As part of The Catholic Man Reviews’ The Liturgy Series, besides reviewing books about the liturgy, or providing articles about the liturgy, why not review some products used in the Sacred Liturgy? Well to tell you the truth, in Canada, we only have one publisher of the Roman Missal from the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. While I do have deep respect for the Bishops of Canada, I do have to say that the edition of the Canadian Roman Missal is honestly underwhelming compared to American editions of the Roman Missal. (I will be making frequent comparisons with the Canadian edition.) I have been into the DiCarlo showroom in Toronto that have an American editions from Catholic Book Publishing Corporation which are less expensive than the Canadian edition and honestly much more aesthetically and dignified in a sense. However, today I want to review an edition of the Roman Missal that I think is a model that Canada should have.
Before I dive in, let me be clear… I am not the only one to be criticizing the Canadian edition of the Roman Missal. Fr. Raymond De Souza, a well known Catholic Columnist on various publications, notably the Canadian National Post and The Catholic Register, wrote about the Canadian Roman Missal aesthetics and expressed his expectations and his disappointment in two columns in 2011, when the new Missal was implemented. I remember I read a follow up column of his about the Missal in 2017, but I cannot seem to locate it now. However, the Canadian Roman Missal was also featured in the New Liturgical Movement blog which again mentioned its lack of aestheticism.
I am grateful to Midwest Theological Forum (MTF) for allowing me the opportunity to review their Classic Edition of the Roman Missal, Third Edition. Some things to note is that first of all, I will not be reviewing the longevity of the Missal in comparison with the Canadian one because it is simply not fair to review a missal that has endured some use and one that has undergone not as vigorous use. (The Canadian edition I have at home is an altar-size edition that was once used at a church but was put out of use due to its cover slowly disintegrating after a year or two of use.) Second, I will not be reviewing the translations of these two missals because as Fr. De Souza said in his column, the main differences are the changes in the General Instruction of the Roman Missal, some rubrics, Lectionary translation for the Palm Sunday readings and the Common of Saints in which the Canadian edition has some of their own saints and the American edition has their own saints included. What is will be reviewing are mainly the aesthetics and practicality, namely (1) the external features, (2) the paper and layout, (3) the ribbons, (4) the tabs, (5) the art, (6) the price and I will wrap up all of this in a Conclusion. All of this will be done in comparison with the Canadian edition of the Roman Missal.
*Note: Due to COVID-19 restrictions, I do not have access to a new copy of the Canadian Roman Missal. Therefore, pictures included here in are those of my edition of the missal which has shown signs of wear and tear – it is not representative of a new condition Canadian missal.
A bit about MTF and The Catholic Man Reviews
The Catholic Man Reviews have reviewed three publications from MTF and all have been positive reviews. The second ever review done on The Catholic Man Reviews was the Manual of Prayers published in conjunction with the Pontifical North American College in Rome. The second MTF reviewed on this blog was the Daily Roman Missal, 7th Edition published with Our Sunday Visitor which to this day, is one of our most read reviews. The latest MTF publication reviewed was the Student edition of the Manual of Prayer which is my most used prayer book since I purchased it some years ago. All three publications have some superior quality as opposed to some other publications I have reviewed on this blog. The time and quality put into MTF’s publications really dignify what is contained within the books. Not to say, recently, I published a copy of The Didache Bible at a used book sale at the University of Toronto – I don’t know yet if I will review it on here, but again, the quality is superior.
The External Features
When I took out MTF’s Roman Missal out of the box, I was attracted by the cover depicting Christ the Pantocrator in all his majesty, surrounded by a simple, elegant border on this seemingly high-quality synthetic leather. The spine is simply stamped with the words “Roman Missal” with a Chi-Rho beneath it. Notably, the spine is ribbed – bringing me back to some pre-Vatican II missals. The back contains the same border as the front with an enlarged Chi-Rho like the one on the spine. I have found that MTF likes to reuse their art for various publications. The Christ the Pantocrator image is the same rendition used in their The Didache Bible hardcover edition, and their Chi-Rho is the same style as the one used on the cover of the Daily Roman Missal, 7th Edition. However, their noble simplicity of the art used cannot evoke complaints in my opinion.
The Canadian edition is in my opinion too much – Eucharistic depiction with a stylized cross, debossed with some vines around the cross. The spine contains the words “Roman Missal” with some debossing with some more vines. The back of the Canadian edition is in my opinion more dignified, with a stylized cross with IHS. If that were used on the front, with gold stamping, it would have made more sense… but some may say otherwise.
Both editions of the Roman Missal have sewn binding. I have to say that the good thing with the Canadian edition is that even though the cover is slowly disintegrating, the binding – the text block itself is still very good, well sewn. My home parish has a copy in which the spine which is part of the cover almost ripped apart, but the pages themselves have remained in fair condition – none of them have fallen out.
It is disappointing that with only one edition of the Roman Missal in Canada, published by the Bishop’s conference, that edition contains no gilding at all. I think gilding adds solemnity to a liturgical book. In MTF’s not only are the page edges gilded, but according to their website, the “gilded edges are struck with red and then gold to preserve their beauty even when the book is laid open.” In other words, you know when a book is gilded, the gilding does not shine at a certain angle. By striking the edges in red and then gold, the gold can still shine at various angles.
