Put Down the Missalette Already!

15 Mar

Songwriters put notes on paper.
That’s not music. You make the music.
~ Guitarist Tommy Tedesco of The Wrecking Crew

Let’s say dreams come true, and I get to see Van Morrison in concert somewhere, somehow, some day. Aw, man, Van-Morrisonit would be so great – a once in a lifetime opportunity! I doubt I’d sleep the night before, and I’d be checking on my ticket every hour or so – to see if it was still there, still real.

Then, the moment would arrive: I’m there in the audience, the instruments are tuning; the microphones are getting the “check, check, one, two” treatment – and it begins. Van kicks off the first song…

…and I drop my eyes to some wireless gadget in my lap, Google the lyrics, and read along as Van is singing on stage.

Right? Noooo, of course not! I’d soak it all in – a total immersion, listening to and watching a great songwriter give voice to his own compositions, himself, in person! They’re songs I mostly know already by heart anyway, but even if I didn’t, why would I waste that exquisite privilege by reading along?

That’s what I think of when I go to church and see folks with their noses in the missalettes – those little booklets in the pew that contain all the readings and parts of the Mass. Worse still is when their eyes are glued to iPhones or other gadgets as they follow along on apps while the lector drones on pointlessly up front.

It’s like every college student’s worst nightmare: A professor that flashes one PowerPoint slide after another, reading them word for word. Then, as if to purposely add insult to injury, he’ll sometimes pass out lecture notes with the slides already on them. Torture.

“The readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently by everyone,” the General Instruction explains, “for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy.” Catch that? Listened to, not scanned, not perused. In the liturgy, the Word of God is meant to be uttered and received. Here’s more from the General Instruction:

When the Sacred Scriptures are read in the Church, God himself speaks to his people, and Christ, present in his word, proclaims the Gospel.

The lector thus becomChurch-Pulpites another alter Christus, parallel to the priest who will confect the Eucharist and give us Jesus to eat. Dei Verbum makes this parallel quite explicit by insisting that in the Mass, the Church “unceasingly receives and offers to the faithful the bread of life from the table both of God’s word and of Christ’s body.”

So the lector’s job really is a vital one, but we treat it as if it were purely functional – a task that is required by the rubrics, yet largely irrelevant since we have the text so readily available, usually right there in the pew. “A reading from the First Letter of…,” the lector begins, which ought to put us on the edge of our seats. It’s Christ himself, after all, announcing his Word – the Logos, his very divine Self, enunciated for us, for me!

And yet, what’s our typical response? “Ho-hum (*yawn*), maybe I’ll grab the missalette and read along.”

That’s wacko.

Don’t get me wrong: Reading Scripture for ourselves isn’t bad, and the Church has never asserted anything even close to that – despite the lingering anti-Catholic canard to the contrary. Indeed, there’s no question Gutenberg did all of Christendom a huge favor by inventing the printingannunciation-mid press and making the Bible easily and universally obtainable. Yet personal Bible reading ought to be reserved to times outside of Mass, and particularly around Mass – like, for example, a family coming together to read the Gospel before church, or reflecting on it at home afterwards.

When we’re at Mass, however, we should skip the missalette altogether lest we fall into what is essentially a Protestant approach to the Liturgy of the Word. In keeping with the Reformation precept that everyone should interpret the Bible for himself, many Protestants bring their own Bibles to church and read along as the Scriptures are read. It’s as if they’re checking up on the reader’s accuracy and precision – almost like rabbis peering over the shoulder of a young boy reading the Torah at his bar mitzvah. But if we’re reading, we’re not really listening, and the Liturgy of the Word becomes just another cerebral exercise instead of an incarnated, holistic epiphany.

Sacred Scripture was meant to be received aurally in the liturgy, in the same way that classic iconography depicts the Blessed Mother receiving the Word of GoXIR404562d via a dove entering her ear. In fact, we call that blessed event the Annunciation because it was St. Gabriel’s “announcement” that itself realized the miracle of Jesus’ virginal conception. “Come and gaze upon this marvelous feat,” St. Athanasius attests, “the woman conceives through the hearing of her ears!” We’re called to do the same during the readings at Mass: To imitate Our Lady in receiving the Lord through hearing a proclamation, much as her cousin Elizabeth “received” an encounter with Jesus the moment she heard Mary’s greeting at the Visitation.

And the missalettes? Should we ditch them outright? I wouldn’t go that far, for there are circumstances when they do come in handy – and are even necessary. For instance, those who are hearing impaired have to rely on missalettes when there are no sign language interpreters or amplification devices available. Plus, let’s face it, sometimes it’s not easy to understand certain lectors, even if you want to. I know for myself that if I’m up front reading, and I see folks reaching for their missalettes, I automatically assume that I’m doing a lousy job – that my “proclamation” is not “audible and intelligible” as the Catechism says it should be.

