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Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Roman Missal review

In Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Church made a very clear observation on the imporance of beauty in the Sacred Liturgy:

122. Very rightly the fine arts are considered to rank among the noblest activities of man's genius, and this applies especially to religious art and to its highest achievement, which is sacred art. These arts, by their very nature, are oriented toward the infinite beauty of God which they attempt in some way to portray by the work of human hands; they achieve their purpose of redounding to God's praise and glory in proportion as they are directed the more exclusively to the single aim of turning men's minds devoutly toward God.
Liturgiam Authenticam takes this point further, applying it to the actual publication of the books to be used for the Sacred Liturgy:

120. The books from which the liturgical texts are recited in the vernacular with or on behalf of the people should be marked by such a dignity that the exterior appearance of the book itself will lead the faithful to a greater reverence for the word of God and for sacred realities.83

Thus it is necessary as soon as possible to move beyond the temporary phase characterized by leaflets or fascicles, wherever these exist. All books intended for the liturgical use of priest or deacon celebrants are to be of a size sufficient to distinguish them from the books intended for the personal use of the faithful. To be avoided in them is any extravagance which would necessarily lead to costs that would be unaffordable for some. Pictures or images on the cover and in the pages of the book should be characterized by a certain noble simplicity and by the use of only those styles that have a universal and perennial appeal in the cultural context.
Thus, the Church gives us parameters that cover not only what the text should say, but, the manner in which it is to be presented.  The criteria spelled out in Liturgiam Authenticam constitute what I used in determining my rankings of the various versions of the Roman Missals prepared by the different publishers.
All told, there were eight different versions, one from the United Kingdom and the remaining seven from the United States.  Although I had alreadly ranked these in my previous blog post, I wanted to present to you a more detailed analysis, as well as a method to my madness in judgment.

1.  The Catholic Truth Society (the United Kingdom)
Of all of the different versions I reviewed, the Catholic Truth Society, one of the official publishers to the Holy See, was the one that was the best embodiment of the vision behind Liturgiam Authenticam's publication guidelines.  Great Britain has a rich patrimony of sacred art.  It also has a rich liturgical heritage, and the CTS certainly brought that to the forefront in its version of the Roman Missal.

Flipping through the sample pages, I was greatly impressed with the care and intricate design that CTS used in publishing its Roman Missal.  The artwork, taken from Great Britain's rich treasury of sacred imagery, is simply superb.  CTS really strove to publish a book that is just as aesthetically noble and grand as the words that it contains.

Here is how CTS describes its approach:

Beauty & Durability
  • Binding. Bound in deluxe genuine padded Italian leather.
  • Cover decoration. Gold decorative blocking on front, back and spine, plus Florentine gold blocking on inside lip of cover. Cruciform design based on Byzantine St George’s cross; border design inspired by Ingeborg Psalter.
  • Durable spine. Ribbed spine gives greater durability and ensures the volume lies flat and keeps its shape over time.
  • Strong binding. Endpapers made of extra-strong tear-resistant Skinplast® to ensure durability.
  • Gilded page edges.
  • Colour illustrations. Full-colour illustrations from the 12th-century Ingeborg Psalter (Musée Condé), printed on high-quality art paper
In addition, the CTS notes that:

Beauty and Practicality
CTS is working with highly-skilled printers and binders in Italy to ensure a high quality of craftsmanship in the finished volume. The choice of paper, binding, marker ribbons and leather page tabs has been made to ensure ease of use and durability over many years. For the interior, colour illustrations have been sourced from medieval illustrated manuscripts, and decorative elements from skilled contemporary artists and from volumes in the British Library.

Now, the gilded pages reference applies to the Altar Edition, which is set at the princely sum of $370.30 (USD).  The chapel version, which does not have gilded pages, but, is just as noble and grand, costs $185.15.  A third version, called the "study edition" costs $80.50 and is bound in leatherette, but, still features the same quality paper and art work.

