QUAERITUR: Bought a Baronius Missal… how to set up the ribbons

Here is a question from a reader.

It brings up good questions.  People often come to see their beloved old hand missals for Mass as treasures, dear old friend, a life-long companion. 

Thus, they probably use their hand-missals in very different ways… depending in part on the missal itself, of course.

Perhaps you might have a little discussion with this fellow.

I don’t use a hand missal very often, obviously.

Hello Fr. Z.  I’m a seminarian, and our bookstore got in a few 1962 missals from Baronius Press.  I bought one but don’t know where to start.  How should I setup the ribbons?  Is there a guide, like the Ordo put out by the Paulist Press, that helps you figure out what page you should be on given the day?  Thanks for any help you can give me.



About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

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  1. Rachel says:

    hmm, I have a Baronius press missal too. I use the ribbons this way:

    red: for the devotions before Mass
    green: for the Sunday propers
    purple: for the prefaces
    gold: for the ordinary
    white: for propers of the saints
    black: same as white or when I have to go to a funeral, etc

    I have found that this is the best way to use them for me since the ribbons were placed close to each of these parts. There is no right nor wrong way to use the ribbons. Just find what is comfortable for you.

  2. Michael Lavey says:

    I have a New Marian Missal, but I think with any hand missal, you really only need two ribbons.

    I use one ribbon to mark the Ordinary of the Mass (usually located in the center of the missal). The second, I use to mark the propers for that Sunday. I recommend buying an Ordo from the FSSP which will let you know what Sunday in the liturgical calendar is being used on which date. It won’t tell you the exact page number, but that’s what the index is for.

    The other ribbons I use to make various devotions and perhaps the Requiem Mass.

  3. Lance says:

    Here is what I do with my Baronius Missal:

    Red ribbon is set at the pre/post Communion prayers near the very beginning of the Missal.

    Green ribbon marks the Sunday propers/Proper of the Season.

    Violet marks the liturgy of preparation for Holy Communion, before Mass

    Gold marks the Ordo Missae.

    White marks the Propers of the Saints.

    Black marks the Ordinary chant setting, in the back.

  4. Sean says:

    Ya know, the more and more I attend a TLM, the less and less I use my hand missal. I will take it to mass for the great prayers before and after mass, and for the Propers. For myself, it seems that slavery to the missal (after you become familiar with the Ordinary) is a real hindrance to entering the mystery of the mass.

    I am sure everyone is different, but I recently have been having a love/hate relationship with my missal. Perhaps I am alone, but I feel my missal sometimes prevents getting lost in the mystery of the mass (with Latin, chant, ritual movements, etc.).

  5. Eric says:

    I have the Angelus Press missal which is better in the hand. Navigating the prefaces is easier with the Angelus missal because they are placed in the middle of the ordinary. Baronius puts them before the ordinary (if I recall correctly).

    I basically follow the standard model first ribbon at preliminary prayers; second ribbon at the daily propers; third ribbon at the ordinary; fourth at the proper for saints; fifth in the back in the Kyriale.

    Additionally I have a holy card at the examination of conscience and act of contrition; one at the Angelus; and a photo of my deceased grandfather in the prayers for the dead.

  6. Ben Trovato says:

    It is worth mentioning that you may be able to download an Ordo free as a pdf file (I did for the UK from the Latin Mass Society http://www.latin-mass-society.org/ordo.htm – anyone know if there’s an online version for the USA?) This will tell you where to look in your missal for every day of the year.

  7. I use one ribbon to mark the Ordinary of the Mass and one to mark the Propers. The other ribbons mark my favorite prayers, places I want to read again and prayers or readings that I intend to commit to memory.

    I don’t think there is a right or wrong or a proper format.

  8. Jason Keener says:

    I have the New Roman Missal by Rev. F. X. Lasance (1946). It recommends this regarding ribbons:

    “Before Mass, insert ribbons as follows:


    Yellow (Gold) Ribbon


    Green Ribbon on Sundays After Pentecost; also Sundays from Epiphany to Septuagesima

    White Ribbon on Feasts of Our Lord, except those of the Passion; Feasts of Our Lady; on Feasts of Saints not Martyrs

    Red Ribbon on Pentecost; on Feasts of the Passion; on Feasts of Martyrs

    Purple Ribbon in Advent and Lent; on Vigils of Greater Feasts

    Black Ribbon in Masses for the Dead

    The Priest at the Altar wears Vestments showing the Day’s colors—The Ribbon Color Corresponds.”