Still, I probably shouldn’t be so hard on myself, because I know that many of us grab the missalette and open it up out of habit, regardless of how good the lector is. What I’m suggesting, I suppose, is that we should break that habit, and experience the Liturgy of the Word as it was mehandicappedant to be experienced: Through our ears.

Think of it this way: When you go to your local library branch with an armful of books and videos to return, do you ever hip-bump the blue handicapped button and wait for the door to open automatically – even though you’re not handicapped? I know I do, and that’s not so bad, right? But here’s the bad part: It’s now a habit for me, even when I don’t have an armful of books. Yup, it’s true, I’ll whack that blue button out of sheer laziness, especially if I have a contingent of kids with me. What ought to be an extraordinary, occasional use of an assistive device has become ordinary and routine.

This Lent, why not add to your fasting regimen by abstaining from missalette use completely and trust your lectors to convey the Word of God to you. By the time Easter rolls around, I’m guessing you won’t go back, for you’ll have discovered how much more you can get out of Mass when you truly “hear, contemplate, and do in the celebration” (CCC 1101).

63 Responses to “Put Down the Missalette Already!”

  1. Victoria March 16, 2015 at 12:22 am #

    This may be true and I will give it a try,. But I am a visual learner; hearing just doesn’t get through to me. Unless I can see the words they don’t have an impact. Nevertheless I will ask the Holy Spirit to help me with this.
    thanks for the reminder.

    • Rick Becker March 16, 2015 at 11:45 am #

      Thanks for your response, Victoria. I’m glad you’ll give it a try, but by all means don’t hesitate to pick up the missalette again if you find that its absence truly is detrimental. The goal is union with Jesus, as you know, and he is relentless in using any means necessary to bring us to himself.

      • teo March 16, 2015 at 1:08 pm #

        Rick what happens when at the “childrens’ mass” the six year old can barely read and pronounce the words. We could not even hear the reading. How about when the Lector deletes the bracket sections? No, I will not give up the missalette.

      • Rick Becker March 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

        Great questions, Teo. Certainly it’s legit to refer to the missalette to catch whatever was left out in the “short form” of some readings. However, since the short form is also legit, perhaps reviewing the longer form after Mass would allow you to enter into the liturgy more fully.

        As to the 6-year-old reader? This will sound radical, but maybe we’d all be better off if 6-year-olds didn’t serve as lectors. That would be something to take up with your pastor.

      • Lettish March 18, 2015 at 11:19 am #

        I’m too focused on the mass, reading and absorbing EVERY word to notice what anyone else is doing. The missalette helps me get completely absorbed in the mass. When I pray the ‘Our Father,’ sing the ‘Holy Holy,’ and any other memorized prayer, I close my eyes. I wonder why anyone else is looking around at what others are doing. The miracle of what is going on, on the altar should have our complete attention.

  2. Jack March 16, 2015 at 11:53 am #

    When I go to a Roman rite Church, I scan the lessons BEFORE Mass begins, and then, as at my beloved Byzantine church, listen attentively and reverently as the Scripture is proclaimed aloud.

    • William Beckman March 16, 2015 at 9:17 pm #

      You, sir, understand the real point of the author. It is living word! Wisdom, be attentive!

  3. Tim March 16, 2015 at 1:15 pm #

    Wow!!! I use my missal as a guide and compass…I also have notes and comments in each section of the Mass to remind me of beautiful times at different Masses I’ve attended! But, according to you, I’m just ‘burying my nose’ and not participating and I’m ‘what’s wrong with the Church today’!!

  4. Lou B. March 16, 2015 at 1:16 pm #

    When those who proclaim aloud are unable to be understood because of their accents, low voice volume, inability to know how to intone commas and periods and ten other miscellaneous communication problems—-I use my WORD AMONG US to focus on the Scripture rather than wonder what is coming from lectors, deacons and good fathers.

  5. Rob March 16, 2015 at 1:29 pm #

    Please !!!!!!! What an uncharitable article ! Doesnt The Church have bigger problems than to marshal everybody in the pew? What if somebody didn’t make today’s Mass, because he has to work during the day, and he likes to visit the church and catch up on today’s readings before heading home and because there are no evening Masses anywhere in the county as if the daily Mass was only for those with time on their hands. Or what if your neighbor in the pew is a foreigner, and because written word doesn’t have accents, it is easier for him to understand the reading by …. reading it! And lastly, do you like to audiobook your book, or do you like to hold it and read it ? I don’t think anyone who reads along is less reverent, than those who listen. In fact, make an experiment. After the Mass ask people what were the readings about and I betcha that those who read along remember more. It’s the psychology of the brain and how we learn. What a waste of my time, this article was! Hope you do better the next time 🙂 Peace 🙂

    • Matt D. March 17, 2015 at 11:07 am #

      I agree with you totally. The author was completely out of his league. There are many things wrong with this article.

