Review: New Catholic Bible Giant-Type, Saint Joseph Edition

One of my most favourite Catholic publishing houses is Catholic Book Publishing Corporation (CBPC). The thing with CBPC is that with over 100 years in Catholic publishing, their publications have consistently remained dignified, high-quality and affordable for Catholics. Their publishing team have published a wide variety of publications ranging from ritual books, bibles, catechisms and other spiritual works, a number of which have been reviewed on this blog.

Their latest initiative was the publishing of the New Catholic Bible (NCB) – a new translation of the Bible under the direction of Fr. Jude Winkler, OFM. If you recall, in 2018, my sister reviewed a handsome copy of the New Testament and Psalms of the NCB as part of the first ever 12-Days of Catholic Christmas Gifts series in 2018 which also for me is a beautiful New Testament volume to have on hand, especially when travelling.

Now, the full Bible is out, currently in giant type editions with several different types of bindings. A look on their site gives one a comprehensive view of all of the bindings available at the moment:

https://catholicbookpublishing.com/new-catholic-bible

Now for this review, I am not going to go into the bindings – all I can say is that publications from CBPC are dignified and beautiful. I have reviewed Bibles from CBPC in the past and you can go through this blog to see them, including other publications published CBPC. Also note, I will not be giving any critiques of the translations of the NCB – I am not a Biblical scholar, thus I am not able to speak much about the translation… there are other bloggers that do that.

In this review, what I will be speaking about is its content, its practicality for everyday Catholics like myself and the significance of a large-print Bible in the first ever published edition of the NCB by CBPC.

Is this edition a Catholic study Bible? Not exactly – if you really want a study Bible, I would recommend a copy of Oxford’s Catholic Study Bible Third Edition. What about for travelling? With the giant type size and overall size of the Bible, I would not recommend it for travelling. I would recommend CBPC’s New American Bible Personal Size Gift Edition. But what if I just want to have a copy of the Bible on hand at home for… let’s say prayer and spiritual reading? Then I think this Bible is the one you would want to get! Now I like to have a copy of the Bible for study, one for note taking, one for travelling, one on my desk for reference… but I never really had one for prayer and spritual reading. Ok… it may seem like I am being too extra here – but I believe there is a Catholic Bible for every situation. Some are more suitable for different moments of life than others, either because of the size or binding itself, or the content. I have found the content of the NCB more suitable for praying with the Word of God – to be used in private or group prayer for several reasons.

First, this edition contains notes at the end of each book. There are “extensive notes” at the beginning of each book of the Bible and also at the end, in which an asterisk in the text indicates a note corresponding to the end of the respective book. While I have criticized this fact in some other Bibles reviewed on this blog, if I were to use this Bible in prayer, I personally would not want to have the notes below. The reason for this is sometimes, we need to read the text as it is when praying with Scripture. We want to see what the Word of God speaks to me at a certain moment of prayer. While certainly we don’t want to interpret the Bible on our own accord like some other Christian denominations, but in light of the official teachings and tradition of the Church, keep in mind that the act of praying of the Scriptures is not a time to create a Catechetical lesson or a seminar for a class or Bible group… those times must be separate from Scriptural prayer time. When praying with the Scriptures, I want to read the text as it is, meaning without footnotes, without commentary – just sinking into the moment of Biblical history. That allows one to go into an encounter with God in His Word. However, if one wants to get some clarification of a specific Scripture passage before or after praying with the text, there are great notes in here – the only exception is that for the notes within the Scriptural text, they are endnotes rather than footnotes so that may mean some flipping back and forth.

Second, the giant type is a big factor why this Bible is ideal for prayer. Some may think that giant type prints are for “older people”. While the giant type edition was published “with the needs of an aging population and those with limited vision,” I do like large type Bibles for prayer. This is the first giant type print I now have, but not the first one I’ve seen. I know the Archbishop of Toronto, Thomas Cardinal Collins uses a large print Ignatius Bible, and sometimes, you can see it during his Lectio Divina meditations. The words pop-out at you in this giant type Bible and for me, that emphasizes that the Word of God is made the protagonist without the distractions of commentary or notes. All you have to focus on is the Word of God in front of you.

However, that said, there are some wonderful resources that I find useful. Beside the family record pages which in this edition have been printed in matte paper for easy writing, I love the glossy colour inserts which is found in some of their editions of the New American Bible Revised Edition (NABRE). However, things seemed to have been “revamped” in this NCB. It is nice that the coloured pages no longer contain merely renderings of Biblical events (which are beautiful), but more practical, this edition contains not only maps, along with the Mysteries of the Rosary and Stations of the Cross, but pages with the following useful charts and tables, namely:

  • Fascinating Bible statistics
  • How the Bible is Organized
  • Bible means of writing
  • Old Testament and New Testament Timelines
  • Some coloured photographs, depictions and explanations of places of the Old Testament and New Testament
  • Parables of Jesus Easy Finder
  • Miracles of Jesus Easy Finder
  • Events of Jesus’ last week
  • Lists of the Gospels, including the Seven Last Sayings of Jesus on the Cross, Appearances after the Resurrection and the I Ams of John’s Gospel
  • A list of people on the New Testament
  • Seven churches of Revelation
  • Key Ideas in the Bible
  • Fifty Very Important Passages

As you may sense, these resource pages are not only lively, but presents information in very simple means.

