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The Mundelein Psalter

Frequently Asked Questions

Frequently Asked Questions About The Mundelein Psalter

What is the Mundelein Psalter and why have you published it?

The Mundelein Psalter was published to respond to the growing need expressed by parishes, seminaries and religious communities for an edition of Morning Prayer, Evening Prayer and Night Prayer that would facilitate singing the office in a communal setting.

The General Instruction of the Liturgy of the Hours encourages singing the Office, especially when celebrated communally (cf. ¶267-274), yet until now no official English-language edition, arranged for chanting, has been available. What’s more, none of the previous English editions provide the hymns from the typical edition, chosen by the Church herself, for each particular hour and celebration.

Moreover, Vatican II insisted strongly that Vespers should be celebrated in parishes: “Pastors of souls should see to it that the principal hours, especially Vespers, are celebrated in common in church on Sunday and on the more solemn feasts. The laity, too, are encouraged to recite the divine office, either with the priests, or among themselves, or even individually.” (Sacrosanctum Concilium, 100)  To this end, greater care has been taken in the preparation of TheMundelein Psalter, so that the offices on the Sundays, Solemnities, Dedication of a Church, and for the Dead may be celebrated without having to turn from one section of the Psalter to another for the hymns and Gospel Canticles.

Why are the psalm-prayers not included in The Mundelein Psalter?

Psalm-prayers are not included in the typical edition (edition typica altera), and while they are included in the U.S. edition of the Liturgy of Hours, they are optional. Their inclusion in The Mundelein Psalter would have added to the bulk of the volume.

What is the difference between Gregorian chant and other forms of chant?

In English, we are dealing with “cantilation” (heightened form of speech that uses melodic patterns to serve the Word of God)— these patterns that have been passed down from time immemorial, and have served the adorning of Scriptural and other sacred texts in Hebrew, Latin, and Greek, and now in English.  These patterns are common to all forms of chant, families of chant melodies, in the West, and many in the East.

The requirements of the language determine how the melodic patterns serve the sacred texts.  The blending together of text and melody is called the “art” of cantilation.  The two-volume Sacred Bridge by Eric Werner provides a detailed treatment for those interested in learning more.

How the art of cantilation is applied to specific texts has had similarities and differences in various geographical languages.  Hence, various “families” of cantilation developed over the centuries.  These “families” are more remarkable for their similarities than their differences, although they may have specific “family” characteristics. 

To find out more, consult the Catholic Encyclopedia and the Grove Dictionary of Music.

What is the Invitatory and where can I find it?

The Invitatory is the verse which begins the day’s sequence of prayer (“Lord, open my lips. And my mouth will proclaim your praise.”) It is generally followed by Psalm 95 with an antiphon appropriate to the season.

The Invitatory Psalm may be omitted when praying Morning Prayer. The number and variety of seasonal antiphons and psalms made it impossible to include them in the one-volume psalter.

The Invitatory verse can be found on page 370. It is required for Morning Prayer on Easter Sunday. For the convenience of those who wish to begin Morning Prayer with the Invitatory,  a card which may be reproduced is available by clicking here.

What is the source of the hymns?

The Latin hymns are taken from the second typical edition (editio typica altera), of the Liturgy of the Hours. (The “typical” edition is the Vatican’s official Latin version.) Most of these hymn come from revered, ancient texts composed by the Fathers and theologians of the Church. The hymns are appropriate to the specific hours and should be sung in their entirety.

The English language translations used in The Mundelein Psalter come from a variety of sources, most notably the Sisters of St. Cecilia’s Abbey on the Isle of Wight who have graciously provided the texts.

Why are two hymns given for each hour, one in Latin the other in English?

The Latin texts are provided for those who would like to chant the hymns in that language and foster the tradition of Latin hymnody. In most cases, the English translations may be sung to the same traditional Latin tune.

Why do the verses of the English hymns not rhyme?

The response to this question must acknowledge the implicit suggestion that one expects the verses to rhyme. English hymnody generally employs rhyme for the sake of memorization as well as the delight of sound. However, this expectation does not exist in Latin. Not all of the hymns rhyme in the typical edition of the Liturgy of the Hours.

Hymns were originally introduced into the Divine Office in order to keep the orthodox faith on the lips of Catholics. The chant melodies are designed to foster one’s meditation of the sentiment of the text. They should be sung with attention to the meaning of words. In other words, the music is for the sake of the text; in chant music is at the service of the word: to sustain it, to lift it up, to honor it.

The translation of Latin hymns into English requires the labor of people with a variety of specialized competencies: Latinists, theologians, musicians and poets. As the Church reclaims the treasury of sacred music, scholars with these gifts we will necessary.

What hymn tunes can be used?  What is Long Meter?

Most of the hymns in The Mundelein Psalter are arranged to be sung in Long Meter. Long Meter indicates that in each hymn there are 8 syllables per line, with a four-line stanza.  The stress of each line alternates between weak and strong: ././././   Perhaps the most commonly known Long Meter tune is Old Hundredth. Another frequently used tune is called Iesu, dulcis memoria.

The meter of each hymn is indicated in parentheses after the Latin title. eg. (l.m.); (87.87); etc.