      First and foremost, comparing the Mass to a rock concert is ridiculous. The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is not there for your entertainment. The purpose of the Mass is adoration of Our Lord, thanksgiving, to ask for God’s blessing, and to satisfy the justice of God for the sins committed against Him. This culminates in the reception of His body and blood under the species of bread and wine at the altar.

      Secondly, the lector is not an alter Christus. Only the Priest is the alter Christus at Mass. DEI VERBUM uses no such wording to proclaim the lector as the alter Christus, and if we wish to tag such a lofty standing to the laity, it may be time to reexamine the use of lay people in significant areas of the Mass.

      Lastly, it is more than obvious that the author has never been outside of a contemporary Catholic Church with the Mass in the Ordinary Form. Were he to attend an Extraordinary Form Mass or heaven forbid, an Ordinary Form Mass done in Latin, he would quickly find that hand missal is most necessary and helpful in “active participation”.

      I’m tired of people and articles telling people how they must worship, and if I am not singing or dancing or holding hands, then I am not actively participating. Is the guy who sits in the pew and says nothing the entire Mass with his head in the missalette not actively participating when he walked 5 miles that morning to be there? What if he is quietly praying along with the Mass and praying for his wife and kids? Please stop forcing people to do things and let them commune with their Lord.

  6. John Martignoni March 16, 2015 at 1:36 pm #

    Sorry, but it really annoys me when folks present, as you have done here, their personal opinions and preferences about the “best” way to do something as if they are akin to Church dogma, or, at the least, natural law. #1, if most lectors were as good at their craft as Van Morrison is at his, then you might have the beginning of a point. There are lectors who read way too fast to be able to follow all of what they are saying. There are those who read waaay…tooo…ssslllooowww…basically putting commas or semi-colons after every other word. Then there are those who turn the Scripture reading into a dramatic reading, as if they are on a stage doing Shakespeare for the audience. All of which are very distracting to understanding what is being read. #2, Another failing of your Van Morrison analogy is that a Van Morrison concert has words put to music – do lectors sing the readings? If you were talking about listening to the choir, rather than to a lector, again, you might have the beginning of a point. But then, how would we sing along if we didn’t look at the missalette? #3, Are you aware of the fact that by engaging more than one sense – hearing and seeing, for example – you more easily retain and understand information that is being transmitted to you? I prefer to read the missalette while I am listening to the readings. There are indeed folks who can do both at the same time! Furthermore, I make my kids read along in the missalettes, because there is not a lector out there who can keep their attention simply with their reading of the scriptures. So, in order to keep my kids’ attention, and to help them gain more familiarity with the Bible, I have them read the readings while also listening to them. 4) Your analogies to the Annunciation and the Visitation – really?! C’mon. So, all in all, if you have a personal preference for how you do something during Mass…great! Let folks know about it. Ask them to try it and see if it helps them. But, please, please, do not present it as if by not doing the same as you folks are somehow lesser Catholics or not following the Word of God in the proper manner or are somehow going against Church liturgical law.

    • Jack Finnerty March 16, 2015 at 2:01 pm #

      Thank you, John Martignoni. Not only am I agree with all that you said, but I’m so tired of listening. reading, hearing about so many things we should be doing. Sit, stand, kneel, don’t hold hands, don’t move when exchanging sign of peace, genuflect here and bow there, don’t read the readings but be sure to read the compulsory little card for the capital fundraiser. How about the priest that gestures EVERY DAY to the daily Mass goers when we should stand, sit, etc? Is that in the instructions?

      I usually don’t read all these little blurbs, I slipped up and read this one. I almost never actually make a public comment, but this one got my goat; just had to vent.

    • Marcy March 16, 2015 at 11:38 pm #

      Absolutely, I agree with you, John. I’m a lector and do my best to read aloud well, but I myself, when not lectoring, like to read along with the missalette or, if during the daily Mass where the readings are not there, I use my iBreviary app. I find I pay better attention and get more out of it if I read along. I’m not trying to catch the lector making mistakes, I’m trying to keep focused. Most people could not read in most of the history of Christendom, so of course, they could only listen. We are better for our luck now.

    • karen wilkinson March 17, 2015 at 6:42 am #

      Thank you John. I have no idea who this Richard Becker is but honestly he needs to pay attention to Mass and not spend that time looking around at everyone else to see who is and who is not reading a missalette. I have protestant friends that make unkind remarks about us Catholics and the reading/using of the missalette (instead of the bible). It’s obvious they don’t have any idea what the missalette is but make remarks anyway and this guy seems to be on that same path.

