Why do we rarely hear hymns such as these, and can anything be done about it?


In the Music Leader Thread one parish’s hymn list for yesterday was:

]Entrance: Alleluia! Sing to Jesus
]Offertory: What Wondrous Love Is This?
]Communion 1: Veni, Jesu, Amor Mi
]Communion 2:
Come Down, O Love Divine

*]Communion 3: O God of Loveliness
*]Closing: Crown Him With Many Crowns

I don’t know all of these, but the ones I do know (in bold) I love and yet almost never hear in a Catholic church. :frowning:

I can speak with some knowledge of why they are not used in my own parish. We have a choir, composed of middle-aged singers, which is more than capable of singing such hymns and yet we avoid them, preferring modern hymns and songs (eg. Marty Haugen). If we pick a traditional hymn it’s like “Here’s one for the oldies - How Great the Art”. I can say, with some certainty, that the above hymns are regarded as “stuffy” or “boring” by the music leaders and by much, but not all, of the congregation.

I have visited many parishes and I rarely hear any of these hymns.

Why? And, is there any hope of changing a parish which has resisted them in the past?

Yes, this is a serious question. If some parishes can actually choose such hymns for the whole of one Mass, why do most avoid them, week after week?

To expand on the list, here are some other hymns which I consider to be good Catholic traditional hymns, which are also avoided:

*]Soul of My Savior
*]Breath on me Breath of God
*]All Creatures of Our God and King
*]Godhead Here in Hiding
*]Tantum Ergo
*]Sing my Tongue
*]For All the Saints
*]Love Divine, All Love’s Excelling
*]Marian Hymns: Hail Queen of Heaven, Salve Regina, Mary Immaculate, Star of the Morning.


I hear ya. Haugen/Haas hymns are a staple for our choir too. To be fair I must admit that we do sing Alleluia, Sing to Jesus occasionally but instead of “All Creatures of Our God and King” we get Haugen’s paraphrased “Canticle of the Sun” (it doesn’t hold a candle to the original).

The most traditional thing our choir does is “Immaculate Mary”, which seems to be their default Marian hymn.


Our parish has it even worse: they take a variety of pop songs (the most egregious example was a dance song called “Sexy Eyes”) and fit the Kyrie, Gloria, etc. to them.

However, they do sing “Immaculate Mary” as well.

As the West does, so does the rest of the world. :rolleyes:


Our parish sings nearly all of those hymns. Many of them are associated with specific holy days and so are generally only sung once or twice a year, whereas the Haugen songs you hear can be learned by the choir and sung for several Masses, which is probably why you hear them more frequently. In order to get the choir into more traditional hymns, the trick is to concentrate on the text and to sing the hymn expressively, emphasizing key words and ideas, and using good phrasing and dynamic contrast. If the choir director is passionate about the music, the choir and congregation will follow.


Interestingly, at my parish, it is the older folks who do the more contemporary hymns, as well as the “spirituals.” The 9am choir sounds absolutely lovely, with their 20 voices. But their average age is probably 65!

Meanwhile at the 11 am mass for which I choose the music (and play the organ) the singers are so young that I could be the mother of all but one of them! (I am 46.)

The main singers are all college aged, and they expect and demand to sing the traditional hymns, and LOVE to sing in Latin. For major solemnities, we have some polyphony that we include for offertory or communion hymns.

I also have the honor to direct a new children’s choir that sings at this mass once a month. We have taught them to sing in Latin, including the Sanctus and Agnus Dei from the Missa de Angelis. And two brothers in this group (ages 10 and 11) are trying to turn their piano skills into organ skills. So I let them try the organ at our rehearsals, and they’ve played a couple things at mass now.

The musical style of this mass began with our previous pastor, because there was no one to sing. He asked a group of three sisters (ages 16-25) to sing, knowing they had not only exceptional singing talent, but also extremely well-formed Catholic liturgical knowledge (long story). Their musicianship was so good, that the congregation fell in love with the old hymns, and eventually were touched by the beautiful appropriateness of the music.

Now the 13-16 year old confirmation students attend this mass every Sunday, and even have requested this group lead the music for their confirmation mass!

Point is, the young people at this parish are leading the way and showing us the future. But those of us who have been placed in positions of authority need to keep watch over our hearts, lest pride lead us astray. AND we need to take seriously the task of training our young musicians not only in musical skills, but in the true meaning of the sacrifice of the mass and why certain types of music and certain texts are more appropriate than others.

