Last week, we looked at the recently reprinted missal of the Latin Mass that was put together back in 1945 by Fr. Francis Xavier Lasance. I hope to do a post at some point in the future on the life of Fr. Lasance, but for now, we’ll continue reviewing some of his works readily available in English. Today, we’re looking at the largest prayer book he ever assembled, which came to be known as his Blessed Sacrament Prayer Book.
As with the missal he compiled, the specific contents themselves are, mostly, beyond review. He offers notes and explanations in several sections of the book, and those are certainly worth reading for the curious. Also included is a plethora of supplementary writings of his interspersed throughout it. The book, however, isn’t really about him or his writings; as the title implies, it’s mostly full of prayers.
This exhaustive collection includes almost every prayer, litany, chaplet, thanksgiving, and ejaculation you would ever need, with a hundred more thrown in for good measure. I say almost because, due to the time of its initial writing in 1913, the practice of the Divine Mercy chaplet hadn’t yet been revealed. St. Faustina wouldn’t record Our Lord giving it to her in her diary until 1935. But aside from recent developments such as that, this volume contains everything else you could possibly need.
The first thing to notice about this book is that despite its length, it’s rather small. This makes it a convenient book to travel with, be it simply to bring along to Mass or to bring with you on a trip. Its size does bring about several disadvantages, which I get into below, but I admit that I favor this choice by the publisher. Prayer books like these are intended to be used, and the larger it is, the less likely a layman is to actually use it for what it’s designed for.
If I had to guess, a majority of the content included in the tome is available online, though it’s probably spread across a multitude of different prayer resource sites. The biggest advantage of having this material compiled into a single volume, however, is that it gets put next to other resources you probably wouldn’t have known existed, much less thought to look up.
Fr. Lasance includes a great deal of his own writings to supplement the references of prayers and devotions. All of these are worth checking out, though I have to admit, given the sheer volume of them, I myself haven’t yet read every single one.
Aesthetically, the volume features a flexible leather cover, gold-gilded pages, and is about the size of your hand. The pages don’t stick together at all, and its binding seems durable enough to withstand frequent openings, even though its size prevents it from laying flat.
There’s an exhaustive table of contents at the beginning, as well as an index in the back. This makes traversing the book’s twelve hundred pages at least somewhat easier, though you may end up spending a minute or two leafing through the twenty-some page long table of contents in order to find what you’re looking for.
The work isn’t without its drawbacks, however. The pages are exceptionally thin, a limitation perhaps necessitated by the publisher’s interest in keeping the book travel-sized. This means that they’re fairly translucent even when laying flat, and it means that the extremely dark ink used in the printing sometimes shows evidence of excess bleeding. This can make the book a bit difficult to read in some environments, particularly in dimly lit churches or shrines.
Secondly, the book comes with a ribbon for marking your place, but only one. Given its size and utility, you’d be doing yourself a big favor if you purchased one of those replacement ribbon inserts that have an extra five or six ribbons on them. The truth is, even an additional five ribbons doesn’t always give you enough to mark all the spots you want to return to, so you’ll still end up needing other bookmarks, but the additional ribbons are at least a start.
I’d recommend this book to any Catholic purely for the trove of resources included all in one place, coupled with the ease of storage and portability. Fr. Lasance’s own writings add a depth of insight that only a life spent in prayer and penance could unlock, and the clarity of his writing brings this forth for the rest of us to assist in the development of our interior life.