  7. Sygurd March 16, 2015 at 1:47 pm #

    Aren’t there much more pressing problems in the Church than this? Actually, it’s not even a problem. Much ado about nothing, Mr. Becker.

  8. John Stevens March 16, 2015 at 1:57 pm #

    My wife is hearing impaired. She hates going to the Cathedral, because the acoustics are really bad, and to make matters worse, they sing a great deal of what, in our home parish, is normally spoken.

    As my ears get older, and with the loss of the great Catholic tradition of plain chant, and the rising prevalence of lectors who can’t “lect”, I’m mindful of what you say, but in practical terms, it just doesn’t work for a great many older people.

    That said, the two times the lector (a visiting monk) “read” a reading in plain chant, it was crystal clear, well enunciated, and slow enough for even my wife to hear and grasp. Beautiful, too. Perhaps what you are really saying is: “Bring back plain chant for the readings!” If so, I heartily agree with you. Some of our older Churches were designed for non-amplified readings, after all.

  9. Brad March 16, 2015 at 2:08 pm #

    The flip side of that coin is that sometimes people who aren’t following along in the Missalette may appear to not be paying any attention during the readings. I would also argue that my ears (and heart), thanks be to God, are tremendous multi-taskers and are able to fully function while I’m reading along.

    I get what you’re saying though and I think your heart is in the right place, I simply disagree.

  10. steve March 16, 2015 at 2:20 pm #

    I’m sorry. It’s great that this is how YOU best find reverence in Mass. Now please stop judging people for not being you. You know what’s even worse than *gasp* reading along with the scripture in church? Being distracted by silently judging those who are.

    Anecdote: a girl i dated was not Catholic, but started attending with me and taking it seriously. Now I noticed that she wasnt invested during the ritualistic prayers like the Gloria etc because she didn’t know them. But she never grabbed the missal herself. I think it intimidated her that everyone had it memorized. So I eventually decided to open it up and share with her, reading along myself. In no time she was singing, responding, and engaging in the Mass. And guess what else? I found that I started focusing more on the meaning when I was reading rather than reciting, even though I’ve had them memorized since childhood. And same with the readings. News flash: some people actually *listen* better while reading along. Its not an either or.

    And you’re concert analogy is nonsense because you’re not trying to actively engage with the words, you’re experiencing the music. I’ve never seen anyone staring at the missal during the consecration.

    So please, next time you sit behind us in mass stop judging us. Maybe if you follow along in the missal too you won’t be so distracted by our engagement in the Mass.

  11. Papabile March 16, 2015 at 2:36 pm #

    QUERY: Are hand missals still needed?

    REPLY: Since reform of the liturgy the usefulness of hand missals for the faithful is often questioned. All now understand the words spoken at Mass; what is more, as far as the biblical readings are concerned, all ought to be listening attentively to the word of God. Nevertheless hand missals, it seems, remain necessary. People do not always hear well, especially in large churches, and what they do hear physically they do not always understand right away. They, therefore, often need to go back over the texts heard during a celebration. In addition, the liturgy, and the eucharistic celebration above all, is “the summit toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount from which all the Church’s power flows” (SC art. 10). All the concerns of the spiritual life must be brought to the liturgy and that happens if participation is truly actual and . This requires frequent meditation on the liturgical texts both before and after the celebration: Not 8 (1972) 195-196. See also the notes from Bp. R. Coffy, President of the Liturgical Commission of France, and the survey of vernacular missals available: ibid. 196-198.

  12. Papabile March 16, 2015 at 2:39 pm #

    Here’s another one…. The view at the time immmediately after the Councill, and well after SC.

    97. In hoc discrimine mutationum liturgicarum suntne parva missalia diffundenda?

    Notitia aliquando passim diffunditur circa imminentem reformationem Ordinis Missae, vel definitivam instaurationem totius Missalis; quae serio fundamento caret. Instauratio liturgica pluribus indiget studiis et studiorum annis. Parva ergo missalia si criteriis hodiernae reformationis innituntur et aliqua cum flexibilitate et varietate concipiuntur, adhiberi poterunt per plures annos. Perutiliia insuper evadunt ut fideles spiritualiter et pedagogice ad futuram instaurationem accipiendam praeparentur et ne per aliquot, et quidem ferventiores, annos, priventur profectu spirituali qui ab actuosa et conscia sacrae liturgiae participatione provenit.

    97. In this period of liturgical changes, should small missals be distributed?

    News is sometimes spread around about an imminent reform of the Order of Mass or a definitive restoration of the whole Missal; this lacks a serious foundation. The liturgical restoration needs more efforts and years of study. Therefore, small missals, if they are based on the criteria of the modern reform and are arranged with some flexibility and variety, will be able to be used for some years. They moreover continue to be very useful so that the faithful will be prepared spiritually and pedagogically for receiving the future restoration and so that they will not be deprived throughout several even more fervent years of spiritual progress that comes from actual and conscious participation in the sacred liturgy.

