Let’s hear the wisdom of the general public on this question: How many hymns should a hymnal have to stimulate congregational participation?
Regular Pray Tell commenter Tom Poelker recently said this:
Bigger hymnals are, in my opinion, detrimental to congregational participation.
Besides the Psalter, I think most US RC parishes could be served by about fifty hymns carefully selected, not for being of the very highest musical quality but for the likelihood [based on past experience] that most of the congregation will actually attempt to sing them.
Msgr. Richard Schuler of Latin High Mass fame at St. Agnes in St. Paul (entirely Paul VI back then, now they alternate 1962 and Vatican II) held a similar view. He never put a big hymnal in the pews at St. Agnes. He thought the small collection of hymns in the missalette from Collegeville was more than enough.
It’s not only Msgr. Schuler and the liturgical trads. The esteemed liturgical scholar Mark Searle at the University of Notre Dame used to make a similar point. He wrote about how well the tiny congregation at his Eastern Catholic parish in South Bend sang the entire liturgy because they knew it by heart. “Who are all these new songs being written for?” he used to ask.
There are many aspects to this question, obviously. Let’s have a good discussion of it at Pray Tell.
**Note: the question is not “Who thinks that only propers should be sung because strophic hymns are unliturgical and non-Catholic and illegal?” Any comments about propers will be deleted. That’s another question for another day. The question is: how many hymns should be in the hymnal to serve congregations that sing hymns?