August 15, 2016

What you sing and how you sing it on Sunday mornings is about to get more fine tuning. The Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops has launched a search for hymns, songs, chants and Mass settings to include in a new national hymnal.

The CCCB plans to replace the Catholic Book of Worship III in 2018. Composers have until Nov. 30 to get their hymns, psalms and Mass settings into the National Liturgy Office in Ottawa.

The green CBW III is now more than 20 years old, having first hit the presses in 1994. It has been made obsolete by two separate changes to the liturgy in English-speaking Canada.

About the time the CBW III was published, Canadian parishes began using the New Revised Standard Version of the Bible for all the liturgical readings, including the Psalms. The change had been approved by the Vatican's Congregation for Divine Worship in 1992, but in 1994 the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith objected.

The conflict over Roman approvals was finally resolved in 2007.

The result has been that all the psalm settings in CBW III are a different translation from the psalms in the Canadian Lectionary.

The second change was the new English translation of the Roman Missal ordered by Rome and put into practice in 2011. This change rendered most CBW III Mass settings, including acclamations and responses, obsolete.

New hymnals are always controversial, and the committee selecting music for the new book has already heard some grumbling.

"When we said a new hymnal, they erroneously thought we're just throwing all traditions out the window and we're just going all brand-spanking new," said Leo Marchildon who chairs the hymnal selection committee.

Marchildon's committee aims to please the whole range of congregations and choirs with everything from plainchant to guitar-based hymns. "I want the book to be very useful for all, regardless of what your musical forces are in your parish."

Marchildon is aware that some are still unhappy with the 1994 hymnal.

"Some of the hymns within CBW III were not met uniformly with appreciation," Marchildon said. "Some of the stuff didn't catch on.

"There was some stuff in CBW II that was dropped and shouldn't have been - just for a few words here or there, inclusive language for instance."

The L'Arche Hymn (Lord Jesus, Of You I Will Sing), translated from French in 1970, was dropped because of a reference to "brothers."

"Well, there's no need to talk about brothers," said Marchildon. You just have 'our neighbours' and change it, and you get that wonderful hymn back."


The CCCB hopes for something uniquely Canadian.

"Regarding Canadian content, this is always desirable," Msgr. Murray Kroetsch, consultant to the National Liturgy Office on the new hymnal, wrote in an email. "However, when it comes to the composition of liturgical music, Canada has not produced a large body of hymnody."

However, all of the responsorial psalms will be Canadian and several of the Mass settings will likely be by Canadian composers, Kroetsch said.