  13. Amy March 16, 2015 at 2:41 pm #

    Wow! Lots of opinions on something that sounds pretty much like a personal preference. I’m not usually one to leave comments…. but. Perhaps our time would be better spent encouraging each other on our journey to shut the world out and be 100% present in front of the Lord? I use the missalette every single time. While at daily Mass, I regret not having it. While visiting a church that doesn’t keep them in the pews, I regret not having it. I utilize it because it is a tool to keep me focused on the Mass. It is just the way God made my brain. I have to look at the words and feel the book in my hand to keep me focused and paying attention. During the consecration, I look up at the host to silently pledge my love for Him. This is how I (personally) can more fully participate in the Mass. When I look around and see others on their iPods or iPads I try to remind myself I’m not there to see what others are doing. Just passing along an alternate perspective.

    • Gregv March 16, 2015 at 10:27 pm #

      Amy, I entirely agree. My preference is to use the Missalette, even sometimes during the Eucharistic prayer, because I find reading and hearing at the same time helps me better listen and understand. I also arrive early to Mass to go over the readings beforehand. I am a little offended at the notion that by using the Missalette I am somehow not paying attention. Many people do not and that is fine with me.

  14. diane c in Wis March 16, 2015 at 3:14 pm #

    I absolutely agree with you. I have thought your same thoughts so many times. Thank you for an excellent message!

  15. Jerry Wieter March 16, 2015 at 4:33 pm #

    I disagree. I want to know that I am hearing the word of God and not something that is not to the teaching of the Catholic Church. My wife and I bought a Missalette because our church has maybe 6 or 7 booklets at a Mass. We had a past priest in our church who got the people to sit and listen how our church is almost empty.

  16. Profling March 16, 2015 at 5:02 pm #

    Missalettes are just a symptom of a kitsch liturgy.

  17. Aggie March 16, 2015 at 5:28 pm #

    I think it’s rather self-centered to assume that the reason someone is reading is due to your sub-par performance. It’s not always all about you — I prefer to read. I remember better and understand better when I read. I am less distracted when I read.

  18. Elmar Kremer March 16, 2015 at 5:45 pm #

    Is attending holy mass really like attending a van Morrison concert? Is the priest’s role comparable to that of a performing musician? Are the people in the pews there as spectators of the priest’s performance?

  19. djc March 16, 2015 at 7:05 pm #

    This is without a doubt the most foolish article I’ve ever read.

  20. Joel March 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    There are those of us who have a hard time understanding the Old Testament readings and the Esipstles of the New Testament. What good does it do to sit there and listen without an aide if it doesn’t make sense what is being read? The missal gives me the ability to participate and soak in God’s word and I’m sorry if my ears/brain don’t work like yours. I find this blog posting a bit obnoxious and self-righteous and not loving in nature.

    • Gregv March 16, 2015 at 10:31 pm #

      Agreed, reading helps me a lot. I wish the Missalettes included the prayers, such as the Collect, because they are beautiful and I feel I miss a lot by not being able to read them as well as listen to them.

  21. Tad March 16, 2015 at 7:46 pm #

    Wow, here we go again. You know there are like two big schools of thought on the liturgy. One was that headed by the Great Liturgist, Pope Benedict XVI. No where do I see where he worried so much about this. The other school of thought is those in the more liberal mindset. They are taught at places like Notre Dame School of Liturgy. These guys take one word, or one sentence in the norms for the mass, and make something huge out of something so very small. It’s like looking at the human body and then worshiping the toe at the expense of all else. These folks are people who like to order us around like soldiers. We are not allowed to bend the knee without their permission. They hate bending the knee to Our Lord. They consider us God once we receive Our Lord. Cardinal Arinze and Pope Benedict believed in allow people the FREEDOM to worship Our Lord. Benedict said “Allow the people to do what the church permits!” Reading the Missal and listening is possible to together. If I watch the reader, I end up having my mind wonder to what they are reading or how they are speaking or million other distractions. The Missal helps me focus. It also lets you see when they try to change the words of prayers, readings, etc… Sometimes I think they want us in the dark about how many times they change things in Mass without authority to do so.

  22. Mark March 16, 2015 at 9:01 pm #

    Here’s the compromise I’ve said I’d make with those who insist on reading along in missalettes:

    They can keep the reading-along…if we put it all back in Latin.

    I mean, the whole point of putting it in the vernacular was so that you wouldn’t have to read along!