How is the pointing of the texts done?

This edition of the Liturgy of Hours is pointed in the simplest possible fashion. The italicized syllable indicates in which place the pitch first changes. The last note of each mode corresponds to the final accented syllable of each verse.

Why do you use the square notes rather than modern musical notion?

The square notes or Gregorian notation is one of the most ancient forms of musical notation. Beyond its antiquity, this notation is the simplest form, once one understand how it works. One does not need to be a professional musician or even proficient in reading music to use it.

All that is required is that one know the diachronic scale: do-re-mi-fa-sol-la-ti-do. The Do Clef indicates on which line “do” is located; the Fa Clef indicates the “fa.”  Any pitch can be used as a starting note.

May we photocopy these texts?

Photocopying of the Mundelein Psalter is prohibited. The material in this edition is copyrighted by several groups and individuals who have not authorized the free reproduction of their work.

In addition, the distribution of photocopied texts and handouts defeat the value of using resources for public prayer that are worthy of the liturgy. A dignified edition which is not simply discarded after the service, on the other hand, shows respect for the Word of God and offers to the faithful a resource which is noble, beautiful and significant.

Is there an accompaniment book for the hymns?

An accompaniment for the hymnal, psalm tones and Ordinary of the Office is in preparation and may be ordered directly from the Liturgical Institute. (847.837.4542)

Will a separate hymnal be published?

We recognize the value and importance of a hymnal that would include all of the hymns for the Office. At this time, we are exploring the possibility of producing a separate edition of hymns for the Divine Office.

Our parish is interested in singing Sunday Vespers, but not in singing the other hours. Will there be an edition that includes only those psalms?

There is no plan to produce a volume for Sunday Vespers alone. We applaud the efforts of parish communities to celebrate Sunday Vespers and hope that the Sunday celebration would lead to more frequent celebration of the Office; we intend this edition to be a volume that can be used as communities grow into a deeper appreciation for this prayer.

The Mundelein Psalter includes services for Sundays and Solemnities and has arranged them in such a way as to minimize moving between sections of the volume. It also includes the Office for the Dead in a format that facilitates participation.

The antiphons before each psalm use the same musical tone as the psalm; why did you not provide through-composed antiphons?

In contemporary culture, the use of plainchant is virtually unknown. At one time most Catholics were familiar with chant and how to sing it. In our context today, what is required is an re-introduction to the beauty of chant and how it functions.The Mundelein Psalter was designed to facilitate the participation of the widest variety of people without presenting a form so sophisticated that it would be intimidating to new users. As communities become more familiar with chant, we hope to develop an edition with through-composed antiphons.

In the future, some through-composed verses will be posted at for communities that are interested in more sophisticated chants.

Why does this edition not include the hymns that can be found in other editions such as Christian Prayer and the four volume Liturgy of the Hours?

Most of the hymns provided in other editions of the Divine Office are readily available in standard American hymnals. The Mundelein Psalter offers the official hymns assigned to each canonical hour.

Does this edition use inclusive language?

The Mundelein Psalter uses the approved English-language translation of the psalms. This makes it possible for whole assembly to prayer with the Church.  In no instance has the language been modified.

What translation of the psalms does the Mundelein Psalter use?

The Mundelein Psalter uses the (unrevised) Grail translation of the psalms, approved for use in Catholic liturgy.

Why are the Office of Readings and Daytime prayer not included?

The editors decided to develop a one-volume edition that would be accessible and serviceable for the majority of Catholic parishes, seminaries and religious communities. Note that the General Instruction highlights that “morning prayer and evening prayer, should receive greater prominence through the use of singing.” (272). Including the Office of Reading and the various Daytime prayers would have rendered this edition too costly and unwieldy. 

Is the concluding prayer preceded by “Let us pray”?

At Lauds and Vespers, the concluding prayer follows immediately after the Lord’s Prayer. The “Let us pray” is not said. At Compline, the “Let us pray” is said in communal celebrations.

How are the readings to be introduced?

The short readings in the office, called “capitula” are proclaimed without introduction, ie. “A reading from…” Similarly, the conclusion, “The Word of the Lord,” is not said.

What postures and gestures are used during the celebration of the Hours?

Standing: All stand for the opening verse and the hymn. Local custom will determine whether the participants are seated for the psalmody.

All stand for the Gospel Canticle (after all, it is the Gospel).

Sign of the Cross: The Sign of the Cross is made three times during the celebration: 1) at the opening verse (when the Invitatory is used, the Cross is traced on the lips), 2) at the beginning of the Gospel Canticle, and 3) when receiving a final blessing.

Sitting: In general, the assembly is seated for the recitation of the psalms, during the reading and responsory.

Bowing: A profound bow is made at the singing of the doxlogy. This includes the doxology of the Opening Verse, the Hymn as well as the Psalms and Canticles.

In addition, the Roman rite provides for a slight bow of the head at the name of Jesus, the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Patronal Saint of the place, and the saint of the day.

Where can I find information on what feast is to be celebrated on a given day?

The US Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy has prepared a liturgical calendar for each year that is available online.

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