Personally, I absolutely LOVE the song “You Are Near” - but I don’t feel it’s a song that should be sung at mass. So the children and I talk about egocentric versus Christ-centric texts, as well as our presence at Calvary at every mass.

This is a lot longer than I intended. In short, the older folks like the newer music. The young people are being drawn and trained in the older, more traditional hymns and styles. And the congregation accept and embrace this music at mass.

God bless you all!



Hi Edmundus,

When I was last in choir, we sang the hymns that you mentioned. We sang the older hymns, plus newer ones, too. There was a mix.

Have you tried talking to the Music Director or Choir Director at your parish, and just letting him/her know that you enjoy the older hymns?


Thanks for the replies and the information about your own parishes!

Of course “rarely” is a subjective term. In my parish we hear a popular traditional hymn, such as How Great thou Art, about twice a month, but for other traditional hymns it strictly never, except for one or two at Christmas, Easter and The Assumption. No “For All the Saints” on All Saints Day, or “Oh Come Oh Come Emmanual” for Advent, or “Come Down Oh Love Divine” for Pentecost, etc…

That sounds like great advice! I suspect that most people have an ear for “quality” and if the choir director is making good music then he or she will be able to persuade much of the choir and congregation. Of course, it’s not his place to impose his will on the parish arbitrarily, and you can never please everyone, but he can lead it to new musical territory, gently. He has much more credibility if he knows his material and is putting in the work.

ps. A couple of responses have come in while I was writing this. All very helpful! Thankyou! :slight_smile: :tiphat:


As a Music Director, we used all of those hymns mentioned, but they apply to specific dates in the Liturgical year. Most Directors try to align their hymns (where possible) to the readings. Sometimes the selections are many and varied, others, there seems to be not a lot of choices hat really fit.
Having said that, you just can’t sing the same hymns every week, no matter how much people love them.
Pastors lately have been steering directors away from Marian hymns unless it’s a Marian feast, for ex. Sad, but true.
I remember, years and years ago, I had a pastor ( a wonderful Irish priest) who LOVED Here I am Lord, (ugh). He asked me to play it EVERY WEEK for the processional. Needless to say it contributed to my now pathological dislike of the song. Reminds me of the Brady Bunch theme. LOL So, repetition can work against you. :o
I think Directors love to use those songs, but really…Tantum Ergo is for Adoration. Sing My Tongue is generally for Holy Thursday transferal to the Altar of Repose. Not exclusively, but Directors do reserve it for that very special time.
I know all of this is going to sound like excuses to some, but really, not all wonderful hymns fit every situation.


Hi PianistClaire,

I was recommending that Edmundus let his Choir/Music director know that he liked the older hymns, as a general comment. :slight_smile:

I know that our Music Director was always open to hearing comments from the parishioners about the choir, music, hymns, etc.

(Personally, I know that certain hymns are used only at certain times of the year, but don’t tell that to my digital keyboard here at home, where Christmas and Easter hymns are played whenever! :D)


These hymns are found in most hymnals in varying quantities, but certain hymnals cater to different musical tastes.

For example, if you like the Haugen/Haas/Schutte elevator music, go with OCP.
If you like the same vacuous theology but written by actual musicians, use GIA.
If you find OCP and GIA too traditional, try the American Catholic Hymnal (they even put the fourth verse of the Star Spangled Banner in inclusive language!).
For a mix of traditional and modern with varying degrees of orthodoxy, buy from WLP or Collegeville.
If you prefer hymns and chant, as well as following the directives of Vatican II and all recent Church documents concerning sacred music, try St. Michael, Adoremus, Vatican II, or of course, the Graduale Romanum.


Oh yes! I wasn’t directing my comment at anyone specifically. If I had it my way, we’d play Christmas carols year round! LOL In fact, I have a dear friend who plays Christmas music in her home all year. Her family has just adjusted to it. Sounds fab to me! LOL :D:D:D


I have two observations to make. The first is that the hymns in the OP would not be at all unusual in an English parish as opposed to an American one. I used to post in the music list thread and noticed a significant divergence between the two.