    If people are reading-along anyway it might as well be a parallel translation in a(n old rite) hand missal…

    • Papabile March 17, 2015 at 8:31 am #

      That was NOT the “whole point” of the vernacular. In fact, the Extraordinary Form had been put in the vernacular before. Note the Chinese rite and some of the East European counties. It had NOTHING to do with whether people put their noses in Missals. In fact, layman’s handmissals at one time were prohibited from publication.

      I cited above the official Dubium from 1972, AFTER the introduction of the Novus Ordo, which states that handmissals are still useful to the laity. That’s the position of the Church.

  23. ericsammons March 16, 2015 at 9:08 pm #


    I have to disagree with you on this one. I have found over the years that I simply cannot retain information I only receive by listening. I will forget the readings literally two minutes after I hear them; but if I read them, I can remember them all week. So for me, the missalette is essential.

    Although, I will say that I do try to read the readings the night before, which allows me to ditch the missalette at Mass.

    • CarrieAnne March 16, 2015 at 10:06 pm #

      Frankly, I have no idea what my neighbors are doing next to me at Mass, so I’m not sure what bothers me…

  24. Peter March 16, 2015 at 9:53 pm #

    I’ve seen VM twice. Once in 2005, the only time he performed at Red Rocks Amphitheater in Morrison, CO. Again in Denver several years later. No regrets.

  25. Stephs2cents March 16, 2015 at 10:22 pm #

    Using the phrase “that’s whacko” kinda turned me off from the genuine effort I was giving to reading the whole post and hearing you out, since I am about a 50/50 missalette-reading whacko. 😉

    Such a forcefully titled post, and dramatically illustrated argument, is guaranteed to get people snapping at your “tone” in the comment box. In fact, I think I’ll skip what I was going to spell out and explain, and just leave it at that to see if you chime in again, Rick. (Btw, my husband is an RN too – gotta love these God-loving male nurses! 🙂 )

  26. Maria March 16, 2015 at 10:28 pm #

    I think it’s clear that the author is trying to say that listening should be the default, but that there are situations where reading may be necessary (judging from his responses), and I agree. Speaking and listening in this digital age is getting to be a lost art, but it is still the way that important information is to be transmitted. Think proposals and news of a relative’s death, we want someone to utter the words to us. This is still the most immediate, intimate way to communicate and we should foster that in our relationship with the Word of God whenever possible.

  27. Veronica Marie Johnson March 16, 2015 at 10:33 pm #

    Awesome awesome article, Rick! What insight! Thank you! I recently fell in love with Dei Verbum and your article has made some of the practical applications “click” for me. Totally right on! Thanks again! Your insight has just enriched my love-adventure with Christ!

  28. Fancy Francine March 16, 2015 at 10:36 pm #

    At a parish I used to belong to, the priest insisted that we take the missalettes home and READ them sometime during the week. When the Lector is reading, he insisted that our eyes should be on him or her. Our noses should not be stuck in the book! Worked for me! I won’t use a missalette during Mass except for singing the Responsorial Psalm.

    But the day came when Father caught someone with their nose in the missalette. He quietly stepped off the altar to the front pew, grabbed a missalette from the pew’s rack, and threw it, Frisbee-style, at the person. He certainly got the guy’s attention!

    • Matt D. March 17, 2015 at 11:18 am #

      I would have never darkened the door of that church again, and I will pray for a cure to the rude, offensive, and dictatorial style of the Priest you mentioned.

      • Greg Viggiano March 18, 2015 at 9:46 am #

        Agreed. Why have Missalettes in the pews otherwise?

    • Stephs2cents March 17, 2015 at 1:30 pm #

      Wow. Anger issues, anyone? That’s really sad and a bit scary, what your priest did.

  29. Claire L May March 16, 2015 at 11:12 pm #

    Gosh, I have to tell you, my mind wanders at Mass. If I didn’t have the missalette to help me concentrate on The Word being proclaimed, I wouldn’t get anything out of the readings and gospel. Not everyone learns or receives or retains information in the same way! And I do have a Mass app on my iPod, I truly find it very helpful. Plus, as I’m getting older now (in my 50’s), my hearing is happily augmented by being able to read along. Please don’t assume boredom or call people like me Protestant who really need to read the Scriptures for Mass. Think about how many years missals have been around. They’ve been around for good reason!!

  30. littleife March 17, 2015 at 12:55 am #

    As a pre-Vatican II child, I remember a time everyone brought his own missal to Mass. I remember my father’s and mother’s missals, hers stuffed with holy cards, prayers bookmarked by prayers.I do not use a missal any longer. I feel less devout for it, and when I see someone at Mass intensely following in his missal – the elderly gentleman from China, for example, or the single mom with her children beside her – I see piety.

    The problem is the author and those of his mind have not experienced the Mass as an intensely personal, contemplative experience. They have only known the Mass as a community event, a form of fellowship. But Our Lord entering into our very persons in the Eucharist could hardly be anything but intensely personal.

