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July 8, 2021

Coming Back to Missals

Coming Back to Missals


As part of the OCP family, I get to talk with people who have all kinds of thoughts about our missals. There are the composers who write the music, the experts in the company who evaluate it and of course the people who use it in the liturgy. The message I give all these different groups is the same: Missals are a way to better serve the needs of the people of God. Here at OCP, we want missals to reflect the best practices of music ministers and our composers here in the United States.

Every year, out of the thousands of songs that OCP and other liturgical publishers have in our catalogs, only a relatively small subset are in common use. In parishes, a small number of songs enter our repertoires and an equally small number leave. The beauty of the missal is that this happens almost organically—and is not imposed by OCP. Rather, the popularity of the suggested additions and the lower usage of songs that need to retire are determined by the people of God from all over the country. This is better than shifting to a completely new program at the drop of a hat.

It is rare for OCP to cut a popularly used song from any of its missals. This can happen for all kinds of reasons—some of them theological, especially with input from those who have a responsibility to maintain the authentic teaching of the Church. Other choices involve an evaluation of a song’s text or music in our current context. Sometimes a song that was wonderful and served well for a generation doesn’t age well and no longer serves the needs of the community.

But it is not just the Church as a whole that is “at the same time holy and always in need of being purified, always follows the way of penance and renewal” (Lumen Gentium, 8). Each diocese, each parish community follows the Church on this path of penance and renewal. And so now, as we come back from this time away, is a good time to take a step back and consider how we can better serve our communities. Here are a few questions to ask about your community’s resources:

  • Has the community increased its love of the daily celebration of the Eucharist? If so, consider providing them with copies of Today’s Missal with Daily Readings. Schools can also benefit from this missal since it has readings for every day of the week. Learning to read, learning to sing, learning to listen—all of this can be done with a missal.
  • Have the demographics of the community changed? Do you have a larger number of people who want to hear new composers like Sarah Hart and Steve Angrisano while still having access to some of the best of the tradition? Then Choose Christ Missal is for you. High schools, colleges and groups that minister to younger adults should likewise look at this missal.
  • Has the community expressed a desire for more traditional music? Well then, we have Heritage Missal for you. Not only does this missal feature the best of traditional hymnody, it also includes newly added tones for chanting antiphons and more Latin responses. There are wonderful composers currently writing in traditional hymn style, and so Heritage will continue to grow and have the best of these new compositions.
  • What about the different languages spoken in your community? Praying and singing in your own language can be crucial to feeling at home, even in a new country. Having bilingual or Spanish missals and music resources is not just a kindness—it is part of what it means to be a truly Christian community. Hospitality is at the heart of the Gospel. Perhaps you need a supply of bilingual or Spanish-language missals like Unidos en Cristo/United in Christ or Missal del Día.

While there may be one missal in your pews for all to share, a mix of missal products can help to serve the broader community. Remember, too, that this mixing of missals can be done because OCP works diligently to keep keys and texts the same across our whole missal family, with guitar, keyboard, choral and at times solo instrument resources all working together.

OCP is committed to helping you in making good choices for your community. As manager of all our Worship Publications, I would be happy to work with you, to show you the ways that our missals have grown and changed with the Church over the years. There are so many great new songs, and some classic hymns and chants that have been added to the program. It would be my pleasure to work with you and our parish consultants to find the right mix for your community. Give us a call, and we’ll set up a review session tailored to your needs.

Welcome back to church. You were missed!

Wade Wisler

Glenn CJ Byer has written widely on the liturgy, including articles on the meaning of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, marriage preparation, the renovation of churches and the anointing of the sick. He speaks widely on the role of lay ministers in the Mass.