Hand Missals and active participation

Long before the Second Vatican Council the ideal of "full, conscious and active" participation at holy Mass had been developed during the Liturgical Movement and taught by Sovereign Pontiffs. 

In his autobiography, Papa Ratzinger described how one of the very earliest Latin-German hand missals was complied by Anselm Schott, the Benedictine abbot of that pulsing center of liturgical renewal the Monastery of Beuron.  A priest had given a "Schott" to Joseph Ratzinger’s parents for their wedding and it became a point of reference for the whole Ratzinger family.  The children also had prayer books for Mass, inspired by the "Schott" for big people.  There were graduated volumes for different ages and purposes.  His Holiness describes how passing from stage to stage with these books, which explained the parts of Mass and gave special prayers to aid comprehension and participation, allowed him to enter more fully into Mass.  He describes his participation at Mass with these books as an "adventure".  It was an adventure into mystery that has stayed with him all his life.

Now that Papa Ratzinger has released Summorum Pontificum, many people who are puzzled over why anyone would want the older form of Mass, will suggest that use of the older forms is against the tenets of the Second Vatican Council.  They do not understand that proper "full, conscious and active" developed with and through the older form of Mass long before the Council. 

Some may, perhaps, seek to limit the use of the older Mass – despite the regulations of Summorum Pontificum – with the claim that people today don’t have adequate comprehension of or formation in what is going on at the older extraordinary use of the Roman Rite.

For this reason I urge people to support good efforts at liturgical catechesis.  Very helpful will be the use of a good hand missal.  There are many editions available from years gone past.  There is also a new reprint by Baronius Press in the UK.  I received a press release from them today describing their hand Missale, which looks to be very nice.

Hand missals are treasure chests.  They were gifts to young people that enriched them all their lives.  I have often seen people come to even the Novus Ordo carrying their old prayer books, worn from decades of use, so thick with memorial and ordination cards that they must be held together with rubber bands. 

It is very important that people who frequent the older form of Mass know their Mass very well.  In the spirit of 1 Peter 3:15, always be prepared to give reasons for the hope that is in you with gentleness and reverence.  Many people will be curious about the older form.  They will come looking for answers.  You must be ready to receive them with warmth and welcome, well prepared to explain and point out where they are in the booklets or missals, giving a good example to them of both joy and of devotion. 

Using and studying a good hand missal can be of enormous help for you and others.

About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Jacob says:

    I feel kind of bad considering I just bought a missal from them, but /now/ they issue the Motu Proprio special edition missal! :D

  2. Craigmaddie says:

    Father, this has been something that has been on my mind of late. Would you recommend that a person assisting at the traditional rite follow the Mass word-for-word in the Missal? Or should he, as per the recommendation of Dom Prosper Gueranger (and, I believe, St Peter Eymard), say (silently) certain prayers at appropriate times?

    I ask this as I find following the Mass word-for-word in the Missal can be a less-than-prayerful experience for me as I find myself trying to keep pace with our priest (who says the Mass very quickly).

  3. Augustine says:

    This maybe has already been covered here, but in addition to a hand missal for 1962, I’m looking for a hand missal for the 1970 mass that offers latin and english side by side. Does such a thing exist?

    Or perhaps I should wait until the new English translation is out?

  4. Craigmaddie, why don’t you try a little of each? Sometimes when I’m distracted or restless, my hand-missal is a great help in concentrating and praying. At other times, silent prayer united with the sacrificial action at the altar is indicated. As long as you offer your “sacrifice of praise” with the priest’s Eucharistic sacrifice, it’ll surely be pleasing to God?

  5. Mark says:

    Father: Amen to your post; a good Missal is worth its weight and more in gold.

    Jacob: same here, but their Missal is wonderful anyway.

    Augustine: Our Sunday Visitor do a lovely Daily Roman Missal, ISBN 0-933932-58-8 (U.S. Bible readings, though).

    Craigmaddie: Doesn’t the server have things he has to say?

  6. Mark says:

    Father: which title is the Holy Father’s autobiography?

  7. jaykay says:

    I don’t actually have a 1962 missal as such, come to think of it. I have my mother’s 1932 daily missal, and my father’s Sunday missal from 1956. But I think I’ll get by – my parents used both these happily until 1970.