The second is that almost all of the beautful hymns in the OP were penned by Anglicans not Catholics, and some parishes still have a lingering resistance to using non-catholic music in the liturgy. The problem with this is that traditional Catholic hymns for the mass does not exist as hymns were not sung at until relatively recently. The unintended consequence of this, therefore, is that those parishes that resist incorporation of the vast treasure of Amglican and Methodist hymnody will be those that sound less traditional, relient as they are on modern material which ironically their congregations wrongly identify as “protestant” when the truth is that most of the banal material familiar to Catholics would never see the light of day in a traditional protestant church!


Don’t you love generalizations?
Vacuous indeed. Almost all of the pieces he listed are in GIA hymnals.
Let’s not bash Catholic hymnals, OK? We all have to work within the parameters of what a parish can afford or has in place.
All music directors pick their own music. If they feel strongly about it, there’s always sheet music available if it’s missing form the hymnal.


Thanks Gertie! That is an inspiring story, the way singing came from nothing to being very full, with music which is both musically and liturgically sound, in a short time!

Your story illustrates,perfectly, the point made by Allegra, that if there is a competent and committed leadership then good singing can be introduced. If you have the active support of your pastor then wonders can be achieved. The active support of the pastor can, I suspect, also make a practical difference with him supporting the purchase of instruments and music. When such support is given, it gives a lot of encouragement to musicians and shows the parish that they are not doing this just to please themselves.

It is somewhat disheartening for me, however, that the old people are the ones most attached to modern hymns and averse to traditional music. That is the impression I have got from my own choir and congregation (most, but not all). In my case, I don’t see much chance of changing their mind, and I don’t see any young people to champion the cause. We had briefly a young Polish priest who was a very good musician and who attempted to introduce some Latin and chant to our liturgy, and the older folk didn’t like it at all.

Have you ever your heard the old joke about liturgists and terrorists? :slight_smile: (if not, it’s easily found in google).

I’m in the choir and so I have some insight into how the style of music is selected in our parish. That is how I know that traditional music is regarded as “stuffy” or “boring”. From time to time some of us make a suggestion for a traditional hymn and we have to present a strong united front to overcome the disdain from the various “powers” (lay and clerical) to get just one through, for one occasion.

As Gertabelle observed in her parish, it is the older folk who prefer the modern hymns. At age 54 (young), and just twenty years in the parish, my voice doesn’t carry any weight (!).

The parish will always side with the choir director and senior members, because we can’t afford to lose them, and because the priests don’t care.

My plan is to stay active in the choir and bide my time. Or find another parish.



:rotfl: at some of your lines (“OCP and GIA too traditional”).

I like your list of suggestions at the end. If it ever comes to making a case with our musical directors, or, eventually, having to champion this cause this myself, then that will come in handy.

That list does remind me a bit of my original question. Why, with such wonderful resources and sound direction from the Church, do most parishes banish the old to make way for the modern? Of course I’m not against all modern music - I listen to some myself - but the balance in most parishes is all in favour of the last 40 years.


Thanks, but I do understand that! My problem is not that we don’t have “For All the Saints” in ordinary time, but that we don’t have it on All Saints Day! Also, many on my list were suitable for ordinary time, and yet we rarely hear them, and in most parishes I know “rarely” is “never”. My OP was prompted by a hymn list for the 2nd Sunday of Ordinary time which had Alleluia! Sing to Jesus, Come Down Oh Love Divine, and* Crown Him With Many Crowns*, none of which I have heard in an Australian parish. I don’t mean that I expect any of these (or my others) every week.

When I joined the CC thirty years ago we would regularly sing Soul Of My Saviour, Breath on Me Breath of God, or Firmly I Believe and Truly, a capella if necessary, but the only time I have heard any of these in the last five years was once when I had the chance to impose them on the congregation (a capella). My choice was greeted with tears by some, and scowls from the musical directors.

Soul of My Saviour, and Firmly I Believe and Truly, are two traditional hymns which seem to have been utterly banished from the Australian Catholic Church. I don’t expect to hear them every week, or every month, but, seriously it has been NEVER in the last five years in any parish Mass I’ve attended, apart from the one occasion I mentioned (where I picked them). And they haven’t been replaced by anything better (unless you consider Shine Jesus Shine or El Shaddai to be better).

If the parishes you are familiar with use the appropriate hymns for the seasons, and a selection from the traditional hymns for ordinary time, then I envy you. I hope it is a trend which spreads soon to a parish near me.

And, btw, I am not opposed to all modern music, or pop music, or folk (“gospel”) music. I welcome some, and will participate in others’ choices willingly. But I can’t understand why traditional music, such as I’ve listed, is rarely heard.


