entire contents of “Jubilate Deo,” the collection of Gregorian chants that Pope Paul VI sent to all bishops in 1976, asking that they be preserved.
Thirdly, this hymnal is the fruit of a parish that has for many years tried to be faithful and obedient to Holy Mother Church. We believe that the St. Michael Hymnal is very usable in any parish that would like to reclaim and restore some of the traditional music of the Church without moving precipitously or too hastily.
How did the hymnal get its name?
The name was chosen because St. Boniface Parish had unofficially adopted the great archangel as patron and protector. We continue to feel a deep and real devotion to him, and are happy to place this project under his patronage.
Is the fourth edition of the St. Michael Hymnal compatible with the new Roman Missal?
Absolutely. The fourth edition has been produced in order to accommodate the changes in the Missal text. We offer several beautiful new Mass settings, including some written especially for the St. Michael Hymnal.
Are the Latin chant hymns and mass ordinaries printed in traditional Gregorian chant notation or in modern notation?
Both notations have their strengths and weaknesses. There are at least two reasons for using the traditional four-line Gregorian chant notation: firstly, the notation immediately signals that what we are singing is something out of the ordinary, something reserved for the Catholic liturgy and peculiar to it. Secondly, once a very few basics are learned, the four-line notation is actually easier to read and sing than the modern notation.
However, in introducing chant to a congregation, it is sometimes easier to overcome reluctance if the look of the chant is not too foreign; for that reason, modern notation is sometimes helpful and can open the door to the singing of Gregorian chant in a parish.
In the fourth edition, the 6 Latin chant mass ordinaries have been printed in traditional four-line Gregorian chant notation. The many Latin chant hymns in the hymnal are printed in stemless modern (five-line) notation, as they were in the third edition of the hymnal.
Why does the St. Michael Hymnal not include settings of the Responsorial Psalms?
At present, we do not think it prudent to include Psalmody in a permanent hymnal until the coming Lectionary revision has been completed.
There are currently multiple resources for good psalmody, both online and in printed form. We suggest in particular the work of the Chabanel Psalms, Fr. Samuel Weber O.S.B, and Fr. Columba Kelly O.S.B. (Links to their work can be found on our "Resources-Links" page.)
Further, many parishes still prefer to use a missalette or other booklet for the readings, and most of those resources include a setting of the Sunday Responsorial Psalm.
Why does the St. Michael Hymnal not include the texts of Sunday Mass readings?
Constraints of size and resources do not make it possible to include the texts of the Sunday Mass readings in the hymnal.
For parishes who are looking for a publication that includes the texts of the Sunday Mass readings, there are multiple missalette/resources available that can be used in addition to the hymnal.
Why does the hymnal contain Protestant hymns?
As the Church has always incorporated the worthwhile contributions from other traditions, so we have included some of the great hymns from other Christian traditions. Great care has been taken, however, not to include anything that would detract from Catholic doctrine.
Why does the St. Michael Hymnal include some contemporary pieces of music that are considered by some professional musicians to be unsuitable for the sacred liturgy?
It is important to remember that just as Rome was not built in a day, neither can a restoration be effected in a day. We have received a surprising number of calls from pastors who are grateful that we have continued to include some of these contemporary songs, since many members of their congregation, particularly some of their volunteer musicians, have become quite attached to them over the last forty years, and would not be as ready to accept any hymnal that did not include them.
Moreover, not all parishes have the resources to pay for a professional organist who can play the great hymns that comprise the vast majority of this collection. Many of the contemporary songs that are included are meant to serve as a stepping stone and a transition to the kind of music that is more suitable for the sacred liturgy. It should be noted that care was taken to insure that there are no doctrinal problems with the texts of any of the songs.
Finally, the Church has always extended a large sympathy and charity for those devotional type of songs that many people associate strongly with childhood or family memories. We should not be too hasty in jettisoning everything that we judge less worthy from a professional musical perspective. Some songs such as “On This Day O Beautiful Mother” have become part of the Catholic identity in this country, and it is likely that some of the more contemporary pieces will also become part of that tradition of folk classics. We will continue to include those pieces.
How are the hymns arranged in the hymnal?
The hymns have been and will continue to be arranged in alphabetical order.
In the back of the hymnal there is an extensive liturgical and topical index, offering hymns suggestions for particular seasons and occasions.
Is there a liturgy planning guide available for the St. Michael Hymnal?
In the future, we hope to add a page on this website giving hymn planning suggestions for each Sunday of the year.
At present, there is a liturgical planning page on the website of CanticaNova Publications which includes suggestions for the current edition of the St. Michael Hymnal.
Yes. You can purchase hymnal directly from this website using PayPal by clicking here. For 6 or more copies and for quantity discounts, please call (765) 742-7457.