    As for the idea that full, active and conscious participation didn’t exist pre 1962 – one of the oldest books I have is my great-grandmother’s “The Catholic’s Vade Mecum” which is basically a prayer book containing an abridged Sunday Missal (Latin/English) and lots of other devotional prayers, novenas, litanies etc including many of the penitential psalms in Latin/
    English and extracts from the offices of Matins, Vespers and Compline, again in Latin/English. It’s inscribed as a present to her at Christmas 1899. It was used by my grandmother also and its very thumbed state – particularly around the parts containing the Mass – certainly gives the lie to anyone who says that they didn’t know what was going on and didn’t participate accordingly.

  8. eweu says:

    Craigmaddie, the OSV Daily Roman Missal has already been suggested and it is indeed excellent. The readings are only in English, but they are the readings you’ll actually hear at Mass (since those aren’t strictly NAB word-for-word).

    The prefaces in DRM are unfortunately only in English. OSV also publish a pocket Handbook or Prayers that have both Latin/English prefaces as well as the entire Ordinary in Latin/English. It’s excellent and I use it all the time.

    Finally, if you are interested in a Missal that that contains Latin and English with chant notation for all the propers (Introit, Gradual, Tract, Sequence, Offertory, and Communion), then look for the Gregorian Missal published by Solesmes. I really enjoy this Missal. Unfortunately, finding a NO Mass that uses all the propers is excruciatingly rare.

  9. Pius VII says:

    Father, a while back somebody asked you how the Motu Proprio would personally affect you. You seemed to express quite a bit of interest in the question, and mentioned you might do a post on it. Now that it’s out and we know what it says, I will repeat the question: how will it affect you personally?

  10. GCC Catholic says:


    I purchased a secondhand copy of Father Stedman’s “My Sunday Missal” which was printed in many editions from the 30s through the 50s. It amazed me when I looked at it. The introductory section before the Mass begins encourages one to “Pray the Mass” and quotes Pope St. Pius X’s encouragement for “actual participation” at least once. Also, it is set up so that it could be used for the Dialogue Mass that was gaining popularity in some places. It was enough to make me think that the whole “Spirit of Vatican II” concept of “active participation” is a canard and that any issues were starting to work themselves out by 1962.

  11. Maureen says:

    Btw, it may interest folks to know that you can now buy four-way rubber bands. I saw them this week at the gaming convention Origins; I believe they were designed to hold tattered game boxes together. But they’d probably also work for books.

  12. jaykay says:

    GCC Catholic: I agree totally. What I really should have added is that my great- grandmother (born c. 1850) had only primary education and certainly no Latin. My grandmother (born 1886) did have a post-primary education but didn’t study Latin. Yet both these ladies, of relatively simple education compared to nowadays, had NO problems in following the liturgy. My grandmother was able to teach me perfectly the words of all the Benediction hymns when I joined the school choir at the age of 9 (at which stage she was over 80) and I distinctly remember her taking me through the English equivalents in that “Vade Mecum”. Participatio Actuosa or what :)

  13. “Hand missals are treasure chests. They were gifts to young people that enriched them all their lives.”

    Well said. My father-in-law gave me a copy of the Baronius Press edition (on 7/7/07, that clever devil). It’s fantastic. Truly a treasury of knowledge stored within. Get yours today.

  14. Craig: Would you recommend that a person assisting at the traditional rite follow the Mass word-for-word in the Missal? Or should he, as per the recommendation of Dom Prosper Gueranger (and, I believe, St Peter Eymard), say (silently) certain prayers at appropriate times?

    I think this depends on the person and circumstances. There is no one way to participate actively at Mass. Consider the older person who is nearly blind and cannot hear. He or she can participate with profound actively through the union of heart and will with what she knows is going on, even if she can’t follow in the details or words.

    There are times when close adherence to the moment will be helpful. At other times allowing the meaning of the moment to penetrate you will be fruitful.

    Surely there will be a varied rhythm between these ways of participation.

