“Father, these are beautiful!” “Father, we love the new “books.” “We think this is the last piece of our puzzle!” These were the kinds of things that were said to me as I recently greeted the faithful after a Sunday Mass in little St. Leo Catholic Church in rural Alabama. The historic parish had just completed a wonderful “liturgically-informed” renovation—one in keeping with the Church’s norms and informed by principles of her long tradition—and had over the last year become particularly adept at identifying when something was (or was not) suitable for the sacred liturgy. What a moment of joy it was when the people’s unsolicited acclamation proudly confirmed that their new Missals, the 2022 Ignatius Pew Missal, was “the last missing piece.”
The bar had been set quite high because of the new intricately detailed wood furnishings and several impressive murals. You see, there was a new standard for this rejuvenated congregation and this worship aid was just the thing.
What is immediately impressive about the 2022 Ignatius Pew Missal, and in contrast to other annual productions, is that the entire book is printed on crisp white paper. Thus, the entire publication lends itself to more of a sense of permanence than resources that had been in previous use. The welcome connotation is that this is “meant to be here,” accomplishing one of the primary goals of the editors.
Much more than a hymnal, the Missal contains musical versions of the Propers, which are increasingly being recovered as something intrinsic to Catholic worship. Generations young and old, including over 300 parishes and high schools in the country, have found that these easily singable settings of the Entrance and Communion Antiphons really do facilitate with great ease the assembly’s participation. The tones fall easily on the ear and are easily repeatable after only a single hearing. The patterns of cantillation as have come down to us from the sounds of the Hebrew, Aramaic, and Latin traditions are intentionally preserved in what emerge as a distinctly sacred sound in these chants.
At the fingertips of the whole assembly are solemn and worthy settings to accompany two of the liturgical processions of the Mass. Benedictine Father Samuel F. Weber has once again done what he does best in providing these settings as well as the beautiful responsorial psalms, gospel acclamations, and many of the English chants that appear in the hymnody section.
The Missal works well in parish and school settings because the complete texts of the Biblical readings are not only included, but also attractively formatted. For many parishes, the inclusion of the biblical readings is a nonnegotiable priority, and the way the text is printed in this resource is both clear and inviting. The various fonts which are used in conjunction with a two-colored print schema which make this book among the most user-friendly that I have encountered.
The professional design is contemporary. However, the serious tone of the presentation makes the use of Gregorian notation a logical conclusion. While the notation style is still often unfamiliar to some, the format helps these singable tunes to be followed along with as they are demonstrated by a cantor, even for the very first time. The serene tonality of most of the antiphons makes use of a limited musical vocabulary, ensuring that a congregation would have most of the antiphons “in their ear” after only a few short weeks.
The Propers and readings are provided in their entirety for all Sundays and solemnities. Equally beneficial are the features which have been included as a liturgical aid for weekday Masses. There is included a non-musical section in which the daily Propers are printed and lectionary citations are referenced.
The hymnody section of this Missal is indeed very worthy as well. The editors at Ignatius Press (in collaboration with the Augustine Institute) have done an extremely admirable job in evaluating the repertoire against what the Church would ask with regard to her hymnody. The 286 hymns in the Ignatius Pew Missal constitute a healthy corpus of what would generally be considered traditional hymnody. However, included among them are some more recent compositions that are often useful in pastoral circumstances, such as funerals or weddings, which is an added benefit of the Ignatius Pew Missal, since many if not all parishes frequently rely on these compositions throughout the liturgical year.
I confess that I was not overly optimistic in 2003 when the new St. Michael Hymnal (Saint Boniface Press) arranged their hymns in alphabetical order. Based solely on my own experience in parish music, I thought that I preferred hymns sorted according to theme or liturgical season to this seeming innovation. However, with the changing face of liturgical planning, my further experience has revealed that it is only a very rare occasion when I am actually seeking a hymn thematically or seasonally. The 2022 Ignatius Pew Missal, which also places these hymns in alphabetical order, recognizes the realities for both the modern worship planner and those among the faithful standing in the pews trying to find a hymn after the organ has already started the introduction. With the Ignatius Pew Missal, no more are the days of hunting for the index!
The Order of Mass with sung notation establishes the tone for the rest of the book and thus proves itself as not only a complete liturgical missal, but also valuable as a teaching tool for parishes, schools, or even in the home. A healthy selection of musically desirable Ordinary Settings, both chant-based and free-composed settings, round out the repertoire. Traditional devotional prayers, an Order for Stations of the Cross, and the Rite of Eucharistic Exposition and Benediction make this a complete resource for any Catholic parish.
The 2022 Ignatius Pew Missal is an excellent step forward and a timely publication as we continue to strive to faithfully implement the liturgical vision of the Second Vatican Council, an emphasis that continues to be reiterated from the Holy Father himself. It literally hits “all the notes” and so I enthusiastically recommend it as among the strongest contemporary resources for use in the sacred liturgy.
I recently assisted on a pilgrimage to a seminary for university students in our diocese. At the time, I knew that writing this review was on my “to-do list.” So, when two young men on the bus pulled out their copies of the Ignatius Pew Missal to pray and prepare for Mass, I smiled and thought to myself: “Those good people of St. Leo’s were absolutely right. Ignatius Press’s new missal really does ‘cut the mustard.’”