How the Ignatius Pew Missal is bringing chant, sacred hymns to parishes

The aim of the Ignatius Pew Missal, says editor Br. Elias Guadalupe Ford, is to provide a resource to help the average parish “follow the documents and the desires of the Church, but in a way that’s more accessible.”

For several decades there has been a disconnect in many parishes between the directives of the Church and the music sung at Mass. And for a long time it didn’t seem likely or even feasible to change this state of affairs. One problem was the prevailing unawareness of what the Second Vatican Council actually said on this subject. While it is true that Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy (1963), did expand the kinds of music allowed in liturgical celebrations, it did so only in a limited sense: “so long as they accord with the spirit of the liturgical action,” with sacred polyphony being specifically mentioned as a prime example (no. 116). Rather than reflecting on the whole section on sacred music in the Constitution, attention focused on the phrase about expansion.

Likewise, most Catholics today don’t know that the General Introduction to the Roman Missal (20111) still prioritizes the use of antiphons in the options it gives for music for the Entrance and Communion. A “suitable song” is given only as the final of four options in which antiphons predominate, and yet songs have all but replaced antiphons in most parishes today.

What has been completely overlooked by most parishes is the “inestimable value” the Council saw in “the musical tradition of the universal Church”; it was deemed a “treasure…greater even than that of any other art,” which was “to be preserved and fostered with great care” (112, 114). Also disregarded was the preeminence given to Gregorian chant; that same Constitution describes Gregorian chant as “specially suited to the Roman liturgy” and directs that “it should be given pride of place in liturgical services” (no. 116).

Beyond that, most Catholics today are unfamiliar, and even uncomfortable, with Latin. Yet, because Gregorian chant melodies are meant to work in tandem with the words, simply applying Latin melodies to translated texts usually does not work well.

Altogether, this widespread ignorance of Church documents and unfamiliarity with both chant and Latin texts have made it impractical if not impossible for the average parish to align itself with the Church’s

directives on music for the Mass.

That is, until the Ignatius Pew Missal came along.

The Pew Missal team

Father Samuel Weber, OSB first proposed the idea of a pew missal with simple entrance and communion antiphon chants to Father Joseph Fessio, SJ, founder and editor of Ignatius Press [which publishes CWR]. With an extensive education in liturgical music and extensive experience in teaching and composing it, Father Weber had already composed a great many Gregorian chants to accompany English texts for such Ignatius publications as The Proper of the Mass for Sundays and Solemnities, and the Mass settings for the new translation of the Roman Missal in the Adoremus hymnal.

Fr. Samuel F. Weber, O.S.B., Composer (Image:

Ignatius Press welcomed the proposal and partnered with the Augustine Institute, which has connections with many parishes, to make the idea of an Ignatius Pew Missal a reality.

Along with Father Weber, who composed the majority of the English chants for the Ignatius Pew Missal (IPM), another important collaborator in its production has been the editor, Brendon Ford, himself a former parish music director. In August 2017, Mr. Ford became Brother Elias Guadalupe Ford, a Dominican novice for the Province of the Holy Name of Jesus. Brother Elias has been granted special permission by his superiors to continue working on the project, at least until the Spanish version comes out this fall.

The most recent addition to the team is Paul Senz, a prolific Catholic writer whose work includes quite a few articles for Catholic World Report, and who is also serving as sales manager for the IPM.

Goals of the IPM

The aim of the IPM, Brother Elias told Catholic World Report, is to provide a resource to help the average parish “follow the documents of the Church and the desires of the Church, but in a way that’s more accessible.” The IPM does this in three main ways.

The IPM, first of all, helps the average parish learn and utilize Gregorian chant by providing the Entrance and Communion antiphons for every Sunday and solemnity of the year, set to simple, easy-to-sing Gregorian chant melodies, most of which were adapted or composed by Father Weber to work well with the English texts.

It also includes many Latin chants, such as “Attende Domine,” “Ave Maria,” “Ave Verum Corpus,” “Ecce Panis Angelorum,” and “Salve Regina.” Brother Elias explained, “In 1974, Pope Paul VI sent a letter with an accompanying booklet to every bishop of the world called Jubilate Deo. This booklet included a sort of ‘core-repertoire’ list of Gregorian chants, chants that Latin-Rite Catholics should know. Unfortunately, it’s been largely ignored. But we’ve included all of those chants in the Ignatius Pew Missal.”

Secondly, the IPM includes a selection of carefully chosen hymns. The IPM team recognized that including several hundred hymns, as most hymnals do, does not actually promote congregational singing, since, Brother Elias says, “Nobody’s going to learn that many.”

“We chiseled it down to about 200 hymns to encourage music directors and parishes to focus on a small repertoire and learn that repertoire well,” he explains.

They made a point to choose good hymns, without any faulty theology. The selection includes well-known hymns (such as “Crown Him with Many Crowns” and “Praise to the Lord”), hymns they felt people should know (e.g., “Come Down, O Love Divine” and “Soul of My Savior”), and a small number of popular-styled contemporary works (e.g., “Here I Am, Lord”).

They included some of these popular-styled songs because again one of their chief aims is to produce a resource that is accessible to the average parish, as Brother Elias explains:

If you produce a parish music resource, full of beautiful chants and hymns, the average American parish is probably going to reject it. They’re not used to that. For the last 40-50 years, we’ve had something different, as far as music goes. So we’re trying to bring people to a higher level of music and encourage their singing, but also meet them where they are. We want to give them something that they’re going to embrace, they’re going to love. So we have some hymns in there that we wouldn’t include in the ideal situation, but we can meet them where they are, and then from there introduce them into the beauty of the Catholic music tradition.