  15. Bill says:

    Augustine, several people have mentioned the Daily Roman Missal (published jointly by Midwest Theological Forum, Scepter Publishers, and Our Sunday Visitor). While this is an excellent hand missal, it may not have the amount of Latin you are looking for. The ordinary of the Mass does have Latin and English on facing pages. As noted though, the current edition of the missal (6th ed. 2003) does not have the Latin text of the Prefaces (somewhat odd, since the 1st ed. 1993 did have the Latin). The propers have the Latin text only for the entrance antiphon, the refrain for the responsorial psalm, the verse before the gospel, and the communion antiphon. The 6th edition also uses the currently-approved version of the New American Bible readings (the 1st edition used the Jerusalem Bible–I don’t know when the switch was made).

    As to whether or not you should wait for the new translation, that’s your call. I don’t know the status of it; you might be waiting a couple years. If you’re looking for a cheap alternative, the Handbook of Prayers that was mentioned above does have the entire Latin-English ordinary of the Mass. If you combined that with a missalette or Magnificat, you’d have the practical equivalent of the Daily Roman Missal.

  16. Palestrina says:

    Wouldn’t it be fantastic if we could get a Catholic book publisher to start mass-reprinting the Stedman ’62 Missal (with obvious updates) so that we could buy them up in bulk at low cost to give to our friends, thus encouraging them to attend the Traditional Latin Mass? I mean, if the Gideons can manage to give away Bibles, I don’t see why we shouldn’t be able to do the same with Missals…

    I also think it would be nice if we could have a small booklet printed with the Missals which would give a simple overview of Mass and how to follow, so that newcomers don’t get the feeling that they’re being thrown in at the deep end.

  17. Maureen: you can now buy four-way rubber bands

    Now where else could we get info like that? Sometime I swear we can learn more here by happenstance then in many places by intention.

  18. Brian says:

    Thank you Father for this excellent post!

    I have had my 1962 Baronius Missal for a year and a half now, and it is indeed a treasure of mine, it is a regular part of my daily prayer life.

    I am currently learning Latin, and I am anxiously waiting for the Latin-English Roman Breviary which Baronius will eventually be printing (supposedly in 2007). I want to pray the Divine Office in Latin everyday to help me master the language, not to mention my personal sanctity.

    I am so much filled with anticipation and joy, that so many people are going to discover anew the Catholic faith and that a sense of sacred will slowly be recovered!

    This is indeed a historic and exciting time for the Church.

  19. GCC Catholic says:


    I think that would be wonderful. I do have a bit of a caution though. If I recall correctly (I can’t check because I’m not at home right now), I think the publisher became/was bought out by one of the big liturgical publishers, maybe OCP. That could make your idea, which is very good, a bit more difficult.

  20. Augustine says:

    Thank you everyone, your comments have been helpful. We have more than one parish here in the Archdiocese of Denver that offer the 1970 mass almost completely in Latin, so I’m looking for a missal for that mass with plenty of Latin.

    Next step – convince the priests to go Ad Orientam.

  21. Raymundus says:

    What of those who wish to use the 1962 Roman breviary? Baronius says that they will print it in 2007, but does anyone know if this is true?

  22. Alan Phipps says:

    How would you compare the 1962 missal published by Baronius Press with the missal published by Angelus Press (SSPX)? Folks say that the latter missal has more in the way of content than the former.

  23. William says:

    I have two hand missals. One is the Roman Catholic Daily Missal from Angelus Press. This missal contains all texts in both Latin and English, and also contains a large number of prayers (also in Latin and English), an introduction to the traditional Mass, theology of the Mass, and a summary of Catholic doctrine among other things. It is very similar to the Baronius Press Missal (they have the same source text), but is a little bit smaller and, in my opinion, easier to read due to a more modern font selection. My (FSSP) parish bookstore sells many different missals, but the Angelus Press missal seems to go the fastest. Whenever they order a 10 or 15 of them, it seems to take only a couple of weeks until they are sold out again.

    My other missal is Latin/German Schott missal from 1957. I bought it used through ZVAB (A decent search on that site is this). I really like this missal. It is much smaller than either the Baronius or Angelus missals, mainly because it doesn’t have many prayers except for some prayers for communion and confession and it omits the Latin text for the epistle and some of the propers for most masses. Still I recommend a Schott to anyone who reads German well. But be careful – the Schott is still produced (without Latin) for the Novus Ordo. So make sure you ordering an older missal if you order online.