Here is a sample of what the Roman Missal looks like:

One of the members of the Musica Sacra forum expressed concerns that perhaps, as beautiful as the Roman Missal may be, it might not be functional, insofar as the musical notations for the chanted parts of the Mass are concerned.  I purchased the transitional Roman Missal from the CTS, which is a hybrid of the old and revised translation, complete with the chant notation for the new ICEL settings, and I can attest that these are quite easy to read.  As the UK is embarking on a dual-phase implementation, with usage of the Ordinary set to begin in September, the transitional Missal is quite helpful.

Obviously, if you belong to an American parish, the big caveat is that the CTS version is meant for the United Kingdom (England, Wales, Scotland and Australia) and you won't have the propers for the United States.  However, in my conversations with the CTS, I learned that this has not stopped several American parishes from pre-ordering the Roman Missal from them.

For me, the CTS edition was the benchmark by which I measured the seven American versions of the Roman Missal.

Now for the Stateside publishers.

2. The Magnificat

The Magnififcat publishes a widely used and, almost universally loved, monthly missallette by the same name.  The cover and back interior pages showcase sacred art.  Naturally, as far as I can tell, publishing the actual Roman Missal would probably be a natural extension for the Magnifcat.  After all, they've been marrying sacred art to sacred text all of these years.

This is the major game-changer, and, perhaps America's closest answer to the Catholic Truth Society's magnificent edition. 

Priced at a very reasonable $169 (before October 31, 2011), the Altar edition features:

  • An exquisitely crafted volume, very practical and with reinforced binding

  • Elegantly laid out in typescript that is both beautiful and extremely readable

  • More than 130 reproductions of sacred art paintings, drawings, woodcuts and engravings

  • A work of art in itself that answers Pope Benedict XVI’s wishes to pray in beauty: "Beauty is not mere decoration, but rather an essential element of the liturgical action, since it is an attribute of God himself and his revelation."

  • Here is a small sample of what the pages look like: 


    Unfortunately, I could not get the zoom feature to work, but, nonetheless, even this sampling gives a good indication of what to expect from the full-sized version.

    Here are the sample pages:

    Now, the chapel edition, priced at $79,  has 90 reproductions of sacred art, but, it is no less beautiful.  Like its bigger sister, this volume also appears to be easily readable.  Thus, it's an ideal marriage between form and function. 

    For its maiden effort, the Magnificat certainly does not disappoint.

    3. World Library Publications (WLP)

    Like the Magnificat, World Library Publications, J.S. Paluch's liturgical division, makes its grand entrance into the Roman Missal field in a solid manner.  WLP has extensive experience in publishing missallettes, as their publications are used in many parishes throughout the United States; hence, it would only be a matter of time until it made the leap to releasing its own full-scale version of the Roman Missal. 

    For its art work, WLP went straight to the top, culling its selections from no less than the Vatican Apostolic Library itself.   You certainly can't go wrong picking sacred art directly from the Church's main source. 

    Here is the WLP description of its version of the Roman Missal:

    The cover of the 9 x 12 Deluxe Edition is constructed of durable, dark red genuine leather.  The artwork, depicting a host and chalice, is foil-stamped in gold and green and surrounded by engraved Florentine-inspired scrollwork.  The page edges are gilded in gold. Text throughout the book is two colors (black and deep red) on eye-pleasing, natural parchment-colored paper. The type is large and legible, for ease of reading and proclaiming the texts, even in low light. High-quality ribbons and sturdy genuine leather tabs accent the book, providing you with excellent placeholders. 

    Added feature: World Library Publications' award-winning music engravers have set all the chants in the Missal in a clean, easy-to-chant style that respects the sense of the text and helps celebrants to sing them more effortlessly and effectively.
    Here is a sampling of the WLP offering:

    I think my friend from Musica Sacra will be pleased with the WLP version when it comes to the appearance of the musical settings.  Unfortunately, for me the two big caveats were the use of sans serif type and the price.  I learned in my copy lay-out class that using sans serif type was not easy on the eyes.  The red "titles" are in sans serif and that does not look that good in print.  Insofar as the price is concerned, the deluxe version of the Roman Missal costs $395, while the chapel edition runs at $195.  In comparison with the Magnificat, WLP is a pricey option.
    The reviews for fourth, fifth and sixth place will come in the next post.

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