    Hope this helps!

  9. mysticalrose says:

    I love my Baronius Press missal. I use Purple for the confession prayers, red for the communion prayers, gold for the preface, and white for the ordinary. The other ribbons are not really functioning right now. I think the confession and communion prayers in this missal are the best I’ve seen.

  10. Al says:

    In my missal (Baronius) as well as my breviary and Liber Usualis, I use green for the Ordinary, since it is the color of Ordinary Time – a silly reason, I’m sure, but it makes sense in my mind. I use red for the Proper of the Season and white for the Proper of Saints. In the missal, I use the remaining ribbons (black, gold, and purple) for the devotional prayers at the beginning (the part I use the most.)

    It’s nice to hear that a seminary bookstore is carrying 1962 missals!

  11. DG says:

    Some people will find this TACKY. I may not be the only one who does it this way, but it wouldn’t surprise me if I am.

    Since placing ribbons at never-changing spots not only seems a bit counter-intuitive, but can also lead to fraying of edges and removal of gilding, I never use ribbons to mark places I go to over and over again (devotions for communion, devotions for confession, prefaces, mass of the catechumens, offertory, canon of the mass, rosary devotions, etc.). All of these are marked by: post-it notes. Disgusting sounding, I know, but the way it works is actually pretty sharp looking.

    I cut the post-it down to maybe 2 mm overhang of non-sticky paper, and use that part to write a small guide (e.g., CONF or CANON). The overhang is actually so small on my handmissal, it doesn’t reach past the cover of the book itself, so you have to imagine it being very small to get a good picture. I usually halve or third the post-it as well so it’s not too wide.

    Then! I use the ribbons to mark the things that change: proper of seasons, proper of saints, votive masses, etc. I usually even have a few to spare.

    Using post-it notes means I can go back in a few years and decide whether or not those are useful and keep or take them off without worrying about ruining the paper. I use this method on my breviaries as well!

    Anyone else not use ribbons for the ordinary parts? If not by post-it notes, how?

  12. Flambeaux says:


    I’ve long used holy cards for the unchanging parts in my Diurnal and in my hand missals.

  13. Mac McLernon says:

    I’m with Sean on this one: I use the missal before Mass to look at what’s coming up later, especially when using the notes (in my St Andrew’s Missal) as a basis for meditation… but I don’t use the missal at all during Mass…

    I occasionally use the booklet provided by our parish if it’s a High Mass and I want to sing the Ordinary…

  14. JL says:


    I seem to remember having heard somewhere that sticky notes were developed by someone who kept losing his place in a church hymnal. Missals and breviaries are only the next logical step.

    And, like the ribbons, you can color-code!

  15. Miguel says:

    In addition to what the previous posters have said, I would also recommend to the Seminarian that you may want to tie a little knot on the end of the ribbons. Yes, it looks a bit tacky, but as another owner of the Baronius hand missal, I found it keeps the ribbons from fraying a bit.

  16. Andrew says:

    I use the Baronius missal for mass but also for devotions so I have various things marked.

    Red – Most necessary prayers (at the moment, Prayer to St Joseph)
    Green – wherever it needs to be
    Purple – Vespers for Sundays
    White – Temporale
    Gold – Ordinary of the Mass
    Black – Sanctorale

    Have also added a Latin Rosary card at the end, and the Byzantine Prayer of the Penitent Thief for before Communion.

  17. Sam Orsot says:

    Is there some sort of rubric concerning the use of ribbons, not only in the hand missals, but also the missal used by the priest when saying Mass? And secondly, is there any rubrics concerning the use of a free standing altar during a benediction?

  18. Pistor says:

    A tiny dab of clear nailpolish or crazy glue stops the ribbon from fraying. Cutting a swallow tail on the end of the ribbon also helps

  19. Sean says:

    Miguel, you are my hero!!! It has been driving me nuts that my Baronius missal’s ribbons have been fraying like crazy…now, the problem is solved!!!

  20. Sean says:

    The ribbons of my Little Office of the Blessed Virgin Mary have also been saved from utter ruin!

