Seeking hymns for Common Offices
  • chonakchonak
    Posts: 8,474
    This discussion was created from comments split from: Introduction.
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    Hello, I have just joined. I think this is where I introduce myself.
    I am putting together a lay Office of Readings: like the Divine Office in the Catholic Church (or Breviary), only designed for lay people. The book is a prayer book for a year; each day has a hymn, psalm, reading from scripture, non-scripture reading, and intercessions.
    I am looking for hymns for the following Common Offices:
    Doctors of the church
    A single virgin martyr
    A single woman martyr
    Men saints
    Women saints.
    Any ideas? Should I start a new discussion about this?
    I live in London, England.
  • Welcome, Keiran!

    Could you clarify, Keiran, what you're trying to do?

    What, for example, do you mean by "non-scripture reading"? Would that be one of the Church Fathers, or some other saint, or... perhaps not a saint at all, but a theologian (perhaps of a Non-Catholic confession)?

    Do you intend the book to be used in communal worship, or privately?

    Given that you use "Office of Readings" and "Divine Office", do you recognize that these two expressions represent entirely different approaches to the subject in question?

    In regard to your desired hymns, do you anticipate that they would be vernacular hymns or not?

    Yes, you could certainly start a separate thread about this.
  • Welcome Keiran!

    Here are a few advices for your most beautiful project:
    - Follow the pattern of Liturgia Horarum, with the same psalms ;
    - Whenever there is a choice, choose the more traditional options over the newer one ;
    - For Sundays and Solemnities, add the "Vigilia protracta" as an option.
  • ghmus7
    Posts: 1,289
    A great source of all the hymns for the offices is the Mundelien Psalter.
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    Answer to Chris Garton-Zavesky,

    I am interpreting "non-scripture reading" in its broadest sense: anything which helps people lead a Christian life in the world, or one which throws light on the celebration of the day. They can be from any source from the early fathers to something off the web.

    It is intended for both communal and private worship; though I have advised people saying it on their own not to sing the hymn!

    Yes, the hymns will always be in English. The book is intended for the average man in the street.

    Sorry, but I don't understand your question about Divine Office and Office of Readings. What do you mean by "different approach"?
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    General reply to others so far:

    I worked out the psalms first of all, trying to make it so that if the office is shared with a priest or someone saying the normal Divine Office, then they would not be saying the same psalm again.
    I followed the same policy with the Readings: never the same one as in the Breviary.

    Choosing hymns has been far more difficult. I tried to avoid the same hymn as the Breviary, but in some cases - Easter Octave for example - this has proved impossible. I have tried to find hymns with good, catchy, and simple tunes, which nonetheless say something. ("Peace is flowing like a river" is out.)
    Also I presume most of you know how difficult it is to find the "definitive" version of any hymn. One or two words vary in every example you can find. In the end I always used the one in the Celebration Hymnal, which is the most common one in England.
    As this book is for Mr Average, I have avoided Latin hymns.
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    Kieran : I see the logic, I don't see the market, but then I admit to not being Mr Average. I suspect that most on this forum are not your target audience.
    - the point about the "Divine Office" is a confusion caused by the different translations on either side of the Atlantic having different titles.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Kieran,

    "Office of Readings" is (at least on the western Atlantic shore) the name given to a revision of the traditional prayer of the Church because of some well-meaning reforms undertaken by Pope Paul VI and his henchmen. Before the transformation, this Office was called Matins, and consisted of either 1 or 3 nocturnes (night watches).

    Divine Office is the name for the whole of the prayers from Matins through Compline, a title which was replaced (again, on the western shore of the Atlantic) with Liturgy of the Hours.

    The most obvious difference is that one is a form of prayer and the other a form of Lectio Divina.

    Before someone else beats me to it: I urge you not to assume that Mr. Average is unable or unwilling to sing hymns in Latin.
    Thanked by 1tomjaw
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    We are, I think, wandering a bit off the point. I was hoping someone in this forum could provide me with hymns suitable for Common Offices.
    Like all members of the church with a special vocation, it is our duty to serve the general public. Given that, all hymns should normally be in English. However, the average man can sing a Latin hymn, provided the tune is good enough.
    So, back to the first question: do you know any hymns suitable for the Common Offices I have named?
  • it is our duty to serve the general public. Given that, all hymns should normally be in English.