    Who says Mr. Tedesco’s concept of the Mass and its purpose supercedes that of those who wish to hear the Lord himself? To see his words with their own eyes and contemplate them? The unappreciated value of the Catholic Mass is that it stands above production value, above performance and I wish more priests, musicians, lectors and laymen who feel they must put on a show – those who feel they must walk out of Mass with some “experience” – would all consider what actually happens in it and understand it is not about them. Not about their pious affectations. Not about how high they can walk around with the book of readings. Not about how expressively they read, their intonations, or their part in it. It is not about the interesting phrases the Celebrant can add to the ages old liturgy to make it more “meaningful”.

    In fact, I think I’m going out and buying a missal of my own. Mr. Tedesco has missed the mark. But who can blame him – it’s a matter of experience and formation.

  31. Wait March 17, 2015 at 8:30 am #

    It’s not. About. You.
    Mass is not a performance. It’s not a theatrical play or a concert. The point is the Word and most importantly the Eucharist– with others, yes, but as a lector I don’t feel at all threatened by Missals. They tell me the congregation is reading along with me.
    The star is the tabernacle, not the priest or the cantor or whoever gets to use the mike.

  32. robert prokop March 17, 2015 at 9:35 am #

    Ha! I happen to go to a church (yes, right here in the US of A) where the Mass is said in Polish (of which I know about 10 words). Without my missal, I’d be lost!

  33. Jim March 17, 2015 at 10:42 am #

    Dear author of this article,
    Sounds a bit self centered as you state
    ( “I know for myself that if I’m up front reading, and I see folks reaching for their missalettes, I automatically assume that I’m doing a lousy job – that my “proclamation” is not “audible and intelligible” as the Catechism says it should be. )”

  34. flgreg March 17, 2015 at 3:08 pm #

    Great article and I completely agree.

    [rant /on]

    What really annoys me are all these COMBOX critics who fail to see such articles for what they are – opinions … and then they go on to insert THEIR opinions as though they are dogma and act in the same manner that they are accusing the author of – uncharitableness.

    Coming back to the Church after being away from many years I went out and bought a fancy, leather-bound “Daily Roman Missal” – complete with the Collect, Preface and Prayer after Communion specific for that day and not found in the normal missalette. I thought I was the “cock of the walk” … all holier than thou until I considered the following:

    1. For the first four hundred years of the Church there was not even an agreed upon Canon of Scripture. Various gospels and epistles were read to the assembly. It was not until 1474, the same century as Guttenberg’s Bible, that the first book bearing the name “Missale Romanum” appeared. So, for nearly fifteen centuries the Faithful got along just fine without reading along.

    2. Apostolic Tradition is passed on by preaching – that is, by oral communication. I do not presume to lecture the likes of Mr. Martignoni (if, in fact, he is THE John Martignoni) but such passages like Luke 10:13; 1 Peter 1:25; Romans 10:17; and St. Paul’s multiple instructions to Timothy about oral tradition are instructive for me, personally.

    3. The author referenced GIRM #29: “…Therefore, the readings from the Word of God are to be listened to reverently (my emphasis) by everyone, for they are an element of the greatest importance in the Liturgy”.

    It was that paragraph in the GIRM that finally convinced me to put away my Daily Missal once and for all. Perhaps it is just me but I cannot “listen…reverently” when I am thinking about a mangled pronunciation or misplaced pause while reading along. And YES it IS distracting to listen to a couple hundred people rustle through their pages during the Eucharistic Prayer.

    Sure, I still use the one in the pew for saying the Introit/Entrance Antiphon and Responsorial Psalm (if it is too long to remember when the lector/cantor recites it the first time). I arrive early to Mass to prepare to “celebrate the Sacred Mysteries” and part of that preparation is to look over the readings – if I did not do it the night before. Also, it has been more than three liturgical years since the new translation was implemented. If you have not yet memorized the “new” text and responses by now then I do not know what to tell you.

    It is true that there are exceptions; but, if you are not hearing impaired, trying to placate rambunctious children and/or belong to a parish that uses untrained lectors then you should have no need to read from a missal(ette) – yes, that is my personal opinion.

    I have been fortunate to have attended Mass on three continents [North America, South America, UK and the Republic of Ireland] and there are no missalettes in their pews (or the readings projected on a screen over the sanctuary – UGH!). I believe this is an aberration and indicative of the AmChurch mentality. I am sure that other countries, in wealthier parishes, might have missalettes…it’s just I have never seen them. Do they have misselettes in the pews at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome (I do not know the answer to that…perhaps someone can enlighten me)?

    [rant /off] Flame Away!

