It’s a funny thing to review a missal. You can’t review most of the content in it, since it’s not really reviewable content, so all you’re left with is a) its aesthetics, b) its utility, and c) its supplementary material. If your volume can beat out the competition on even just two out of three counts, well hey, two out of three ain’t bad.
A bit of background first.
The traditionalist strain of the Catholic Church has been picking up steam since the de facto reintroduction of the Latin Mass under Pope Benedict XVI, and this in turn sparked the demand for old-style missals among the laity. As missals go, there are a number of options for the Extraordinary Form out there, but one in particular gained a fair amount of notoriety in recent years. Part of this might have to do with it going in and out of print, but it’s hard to blame publishers for this when the demand is so scattered.
The missal in question is the Father Lasance New Roman Missal from 1945. A small publishing group was able to print off an initial run for the FSSP’s website, and it looks like the first batch has already been sold. Fortunately, after a price adjustment to reflect operating and material costs, you should still be able to get yourself a copy. At least for now; the group putting these together seems to be small so it’s probably not a good idea to drag your feet.
Now, a missal isn’t usually the sort of thing I go out of my way to review, but given the direction I’m taking the blog, it seems fitting that I offer a few thoughts on its recent reprinting.
For those unfamiliar with it, this missal is intended for use with the Tridentine or Traditional Latin Mass (TLM), and the “New” in its title doesn’t refer to the New Mass instituted by Bl. Paul VI after Vatican II. This is an exact reprint of the 1993 reprint, which includes the small handful of changes to the 1945 edition (taken from the Editor’s Preface on page 7):
- Page 70 – High Mass rubrics, numbers 10, 11, 13, 14.
- Pages 791-792 – “The Communion of the Faithful” text inserted and the “Postcommunion” illustration deleted.
- Page 1031 – Feast day of St. Petronilla remains on May 31; Feast day of St. Angela Merici is moved to June 1.
- Pages 1159-1161 – The Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin mary proper of the Mass as assigned by Pope Pius XII following the declaration of the Dogma in 1950.
- Pages 1298a-n – Appendix of feasts promulgated by His Holiness Pope Pius XII.
- Page 1823 – Added “Queen assumed into Heaven.”
- Page 1835 – Added “Blessed be her glorious Assumption.”
- Page 1840 – Church law of Abstinance and Fast, number 3, as revised by Pope Pius XII: Vigil of the Assumption deleted and Vigil of the Immaculate Conception added.
- Page 1852 – Added the “Index of Appendix.”
For those of you just beginning to get into TLM attendance, many of these adjustments probably don’t mean a whole lot, and I’m not going to dwell on them here. I’ve included mentioning them in case anyone is wondering about changes made to the missal in the wake of the last few decades of liturgical modifications. This being said, the Father Lascance New Roman Missal does not contain the changes to the Holy Week gospel readings instituted in 1956 that you can read about here. This is in distinction to, for instance, the 1962 missal put out by Baronius Press, which does omit the passages.
The thing itself is a handsome enough volume, with a flexible leather cover, gold-edged pages, and a set of stiffer ribbons for marking specific places. The cover is a bit more flexible than I expected it to be, so be prepared for it to bend a bit around the pages simply from having been carried around in your hand. Page quality is about what you’d expect for prints like this. That said, translucency is pretty low, which makes the text quite legible. I say this, but it should be noted that, being a daily missal, the font size is still small.
One of the nicer things about this missal is that the section dedicated to the Ordinary, in the middle of the volume, is printed on heavier paper stock than the rest of the book. This makes it a little easier to flip back to it if you’re someone who follows along during Mass, but it should also help ensure the book’s longevity since that’s the part of the book that gets used the most.
Also of note in the Ordinary is the inclusion of the priest’s actions during the Mass written in a striking red. This makes it easier to follow what is happening, particularly in churches where the altar is so far away from your particular pew that you can only barely make out what’s being said.
It’s a remarkably easy volume to use during the Mass for those so inclined. The text is readable, clear, and lacking in any obvious printing blemishes. As I mentioned before, the pages are only mildly translucent and, unlike some other books of its kind, only stick together slightly at the corners upon a first reading. The propers include their full texts, which means it keeps the back-and-forth action of other missals to a bare minimum.
As far as the content itself goes, there’s plenty of notes and directions included within the text of the Mass propers and the ordinary. Most of them come down to explaining pieces of the sacrifice of the Mass with brief bits of history thrown in. These can help bring the reader into a deeper appreciation of the unfolding and ongoing sacrifice.
The first segment of the book includes a lengthy introduction by Fr. Lasance, which is followed by a long-form essay instructing the reader on the ins & outs of how to use the missal in order to deepen your appreciation of the Mass. This was written by Rev. William Kelly, and it will prove useful to newcomers to both missal usage and the TLM. The last piece before the propers is another lengthy piece by Fr. Lasance detailing the ceremony, sacrifice, and prayers involved with the Mass itself, and it’s easily the highlight of the first part of the book.
Included in the back of the book are numerous extra pieces as well. These include brief biographies of the saints who are honored with their own Masses during the year, a glossary of liturgical terms, explications of the illustrations throughout the volume, and a short compendium of prayers and devotions for the laity. This last segment appears to be repeated material that has been included in other books by Fr. Lasance, particularly his Blessed Sacrament Prayer Book (a massive volume with nearly everything one could ever need; I highly recommend it), but it’s nice to see some of the most important devotions reappear in a more accessible place.
The only missal I have on hand to compare this to is the 1962 Roman Missal put out by Baronius Press, which is a slick and durable release that, for the most part, has better amenities in terms of comfort and aesthetics. However, as I noted above, the Baronius release conforms to the liturgical changes implemented in the fifties with regard to Holy Week, while the Fr. Lasance missal does not. Also, on a lesser note, the Baronius is more prone to abbreviation and referencing of other Mass propers in parallel cases. On the whole, the Baronius volume seems a bit more durable, comes with a nice slipcase, and has easier to manage ribbons than the Fr. Lasance missal, but that comes at the expense of a slightly less user-friendly design and a liturgically “reformed” Holy Week.
Overall, I’d recommend the Fr. Lasance missal to anyone who is already attending a Tridentine Mass. While other, slightly more modern missals have a bit more financial backing to them, making their releases slicker, I think the completeness of the Fr. Lasance missal outweighs the edge in aesthetics that say the Baronius release has. That said, however, this doesn’t make this missal preferred over the Baronius release by all that much; both are solid releases and, truth be told, I’m rather happy that I own one of each. I do foresee the Lasance missal getting more use, though.
Note: I haven’t looked into the St. Andrew missal, but it’s on my to-do list. Eventually I’ll get around to that and see how it compares.