Torn, worn, stained and faded, this New Roman Missal, published in 1936 by Benziger Brothers, Inc., has seen daily use for decades. It has traveled many miles in family hands over the years, but how it wound up in our family is a mystery. Inside the cover is the inscription: “For Leonard from Sophomore “C” 1945. No one’s sure — or willing to admit — to being “Sophomore C.”
A virtual encyclopedia of Catholicism, this volume of 1,852 pages contains not just the (pre-Vatican II) Mass in Latin and English, but also “an explanation of ‘The Ecclesiastical Year and the Sacred Liturgy’; ‘Short Accounts of Certain Feasts and Brief Lives of the Saints’,” a glossary of liturgical terms, description of the beautiful illustrations and what they represent, and a collection of prayers.
Sure, there are great resources for daily prayer everywhere — in books, online and even smart phone apps. And there is some thought to retiring the Missal at the end of this Liturgical year. However no app can match the content: years of Mass cards in memory of family and friends, bookmarking key dates, the faded ribbon in which the words “Ordinary Time” are woven, the table of moveable feasts that extended all the way to 1971, and the truly unique “Act of Reparation for Profane Language.”
The montage shows some of the illustrations and the layout of the text. The blue background is a tile of the paper that lines the inside of the covers.
This Missal was truly a work of deep faith and love for the editors who wished it to be the door to the faithful to participate in the Mass in the days when the priest faced away from the congregation. In the introduction, the Rev. F.X. Lasance writes: “All books of devotion are good at mass; it is quite right to say the rosary at mass; but the missal is preferable, being pre-eminently the product of the mind and heart of the church …”
With Oct. 11-2012-Nov. 24, 2013 being The Year of Faith, perhaps the little-Missal-that-could, should see it through.
*All images are copyright Benziger Brothers.