    To provide hymns to serve the general public in the Common Office, one must understand what the search intends to find. Since Pope Paul VI noted that the congregation should be able to make all of its responses in Latin, and permitted the limited use of the vernacular, it's not self-evident that all hymns (even in the English-speaking world) should be in English.

    I'm sorry if I've wandered off the topic, but I was trying to answer your question.
    Thanked by 2tomjaw Jehan_Boutte
  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    Does this appeal? written specifically for the Office of Readings; a Holy Woman

    A god-fearing woman
    Most worthy of praise,
    Kept faith with the Lord
    Through all her life's ways.

    Her hands swift to service,
    her words true and wise;
    God's peace in her heart,
    God's love in her eyes.

    Through labours and trials
    Adoring him still,
    She mirrored the light
    of God's holy will.

    All praise to the Father,
    All praise to the Son,
    All praise to their Spirit,
    Our God, Three in One.

    ©1995 Golders Green Carmel
  • tomjaw
    Posts: 2,016
    I am also in London, we only sing English songs (hymns) a couple of times a year, thanks to Covid we did not sing any English Hymns last year, but plenty of Latin ones!

    I presume that you are looking for Songs / Hymns found in a modern song / Hymn book,
    So this site may be of use, https://hymnary.org/browse/topics
    Unfortunately this topic index does not have Office Hymns listed but you could try to find texts this way. Also it does not have very modern song books (but you can find them in dusty cupboards in your local church.

    Another option is to look in old fashioned Hymnals, c. 1880-1950
    https://forum.musicasacra.com/forum/discussion/18701/seeking-hymns-for-common-offices#Item_5
    Westminster both old and revised, Leeds, St. Andrew, The Parish Hymn book, The English Hymnal. These are all online somewhere, in these you will find translations of the Ancient Office Hymns of the Church, the first English Hymnals had many translations of Office Hymns, the second generation had mainly newly composed hymns (People sometimes call them Traditional even though they were only sang for a few years, before being dumped in favour of the new folk hymnals, which are also now being dumped.)
    Also books like this have translations of latin Hymns,
    https://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/pangelingua.pdf
    https://media.musicasacra.com/pdf/hymnsofbreviary.pdf

    Also St John Henry Newman, Neale, Caswall etc. translated large numbers of hymns and their books can be found on the internet archive.

    If I was looking for Hymns for these topics I would first look in the 1949 Antiphonale Romanum (it is online on the MusicaSacra main website) and if I did not find what I wanted I would then look in the Analecta Hymnica a 56 volume collection of the Hymns used in the middle ages (and before). Of course these would all be in Latin, but you could then look for metrical translations.

    Of course what you are doing has been done before, The publisher Burns, Oates and Washbourne produced a series of popular editions of the various parts of the Divine office, these used translations made by the Abbey of Stanbrook, and had the original latin and English translation side by side. The edition below was in print from 1914 to at least 1935 (the date of my edition).
    https://archive.org/details/the_day_hours_of_the_church/page/n1/mode/2up
  • @Keiran I had to read through a couple of times to understand what you're doing.

    Is this a fair description? You're compiling a "book of days" for lay use, each day of which will be in the same form (hymn, psalm, scripture, non-scripture, intercessions), and it will in some way follow the liturgical calendar.

    I think what you are doing is not excerpting or simplifying the Church's daily office, neither in the older form (Breviary or Officium Divinum etc) nor the newer (Daily Office or Liturgy of the Hours etc) but making something new, if analogous. As @Jehan_Boutte above said, this is a beautiful project.

    I agree that vernacular hymns should be used. For publication you will have to either give references to modern books or copy from older books, because of copyright. Which to choose, including the excellent suggestions above, I think depends on the audience. And we could know that better if you posted some examples, especially of your choices of non scriptural texts and your wording of the intercessions.