  21. Mia Storm says:

    Whenever I get anything with ribbons, I always put a line of clear nail polish across the bottom of the ribbon to stop the fraying before it starts. Recently I didn’t have clear nail polish when I needed to seal the ribbons to my Magnificat cover. So I used a line of Wite-Out. Doesn’t look as nice on colored ribbons, but works fine.

  22. Maureen says:

    Re: “slave to my missal”

    Obviously this is not a new feeling. I was just poking around The Lay-folk’s Mass Book, a Mass guide/prayer book in Middle English. (And in rhyme, because everything goes better in couplets.) At the end, the book advises that, while it might be useful to keep the book for the rubrics, it’s a lot better to memorize the prayers and stuff than to keep having to read them out of the book.


  23. Josiah Ross says:

    I always burn the ends of the ribbons on my breviary, and seal tem with wax to keep them from fraying. Though one must watch the ribbons! I accidentally shortened one of the ribbons on my breviary, and had to replace it.
    I have a Saint Joseph Daily Missal, and this is how I put them:
    Red: Proper of the Season
    Purple:Ordinary of the mass
    Gold: Proper of the Saints
    Black: Commons of the Saints
    Green: Prayers before and after mass/holy communion.
    The white ribbon has worn off.
    The only reason I have it set up this way is because I use basically the same color placements in my breviary, except that my breviary has a white ribbon which I use to mark the seven penitential psalms and litany.

  24. cedomaiori says:

    I typically burn the ends of the ribbons as well, but tried it on the Baronius missal and instead of sealing the ribbon, it ignited it. T’was no holy fire!

  25. Chris says:

    Sean makes a great point about “slavery” to the missal. You don’t have to read every word the priest is saying. Especially at a High Mass, it’s so important to focus on the altar. Let a priest be a priest and do his thing while you observe.

    You’ll find you’re using the missal less and less and turning back to it then putting it down. Therefore, as I do, you may want to use one ribbon just to mark the last place you were, so you can turn back after you close it to observe (or in case the wind of a fan or vent turn your page).

    Then I use one ribbon for the readings of that day, one marks the beginning of the ordinary, one marks the credo so I know right where to go after the sermon, one marks the post communion, etc.

  26. Josiah Ross says:

    I really only use the missal to check on tings. I have a good memory, so I can read the introit in two seconds and then listen to it while the altar is incensed. Same with everything else. I don;t really use it as a word-for-word translation.

  27. Not Getting Creaky Just Yet says:

    Ribbons: Cut the end at a slant, swallowtails are pretty but on thin ribbons can be impossible to do. After cutting the slant, put a dot of Fray-Check on the end of the ribbon. (Fray-Check is found in the sewing stuff at places like WalMart or in fabric stores. It’s clear and dries clear.)

    Burning: only if your ribbon is synthetic. No, rayon isn’t synthetic enough, I don’t think. Polyester is. Rayon, while it’s slick and drapey like silk, is made from trees. Probably accounts for the flammable ribbon experience.

    Best to all,

  28. David says:

    How wonderful that a seminary bookstore is stocking traditional hand missals! This is wonderful news.

  29. Joshua says:

    The proper of the Saints is by date, and it will direct you to what pages you need (I have used several ribbons just for the propers of a Mass before).One thing to bear in mind is that in the back there is a section for Masses in the USA. Lookup your diocese and note the feasts listed. Those will be exceptions to merely following the calendar in the propers of the saints.

  30. Trevor says:

    I have a Baronius Missal, and my ribbons I don’t have an absolute pattern for how I set up the ribbons. I try not to cause some overlap, thus red is always before gold, and gold before purple, etc. I’d also recommend you be gentle with moving the ribbons. I use the white one to mark the Ordinary, and thus use it quite frequently during Mass (to flip back to propers). I’ve kind of pulled it a bit, so hopefully it doesn’t fall out.

    Anyway, my pattern:

    Red: For Devotions (its usually marked on Morning Prayer, but I’ll also use it to mark Confession/Communion).

    Gold: Marks Sunday’s Feast. Occasionally will have to flip back to past Masses, such as the Mass for the Sacred Heart on first Fridays.

    Purple: Prefaces

    White: Ordinary of the Mass.