    P.S. The modern Schott is still a nice book, but obviously useless when the priest decides to make up his own texts…

  24. Henry Edwards says:

    How would you compare the 1962 missal published by Baronius Press with the missal published by Angelus Press (SSPX)? Folks say that the latter missal has more in the way of content than the former.

    I’ve used both these missals constantly (at Sunday Mass and as daily prayerbooks) since they were published, think I’m thoroughly familiar with both, and would be interested in knowing what significant differences in content anyone finds. As indicated in the comparative review posted at http://www.knoxlatinmass.net/2missals.htm the main differences seem to be in look and feel.

  25. Dan O says:

    There is also a grid comparing features of the missals and a couple of others at this site. http://www.southwellbooks.com/#missalguide

  26. Luis says:

    Ok, I bought the Baronius Missal…. here’s a stupid question… How do you use the colored ribbon
    Black is for the Requiem Mass.. Gold, Red, Purple (Lent) Any suggestions? Thanks.

  27. Bill says:

    Luis, there’s no one right way to arrange the colored ribbons. Use them to mark the spots you need to flip back and forth between. I might suggest having one ribbon in the proper of seasons, perhaps two in the ordinary, one in the common of saints, one in the proper of saints. If there’s a separate section with all of the prefaces, perhaps one there. If there’s a separate section with prayers, perhaps one there. If you run out of ribbons to mark places, use holy cards. Ultimately, as you use the missal, you’ll discover for yourself the best places for you to put the ribbons.

  28. hadrian says:

    Could someone recommend a good “pocket sized” hand missal for portability.

    Our thanks to the Holy Father. Let’s continue to pray for him!!

  29. Palestrina says:

    Thanks for the info, GCC Catholic.

    If we can’t easily get a reprint of the Stedman, why not a “I-can’t-believe-it’s-not-Stedman” missal? Angelus and Baronius must have all of the texts of their missals saved in some sort of electronic format, so the major work is already done – Couldn’t they produce something similar to the Stedman, with its handy numbering system? It just strikes me as such a good opportunity to help a lot of people.

  30. Diane says:

    This brings back fond memories of an ad limina address by Pope John Paul II given in 1998 out west here in the US. Read point three in this address on active participation.

    Also on topic for this subject is the USCCB bulletin, “Hearing the Word of God”. As some Catholics choose to use the Magnificat or a hand missal in the N.O., there are actually cases of priest or lay people “policing” for folks who use such aids. This letter is cited as they tell people they should be listening not reading. The whole thing smacks of intolerance for the various ways in which people learn and participate. I posted on it last year after running across discussion in some Catholic forums where people had been persecuted for using these aids.

  31. Diane says:

    One correction to my own post above – be sure to read point 4, as well. The entire address is excellent, but the part I wanted to focus on is where Pope John Paul explained the contemplative dimensions of the Mass, and then took this into discussion of active participation. As he said, “it does not exclude the passive activity of silence.”

  32. GCC Catholic says:


    If there were someone committed to such a work as organizing and printing an inexpensive Stedman Missal, then it would never hurt to ask. The worst that could happen is to have them say no. As I said, offhand I’m not completely sure who holds the copyright.

    I agree; the numbering scheme is quite usable.

  33. Copernicus says:

    There’s nothing all that traditional about hand Missals with parallel translations, and they would have been completely alien to our grandparents or great-grandparents. Remember that translations of the Missal were on the index of banned books until 1896.

  34. William says:

    Copernicus: And yet somehow I seems to have a PDF file containing a Latin/German hand missal from 1863, compiled by Pater G. M. Pachtler S.J., printed with “the approval of the very reverend bishops of Rottenburg and Mainz”, printing and binding by Florian Kupferberg.

    In any case let us assume that no one had hand missals 200 years ago. So what? The faithful in attendance were nonetheless able to understand the theology of the mass and to unite their intentions to those of the priest as the Holy Sacrifice was offered. They were also capable of adoring Our Lord at the elevations. That is quite a bit of participation, even without understanding Latin.

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