    Directly to your question: what do you mean by "Commons"? Are you designing this book so that on some (or all?) Saints days in the calendar, there is a common Day to use? Or will it track the Liturgia Horarum exactly, so that when that takes from its Commons, you will too from yours?

    Great project, looking forward to seeing it.
  • Kieran,

    Not to press the point too much, but hymns for a common office could be organized around various principles, so the lack of specific response may be partly because of that. This morning, for example, we celebrate the Conversion of St Paul. Since this festival is a 3rd class feast, the hymns at Prime, Tierce, Sexte, and Compline won't take account of St. Paul's conversion, but of the time of day. At Lauds this morning, the hymn was the common of Apostles, but Matins had its own hymn, unique to this feast.

    If you're hoping for a hymn for Doctors, for example, and if it should be in English, why not use a good, poetic translation of a hymn which already exists for that purpose? On the other hand, since there are now women doctors of the Church, do you propose a different hymn for each doctor, or distinct hymns for men and women doctors?


    [Chris, I do think these questions are starting to get in the way. If you feel you need all this clarification before you can assist, then it's all right to let other people step up to the task.--admin]
  • Richard MixRichard Mix
    Posts: 2,255
    read through a couple of times to understand what you're doing.

    I do agree that in this case a thousand-word example might be worth more than a slightly fuzzy picture ;-)
    Thanked by 1Andrew_Malton
  • See Hymns for Prayer and Praise
    by John Harper (Editor), Canterbury Press Norwich; Melody edition (December 15, 2011)

    Hardcover : 640 pages
    ISBN-10 : 1848250622
    ISBN-13 : 978-1848250628

    This is the best IMO.
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    I haven’t worked out how to answer individual posts, so this is a reply in chronological order.

    Chris Garton-Zavesky : Please note that in spite of what you say, all the hymns in the Breviary are in English. Translations are even given for the final anthem to Our Lady, though I’ve only heard them sung in Latin.

    a_f_hawkins: Yes, just what I was after. Thanks. I’ll contact Golders Green carmel about it. (Actually I am not too far from them to visit.) Do you know of any hymns for the other topics I suggest? Or even another for women saints.

    tomjaw : Yes, I have searched through the internet, including hymnary, and books like the Westminster hymnal. In spite of that, I am left without the 5 types of hymn I need, as I said I do not want to copy the Breviary. The media.musicasacra links are new to me. I’ll try them, thanks.

    Andrew_Malton : I’ve attached a pdf of the introduction to Volume 1. This should answer most of your questions. I have given hymns for all Class A feasts, and some for Class B (like e.g. St Paul's Conversion). This means I have to have some common hymns for say, apostles Simon and Jude. I have found hymns like these in old books and on the internet, all except the 5 types I mention.

    Chris Garton-Zavesky (again): That’s the whole point! There isn’t a good hymn for doctors. I am not proposing separate hymns for each doctor of the church, but some general ones. The hymn will have to be written so the singer can say “he” or “she” as appropriate.

    Richard Mix: The attached pdf should answer your question.

    Paul F. Ford : I’ll have a look, thanks.


  • a_f_hawkins
    Posts: 2,407
    I second Paul F Ford. The latest edition seems to be currently on good offer https://canterburypress.hymnsam.co.uk/books/9781848250635/hymns-for-prayer-and-praise
    Thanked by 1GerardH
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    Hymns for Prayer and Praise has just arrived. It seems to cover most of what I am looking for. Will review it and let you know.
    I am still open to other suggestions, except that I have found there is no Office for a single non-virgin woman martyr in the General or UK Calendar. The only woman martyrs we have were killed in groups.
  • Keiran
    Posts: 13
    I have written a hymn for doctors of the church in prose form. Do anyone know how I find a poet or songwriter who can turn it into verse and set it to music?
  • Wouldn't the switching of pronouns in hymns damage the distinction between men and women? Sure, pronouns are employed appropriately in Baptism, but that's not really the same thing.