It’s true that some of those hymns are time specific.

Alleluia, Sing to Jesus we usually sing on Christ the King Sunday (His the scepter, His the crown…)

Marian hymns are usually kept for Marian feasts or for the recessional in May since the Entrance & Offertory hymns are supposed to reflect the specific Sunday (per GIRM).


The Masses in our parish (Northern Illinois) include a mix of hymns, both traditional and contemporary. Both types of hymns are well-received by our congregation . What doesn’t seem to go over well is any kind of chant. Some people like it, but the majority of people just stand there. A lot of those people are younger and have never been exposed to chant, so they truly have no idea what to do–I think that anytime chant is used in an OF Mass, the “notes” should be available so that at least the music readers can know what to do.

I agree with others that some of the hymns you listed are seasonal. However, there are plenty of other traditional hymns that are not seasonal; e.g., Joyful Joyful We Adore Thee, that could be used all year.

I suggest that you stop wondering why the traditional hymns are not used, and do a little detective work to find out why. Here on CAF, we can all offer you our theories, but we don’t know. Only your parish knows.

You’ll need to talk with the music director. I suggest inviting him/her out to a meal (your treat) and talking this over with him/her. (If the Music Director is the opposite sex from you, or gay and the same sex as you, then for propriety’s sake, you should probably make sure that another person is present, like your significant other or a relative).

Musicians are always hungry, usually short on cash, and almost always will accept an offer of a free meal! :slight_smile:

Hopefully your meeting will be friendly, and you’ll find out why you are not hearing the traditional hymns in your parish. I’m guessing that whenever the music director has used traditional hymns, there is strong negative backlash, and so he/she has decided that it’s best to use what the people seem to like. Just my guess, and I could be wrong. You need to find out the true reason. Only then can you and the music director discuss possibly phasing the traditional hymns back into some of your parish Masses.

I would be careful about “imposing songs on a congregation.” It’s very possible that something awful happened in the past in that parish, and perhaps certain songs carry really bad memories. It sounds bizarre, but it’s possible. You really want to be careful, because it will do no one any good to barge in and create a controversy.


My parish has a wide repertoire of traditional and contemporary hymns. I think one of the reasons that we don’t always use the traditional hymns is that there are only so many of them to use. If we used those hymns all the time, then people would get tired of them. You have to incorporate a variety of music to keep the people interested. I mean, I love the traditional hymns 1000x more than the newer ones, but if we sang them every Sunday, I would get tired of them. There are a lot of beautiful contemporary hymns out there. I’m on my parish’s liturgy committee, so I try to incorporate traditional hymns with appropriate contemporary hymns.



you’re definitely on to something when you say “have the support of the Pastor and the people” or something to that effect…

I can’t tell you how many times I have heard that the reason why improvements are NOT made to the music in church is because
"we can’t afford to lose so-and-so because we pay them almost nothing and they have been with us for a long time.
And yes, the older folks LOVE the new music, and balk at the older hymns.
The young folks are beginning to realize that there is a distinct reason why some of the gems have lasted so long: great melodies, conducive to prayer, and beautiful lyrics.
Something that is often only partially within some of the newer stuff. you can have a stunning melody, soaring accompaniment, and then really odd verses. :confused:
Likewise, you find beautiful prayers set to really cheap music. By cheap I mean trite, repetitive, and sing-songy.

Yes, we musicians tend to be terrorists, LOL
But hey, my parents spent a fortune on my music degree and I spent a fortune on my liturgy/theology degree. And some person wants to know why we don’t sing Amazing Grace every week? Are you kidding me?

Not you, personally, I’m just sayin…:stuck_out_tongue:

What can be done about it is to have a dialog with the Music Director as the previous poster suggested. Trouble is, some will simply not listen. I’m a musician by trade, and the last Director I met got really angry and basically told me and several other people at various times that is was HER deal and to get lost. :shrug:

We’re living in touchy times, my friend. I always insist on Alleluia Sing to Jesus as the First Communion Processional . There are some things that I can demand. :wink:

Last year they sang the Pentecost Sequence to the tune of Joyful Joyful.

"Come O Holy Spiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiiirit come.
Fear the slide…


Peace to everyone! We all have our favorites. Wouldn’t be nice if everyone’s opinion could be taken and digested without angst and drama?

As long as we humbly raise our voices, I suppose God will smile on our congregations.

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