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Wednesday, January 4, 2012

Ranking the Hand Missals

A few months ago, I posted a ranking of the eight different publications of the Roman Missal, one from the United Kingdom and the remaining seven from stateside publishers.  In the com box, a dear college friend of mine asked me what my take was on the hand missals available to the faithful.  At the time of the review, none of the hand missals were available. Now that the Roman Missal has come into full use, I am pleased to comply with my friend's request.

The hand missals that I looked over come from several different pubishers:  the Catholic Truth Society, the Midwest Theological Forum and Catholic Book Publishers.  I looked at the quality of the presentation, the paper, the font, the artwork (if any) and whether or not the hand missals included the ICEL chant notations.

Here are the rankings:

1.  Catholic Truth Society Sunday People's Missal (Presentation Edition)

The book is a thing of beauty.  CTS really took to heart the mandate from Liturgiam Authenticam to produce a missal that was worthy of containing the sacred words of the liturgy.  Their People's Missal also embodies the ideals of beauty put forth by Pope Benedict XVI.  While the Daily People's Missal is still pending release (CTS projects a mid-February date), all indications are that it will parallel its Sunday sister book in form, quality and beauty. 

The page quality is high, almost the same as that used for the ritual edition of the Roman Missal.  The presentation edition is a leather bound hard-back while the regular is clothbound.  CTS includes an introductory statement from Pope Benedict XVI for each Sunday and Solemnity.  The artwork, although not as numerous as the ritual edition of the Roman Missal, is taken from the same British psalter used for the actual Roman Missal.  What sets this particular book apart from the rest are two very important factors:  the nearly complete use of Latin and the musical notations for the ICEL chants, as well as square notations for the corresponding Latin chants.  Because the Roman Missal itself no longer has an appendix with the entire Latin Mass, the inclusion of the Collects, Offertory Prayers and Prayers after Communion, as well as the Prefaces and the Ordinary are a huge plus.  Furthermore, the fact that CTS chose to also include the musical notations for both the ICEL and the Latin chants is a huge benefit, since the ICEL settings are the default ones found in the Roman Missal. 

CTS does not overburden the book with needless copy.  The extras included are quite useful.  These include a rite of Benediction (with Latin) and a spiritually rich meditation on the Stations of the Cross written by Blessed John Henry Cardinal Newman (which will be helpful during Lent). 

Although CTS is very clear in pointing out that the readings are not meant for use in the United States, their People's Missal can still be quite valuable for those of us on these shores because of the nearly complete inclusion of Latin and the insertion of the musical notes.  Not a few parishes are using the ICEL settings.  Unfortunately, some of the disposable missallettes sold by publishers do not include the ICEL chants, choosing instead to use their own composers' works as their default setting.  Having the ICEL chants is a huge factor for me.  The variance in the readings is something that I can handle.  For me, the People's Missal is unparalleled.

2.  Midwest Theological Forum Daily Roman Missal

After several delays, I finally received my copy of the Daily Roman Missal right after the First Sunday of Advent.  I ordered the leather bound edition with gilded pages. To say that this book is massive is an understatement.  This behemoth has nearly 2,500 pages, but, it includes almost everything, all of the Sunday, ferial, solemnity, memorial, commons and ritual Mass readings and propers.  There are also heavy doses of Latin in this edition, including the complete Ordinary, responsorial psalms and Gospel acclamations.  There are also six ribbons to help with placements.  I have already organized them to help me better navigate through the book.

While it is a good thing to have an entirely comprehensive hand missal, there are still some caveats that I had hoped would have been corrected from the previous edition.  I still have to hunt and peck through the missal to find the readings for particular memorials and ritual Masses.  Sometimes, when doing this, I have discovered the readings in question are separated by several hundred pages.  The other is that the paper is quite thin and it folds rather easily, even if you don't intend for it to do so.  The website notes that the book includes 200 pages of devotionals, including some written by St. Jose Maria Escriva.  I would have rather that MTF devoted more space to increase its Latin liturgical content and to include something else that is essential, the ICEL settings, as well as to make the print a little larger.  I have had to print it out my own copy of the ICEL chants so that I can use them for the Mass.   The artwork is dignified, although, it would have been nicer if MTF would have incorporated some of what they've included in their Roman Missal into the daily version. 

The price tag is set at $95 for the Genuine Leather edition while the Bound Leather comes in at $75.  I bought my bound leather edition for nearly $15 less at Amazon.

3.   Catholic Book Publishers - St. Joseph Sunday Missal

Catholic Books has been publishing their edition of the St. Joseph's Missal for many years.  A staple for many faithful, this little book contains the entire three-year cycle of Sunday readings and Solemnities.  It's small and relatively easy to use.

However, there are some serious caveats.  The publisher seems to take up a lot of space with reflections, both before the Mass and above each reading.  Some of these are not necessarily the best written.  It's as though the compilers are not letting Sacred Scripture speak for itself.  There are are also more instructions here than in the rubrics and too much in the way of explanatory commentary for nearly each oration of the Roman Missal.  Keep it simple.  That is the best approach.

Two other huge caveats are the fact that it does not really have much in the way of Latin, insofar as the Ordinary of the Mass is concerned.  This is not good, especially if one lives in a bilingual community where Latin might well be used within the Mass. When I contacted customer service about this omission, I was told by the representative that they did not want to move "backwards".  It was their choice not to include it.  The other stickler was that, for some unknown reason, the publisher set the responsorial psalm to music while completely leaving out the ICEL chants.  The page artwork is just as bad as its Roman Missal counterpart.

This edition, sadly, pales in comparison to both the CTS and MTF hand missals.  This is not a hand missal that I would recommend at all.

I am awaiting previews of the Pauline hand missals and any others that may come along.  For right now, these are the only three available.

UPDATE:  I checked on the Daughters of St. Paul website and, in the shop section of the page, under Missals, there is nothing posted yet.  As soon as something becomes available, I will post a review.


  1. I read somewhere that the MTS Missal has the print on the pages too close to the center of the book, to the point where it was difficult to read the words that fall in the middle. Can you comment on this?

    I would also like to hear any comments on the the daily Missal being released by the Daughters of St Paul this month.

  2. Let me check the Daughters of St.Paul website. As for the pages being too close to the center, I will check mine and report accordingly.

    As far as Catholic Books,St.Joseph's Missal, the friend who asked me to rank the hand missals told me that the reflections seem to be the same as the ones found in his mother's edition (from the 1950s). I still think that the commentary is excessive, especially where the prayers are concern.

  3. I checked the Daily Roman Missal. My copy is okay as far as the page layout is concerned. The text is not too close to the spine.

  4. I got my new St. Joseph's Sunday Missal. Like my previous one, its in red leather and zips closed (which works well for me because I need something to carry a bunch of prayer cards and offertory envelope). It has the entire new translation, all three cycles of readings and an extensive treasury of prayers in the back. (Lamentably, the Anime Christi translation doesn't match up with the one we use, but then again, there seems to be 20000 translations of the Anime out there and they never seem to match up.) Sadly, it lacks the Latin settings; however, when we do use settings at St. Joseph's Church, we hand out leaflets with the Jubilate Deo arrangements. Also, our parish missalettes from J.S. Paluch/WLP have the ICEL settings so I have an awkward but ready source for them anyway (but then again, I have to switch to the missalettes for every hymn).

    The thing about St. Joseph missals is that they are familiar and comfortable. This hand missal is not very different from the one that it replaced or the one before that or (for that matter) the one my mother and grandparents had in the 1950s. It's a good little familiar missal.