    • Greg Viggiano March 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm #

      Dear flgreg,

      Having been to St. Peter’s Basilica twice, I can assure you that it has NO pews. And thus no Missalettes. Same for the other major basilicas in Rome – St. Mary Major, St. John Lateran, and St. Paul’s Outside the Walls. Both are features of very old church buildings. Thus no comparison.

  35. Carl March 17, 2015 at 5:26 pm #

    “…regardless of how good the lector is.”
    Yes, there are some good lectors, but unfortunately, in my parish–and in most parishes I have visited–they are not the norm. Years past, I used to simply listen to the lector, but finally tired of trying to decipher poor diction–and also ignore distracting manerisms. I learned that I could better concentrate on the Word of God by following along in the misselette.
    Victoria also raises a good point. Most people will be able to better absorb a message if it is simultaneously presented to more than one of their senses. Reading the Word reinforces hearing the Word.
    God bless.

  36. Richard de Lorimier March 18, 2015 at 8:21 pm #

    Some people process information better visually than auditorially. Even as adults, the distinctions “visual learners” or “auditory learners” still apply. This is just how some people’s brains work. For people who process information better auditorially, then, sure, using a missalette may not be necessary. For people who process information better visually, however, having a missalette handy to visually provide the words from Scripture as it is read would definitely be necessary. Some people’s auditory processing difficulties may even be such to where it impacts their reading comprehension skills. In such cases, the missalette would be necessary for them to go back and reread a verse or two whose meaning they did not initially catch. However, if their auditory processing difficulties are at such a level, they would never to able to comprehend the meaning of God’s word were it only provided auditorially to them, without the missalette as a companion to provide the information visually. I don’t think the author intended such, but some would say that an approach which discounted the use of missalettes would be insensitive to people with auditory processing difficulties.

  37. PJones March 22, 2015 at 8:41 pm #

    I find your article interesting, but I would have to disagree with you. I have very good hearing, but nevertheless, like others who’ve commented here, I’m also a visual learner. Before I leave home, I read the all of the readings (on my Kindle Paperwhite), then I do Lectio Divina. By the time I leave home, I’m pretty much aware of not only what the reading is about, but what it all means (I hope).
    Yet, reading along (still on my Kindle) as the Lector reads is very helpful. I find following along while someone else reads aloud very beneficial because I often find other meanings then just an hour or so before. Besides, quite often the lectors miss words, transpose words, or mispronounce them. Thank heavens I’ve already read what was written and now I’m following along. I get the message of the readings and don’t become confused.
    Watching someone else read is not only difficult, but I quickly become very distracted by everyone else around me. Following along on my Kindle means I’m focused on the Word of God, not other people. Time goes quickly and by the time the Priest delivers his homily, I feel almost excited about his take on the readings.
    I think if Father asked us to put aside our devices and missalettes, I would give it a try, but I’d be miserable.

  38. HarveyDude March 22, 2015 at 10:16 pm #

    There are several reasons why we should keep missalettes. The main one is that people just get things better when they hear and see the words, rather than hear alone. This has been well established by educational experts.
    But another reason is that having the missalettes available in the pews can — sad to say it — keep some pastors honest. I witnessed this in my own parish where the pastor wanted to use an unapproved lectionary that had gender-neutral wording. The relevant parish commission or council voiced their favor for keeping the missalettes, and so he resorted to using the bogus lectionary only at weekday Masses, where the words aren’t in the missalette. Sigh.

  39. Cathy November 23, 2015 at 8:32 am #

    Everyone is wired differently. Some learn through listening others visually.
    For one person to judge how someone gets the most out of the liturgy seems a bit condescending to me.
    Historically people HAD to listen because they couldn’t afford the luxury of printed items.
    For me, I find that following along with a missalette keeps me from getting distracted by those around me. Though during the consecration I need my visual.
    We brought a friend to church who wasn’t Catholic. Being there were no missalettes to use, the church service felt inclusive to her, especially when she was interested in following along. Attending church and knowing the mass by heart doesn’t help the potential future convert.

    • Peter November 26, 2017 at 3:07 pm #

      absolutely; I totally agree! read along if you choose!

  40. Synanomous (@spk4244) November 15, 2019 at 10:54 am #

    Your argument is completely valid if one thinks that Mass is some form of entertainment – and for a lot of people it is. But in reality, the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass is in fact not supposed to be entertainment at all, it is a sacrifice. I have no doubt that at your parish, there may very well be entertainers, but alas it should not be so. “The Mass is at the same time, and inseparably, the sacrificial memorial in which the sacrifice of the cross is perpetuated and the sacred banquet of communion with the Lord’s body and blood. But the celebration of the Eucharistic sacrifice is wholly directed toward the intimate union of the faithful with Christ through communion.” – CCC 1382.


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