Third, the IPM provides not just beautiful and liturgy-worthy music, but as an annual missalette, it also includes the Order of Mass, the Sunday and feast-day readings, weekday Psalm responses and scriptural citations, and some additional prayers.

“Rather than a hard-cover hymnal, or in addition to a hymnal, to complement it, a lot of parishes want an annual or semi-annual paperback resource,” Brother Elias points out, “because they like to have the readings and Propers laid out for the year, so people can read along.”

An additional selling point is that, at $3.98 per copy (for 50 or more copies), Brother Elias says, “To this day it’s the most economically priced of all the subscription-based missalettes.”

Now in Spanish

The first Ignatius Pew Missal was released in 2014, so some CWR readers may already be using it in their parishes. The latest news is that the IPM team is working hard to release a Spanish version by Advent 2018.

While the English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal came out in 2011, there was no single Spanish translation for official use in the United States, until very recently. The USCCB has approved a Spanish translation of the Roman Missal, the Misal Romano, for use in Spanish Masses in the United States, to be implemented by Advent 2018. Brother Elias describes the need well:

We’ve had a lot of different Spanish translations of many of the Mass texts floating around in the United States, because we have so many different Spanish-speaking communities, each from countries with different translations. Here in California, the biggest contingent is of Mexicans and Central Americans, but in Florida you have huge Cuban and Venezuelan populations; in New York you have a lot of Dominicans and Puerto Ricans. So there hasn’t been much unity for many of the texts of the Mass in Spanish-speaking parishes, especially the Ordinaries. So this Missal will be great because it will unify all the parishes with one translation for Spanish-speakers in the United States.

The Spanish version of the IPM will essentially follow the same model as the English version. There are different melodies for the chants, still easily sing-able, but this time specifically suited to the Spanish texts.

Growing demand

The Ignatius Pew Missal has been greeted with open arms, garnering a much higher demand than expected from the start—a demand that is continually growing: sales have doubled in a few short years.

The response from parishes utilizing the IPM has been very positive. Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle, Washington, for example, adopted the IPM in 2015. Several months later, the parish’s director of music, Matthew Loucks, wrote the following review:

Our parish began using the Ignatius Pew Missal this past Advent with incredible results! As a congregation, we are now all singing together the proper Antiphons for each Mass. The layout is exceptional; the Mass settings are beautiful and accessible; and the hymns chosen are perfect! The square notes are so much easier to read for the congregation. This resource was indispensable this past Holy Week; I could not be more pleased. I highly recommend it!

When asked by CWR if using the IPM had increased congregational singing, Loucks replied, “Absolutely! Without a doubt.” He described the feedback from the parishioners as “overwhelmingly positive” and added that the IPM “is not only beautiful to sing from, it is beautiful to behold.”

The Ignatius Pew Missal website has a wealth of information, including planning guides, FAQs, the list of hymns, an informational video, and more. Orders can be placed at the website not only for the congregational edition, but also for the choir and organ books. Brother Elias noted, “We have complete organ accompaniments and cantor parts, as well as polyphonic settings for soprano, alto, tenor, and bass parts.”



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About Jeanette Flood 17 Articles
Jeanette Flood is a freelance writer living in Ohio with her husband and their six children. After graduating from Franciscan University of Steubenville, she received her M.A. from the Catholic University of America. Her book Eight Ways of Loving God: As Revealed by God, was published by Ignatius Press in 2019.


  1. “and a small number of popular-styled contemporary works (e.g., “Here I Am, Lord”).

    “They included some of these popular-styled songs because again one of their chief aims is to produce a resource that is accessible to the average parish, as Brother Elias explains”

    I understand his reasoning, but unfortunately where they are is wallowing in nauseating pap. And I can just see some parish music directors using nothing but the “popular-styled contemporary works.”

  2. I just checked. Those popular-styled contemporary works include:
    Be Not Afraid
    Blest are They
    Gift of Finest Wheat
    Hail Mary, Gentle Woman
    Here I Am, Lord
    I Am The Bread of Life
    Morning Has Broken
    On Eagles’ Wings
    Prayer of Saint Francis
    Shepherd Me, O God
    You Are Mine

    Which reminds me of these:

  3. Awesome article about the IPM! I do hope this endeavor will enjoy explosive success! (hopefully exploding the chokehold and de facto monopoly on parish music that is exerted by the three of four major publishers (OCP, GIA, WLP, etc.)

    Despite my sympathy for meeting people where they are through bringing accessible music to them (e.g. “easy-to-sing Gregorian chant melodies…to work well with the English texts.”), I cannot help but to still feel a little saddened by the abandonment of the ancient Gregorian propers (granted that the IPM includes many beautiful Gregorian hymns). It’s odd that we can’t simply use the post conciliar Graduale (1974). Maybe the success of the IPM would inspire a return to the Graduale? That would be my long term hope…

    • The “problem” of using the chants of the Roman Gradual outright is that, to be blunt, they are, by and large, much too complex for the average congregant to pick up in a single hearing.

      My problem with the IPM is that the melodies they ultimately did use for these chants are too far different from the original melodies from the Gradual (or even the Simplex). They are originals, even more current than the 70s Glory and Praise standards dominating the current repertoire.

      It’s a step in the right direction, but it could have found that midpoint, simplifying the original melodies enough so that the articulation of those melodies matches that of the simplified, congregational-friendly form.

  4. I recall that at one point Ignatius Press published a hard-bound missal to be a permanent replacement to the throwaway missalettes. One of the selling points was that we wouldn’t be casually throwing away The Word of God so often, and though it required a large investment by the parish it wouldn’t require an ongoing subscription, saving the parish money in the long run. Whatever happened to that?

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