    Green and Black: Work in tandem to mark propers for the weekday Masses. Since a particular Saint’s feast may have use the Introit of one Mass and the Epistle of another, these ribbons are used.

    P.S. Thanks for the nail polish idea. I’ve been wondering what I should do about fraying.

  31. Mark M says:

    I say you don’t need a guide, once you find out what Sunday it is.

    Anyway, my choice:
    one ribbon at prayers before Mass
    one at Benediction
    one in the Order
    one in the Proper of Time
    one in the Common
    one in the Saints

    must run! God bless,

  32. Alli says:

    Red — Morning Prayers
    Gold — Devotions before Communion
    Purple — Sundays
    White — Order
    Green — Feasts
    Black — This one’s extra for me, currently it’s in the Matrimony section because I like the words about the purpose of marriage and things like that. Keeps me as a single person focused.

    The MOST IMPORTANT thing when you get a Baronius Press missal, though, is that those ribbons will FALL APART unless you do something to them. A friend of mine, who got his before I did, had some clear craft glue (basically like super glue but for fabrics), so we cut the fraying bits off and soaked the tips in the glue. 3 hours later they were dry and now they’re holding up just fine… even after a jaunt around Europe.

  33. Bob says:

    Must be nice to be able to use a 1962 hand missal on Sundays and feast days.

  34. Is there a guide, like the Ordo put out by the Paulist Press, that helps you figure out what page you should be on given the day?

    Yes. At a quick scan of the thread, I don’t see that anyone has yet mentioned the unofficially official TLM Ordo for the U.S. — the annual FSSP Liturgical Ordo and FSSP Directory that some dioceses have specified as their official EF ordo, which is available from the Fraternity Publications office:


    For each day of the year, the ordo entry lists its class, color, whether Gloria and Credo included, the Preface used, the commemorations in the Mass, and which Vespers to say. Plus lots of general information.

  35. Flambeaux says:

    Just FYI, I’ve not seen anything on the availability from either Fraternity Publications nor from Angelus Press about the 2009 Ordo each publishes.

    I highly recommend the Ordo, especially for those of us whose liturgical practice straddles both forms of the Roman Rite.

  36. When I called Fraternity Publications to order copies of the FSSP Ordo (as well as the Calendar) for 2009, I was told that it is due for mailing out next week, but pre-orders are being accepted now.

  37. Romulus says:

    Sam Orsot — At our parish, the altar missal is marked as follows: ordinary of the Mass, white; propers, green; proper preface, red. The canon of course has tabbed pages so no ribbon is necessary.

  38. Romulus says:

    An electronic version of the Vatican-published “Ordo Divini Officii Recitandi Sacrique Peragendi” for 2008 is available here. Click on “Tabella e Feste”. I’m hopeful the 2009 version will be appearing shortly.

  39. Soli Deo Gloria says:

    The ribbons in my Baronius missal are placed in this manner:
    Red – Litany of the Most Holy Name of Jesus (because this is part of the Morning Prayers on p59)
    Gold – Sunday readings / Propers
    Purple – Proper Prefaces
    White – Preparation for Holy Mass / Ordinary of the Mass
    Green – Propers of Saints / Feasts not falling on a Sunday
    Black – Litany of the Most Precious Blood of Our Lord Jesus Christ (which I find very effective when struggling with offending/impure thoughts) also it is two leaves away from the First Friday of the Month’s Act of Reparation to the Sacred Heart of Jesus
    I use a religious card to switch between Devotions for Confession and for Devotions for Communion. Best wishes to you.

  40. TerryC says:

    Just as I do in my Liturgy of the Hours I use post it tabs to mark the Ordinary and other places I use all the time and use the ribbons for the propers. Post It makes colored tabs whihc can be written on with a Sharpy to identify the specific locations.

  41. Sacristy_rat says:

    tie a little knot at the bottom of your ribbons to prevent them from freying.

  42. Tecumseh says:

    Mrs Tecumseh is now attending the traditional Mass, like Sean I’ve told her it is not a reading contest with the priest. Last Sunday the Mass we attended was sung, then the silence of the Canon decended, bliss.

  43. Flambeaux says:

    Henry Edwards,

    Thank you. I’ve been looking on the Fraternity Publications website. I’ll ring them instead.

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