MTF’s endpages are of much higher quality than the Canadian edition. While the Canadian edition uses a thicker paper something like thin cardstock, MTF’s edition used a very thick paper. It is paper texture on the back, but the red part feels like a synthetic leather texture. Also to note, with the MTF edition, the endpages are reinforced at the spine with some cloth while the Canadian edition has none of that reinforcement. MTF’s endpages are plain red, while the Canadian edition are printed endpages with the front cover Eucharistic Cross reproduced… I would have much preferred them plain.
The Paper, Layout and Fonts
The Canadian edition, as mentioned, uses the same type of paper throughout the missal, but feels thicker than the 60gsm paper in the MTF but not as thick as 100gsm. This is good for most of the missal… except for the Order of Mas pages which after a year’s use of the same missal would see some rips and even much staining from grubby fingers of many priests (if a missal is shared among different priests), especially for the Introductory Rites and the Liturgy of the Eucharist. The paper is not white, but a lighter cream shade than that used by MTF. One thing to note though is the opacity of the pages. I can see through the other side more with the the MTF pages on the 60gsm pages. While I can still see through a bit with the 100gsm paper, it is not as bad. However, the darker cream of the MTF missal allows the texts to be more easily read even with the opacity. While the Canadian missal does have see through, it is not as bad as the 60gsm pages with the MTF missal. However, the trade off are the fonts used in the MTF. While lighter paper is used, allowing one to see more on the other side, the fonts of the black text is darker and bolder than that of the Canadian missal which “pops” out at the reader more.
I do appreciate the consistency of fonts used in the MTF edition – the same font is used in the text, and notation. I do have to note though, the font used in the notation is smaller than that used in the regular text. The Canadian edition has one type of font for the regular text, but uses Palatino Linotype for the notation, and even a calligraphic font with the versicle and responsory symbols… all of which I dislike. I much prefer consistent use of fonts throughout. One or two fonts are fine. I know the Liturgical Press edition uses Palatino Linotype for their regular black and red texts, and uses some sans-serif for the headings which is a simple and pleasing combination.
Now to the layout there are certainly pros and cons to each of the edition. It is worth noting the dimensions, that the MTF missal is 8.5″ x 11″, while the Canadian missal is 8.6″ x 12.4″… slightly larger (these are both altar missal editions, not chapel editions).
The thing that really stands out between the layout is the use of drop-capitals in the missals. For one thing, I applaud the Canadian edition for using drop caps for the Collect, Prayer Over the Offerings, the Prefaces, and the Prayer after Communion which I think are convenient for the priest to easily locate the prayer they need. The MTF edition only uses drop-capitals for their prefaces and at the start of the each Eucharistic Prayer (including the Sanctus). The Canadian edition uses it sparingly throughout the Eucharistic Prayer, but not for the Sanctus interestingly. I think the use of drop-capitals is important for the Eucharistic Prayer for Masses with concelebrants. Not every parish uses those small Eucharistic Prayers for Concelebrants (which in my opinion, the Canadian edition is cheaply made like a student’s spiral-bound school exercise book… I don’t know about the updated edition which is said to be saddle-stitched) so the concelebrant would approach the missal and read from there.
I applause the Canadian edition again for indenting the Collect, Prayer Over the Offerings, the Prefaces, and the Prayer after Communion, again, easier to locate the prayers. However, I think if the identations of the prayer are done, then there is not need for drop-capitals. With the MTF, without the use of drop-capitals, I wish they indented the prayer after their respective subheadings for easy location.
The next thing about the layout that I think is important is the use of white space – the MTF uses the space sparingly. I like how for certain feast days, the feast day title is put on a separate page with accompanying art. Even when one page is not enough to fit a prayer, it is put on a separate page leaving the white space… that I think is good. I hate seeing text squished onto a page. That is something that the Canadian edition does for some Masses which is aesthetically unpleasant to the eye. If there is no space, go to a new page.
A final thing about the layout I wish to speak about is the placement of page numbers. The MTF missal placed their page numbers at the top of the page with headings, while the Canadian placed their page numbers at the bottom of the page with headings. With my personal taste, I prefer page numbers at the bottom of the page rather than the top because when I flip the pages, I tend to flip from the bottom corners rather than the top… but that is merely personal preference.
A Roman Missal without ribbons? Never seen that before (except for Liturgical Press’ The Roman Missal Study Edition… but that’s a different story). Ribbons are used to mark various places in the missal. The worst though is when you use the ribbons and it starts damaging the pages of your missal. Both the MTF and Canadian missals have six ribbons that start with a narrow ribbon at the top with a larger “body”. That’s what I see with a lot of Missals. The Canadian edition has butterfly ends to prevent fraying. However, I have seen some parishes with their “wings” having become undone. This Classic Edition of the MTF missal does not have butterfly wings but are burnt at the end very cleanly – I assume they were cut with a hot knife. This could be a let down – but the Regal Edition by MTF do have butterfly ends.
The biggest difference between the ribbons of these two editions is ultimately the colours. The MTF missal has six distinct colour ribbons while the Canadian edition only has six ribbons of either red or gold. Honestly, if there were only two colours – might as well make all of them one colour like the travel Missale Romanum (apparently a new reprint has ribbons of different colours… but I will review an edition sent to me in the very near future). However, the strange thing is, other Canadian ritual books including the Roman Missal were printed and bound in Canada by the same printer: St. Joseph’s Communications, contain ribbons of other colours including blue, silver and green. Why were those colour ribbons not used in this edition of the Roman Missal?
Stay tuned next Thursday for Part 2 of the MTF Roman Missal review.