At the back of the Bible, there are some helpful resources, including: Books of the Bible by Religious Tradition, comparing the books included in the Jewish Old Testament, Protestant Old Testament and Catholic Old Testament – which I found to be fairly interesting. Included also is a List of Popes up to our current Pope, Pope Francis with the recently canonized Popes including Pope John Paul II, Paul VI and John XXIII with the title of “Saint” in front of their names. Closing off the NCB is a Doctrinal Bible Index – fairly useful if you want to search up a doctrinal concept in the Bible.

Something I am a bit disappointed is that unlike the NABRE editions, there are no Lectionary Readings tables – tables that indicate a specific passage of a Mass. I think that would make praying with this Bible a better experience – sometime you might want to pray with the Scripture passages of the upcoming Sunday. Another feature that I would like to see would be one to two pages of common Catholic prayers – a feature I have seen in some Bibles, particular those compact editions from Oxford University Press such as the NABRE Black Zipper Duradera Compact Edition previously reviewed on this blog. I am surprised to find that the Prayer to the Holy Spirit before reading Scripture is not included alongside the copyright page in this edition – I did recall seeing that in the NABRE editions by CBPC and unfortunately I don’t see it in this NCB which is such a pity… a feature I would love to see in every Bible. I think these additions will make this Bible better suited for praying with the Scripture.

(Click on images to enlarge)

That said, another job well done by CBPC in bringing the Word of God to Catholics from all walks of life. I believe this New Catholic Bible Giant Type Edition will be of great aid to help one in reading and praying the Scriptures. Note, it will also make a great gift as well! It comes in a nice presentation box. Mine came with a small rip at the top of the box lid, likely during the shipping process – but not a big deal for me.

Again, thank you CBPC for offering me the chance to review another one of your publications. I look forward to reviewing and showcasing more on our blog!

You may purchase a copy of the reviewed NCB Red Imitation Leather here.
You can also check out some sample pages here.
To learn more about the NCB and explore its other bindings, click here.

Review: Candles in the Roman Rite by Romanitas Press

Candles in the Roman Rite cover
Photo: Romanitas Press

“The Catholic Man is crazy when it comes to liturgy!”

Okay, it is fine to think that… I guess. Besides, a good number of books I have reviewed here does pertain to Catholic Liturgy and prayer. I spoke about beauty and the Sacred Liturgy in a blog post to start off The Liturgy Series and the publication I review today deals a great deal about beauty and illumination in the Sacred Liturgy. 

A feature at Mass that often seems overlooked (at least from my perspective) are candles in the liturgy. Some of you may know that the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) now requires at least two candles at the celebration of Mass (GIRM 117) but the GIRM does go on to say in the same section, “…or even four or six [candles], especially for a Sunday Mass or a holy day of obligation. If the diocesan Bishop celebrates, then seven candles should be used.”

Candles have great significance in the Roman Liturgy and the number of candles used at the liturgy bears importance. When I attend Mass in the Extraordinary Form, the number of candles signifies to me the rank of the feast day and even possibly, the rank of the minister celebrating the Mass. Yet for years, I have not been able to locate a good manual or explanation. Some liturgical manuals including the GIRM used today only goes through the number of candles very briefly. I find it appropriate and praiseworthy to continue the customs of lighting candles according to prelate’s rank or feast day. 

I often say this – two candles is good enough if you are out at a camp and want to have Mass celebrated. However, if you can do six for a solemnity, then why not? I know many cultures still observe the custom of lighting candles at the dinner table for major family get-together. Well, why not light more candles at the altar of the Lord (within their respective rubrics of course) in the feast that prefigures the Heavenly Banquet? 

The celebration of the Liturgy, all the elements from the liturgical actions to external symbols must be able to exhibit the fact that something very important is happening in front of our eyes or someone important is in our midst – and candles in the Roman Liturgy helps the congregation to realize that. The customs of old I think are very much fitting for today’s Liturgy.

Candles in the Roman Rite is a short but comprehensive book that helps gathers those thoughts together. The use of candles in the Roman Rite is “ancient and widespread”, yet unfortunately, that element in the liturgy today is seemingly taken for granted. Through understandable texts along with beautiful illustrations of altar candle arrangements scattered throughout the book, the reader is drawn to the importance of candles, especially in the Extraordinary Form but can certainly be applied for the Ordinary Form of the liturgy. 

The book is a reprint of a book last published in 1937 and written by Fr. Edwin Ryan, D.D. a professor of liturgy. Interesting enough, Romanitas’ site states that this publication was, in fact, “originally intended as an advertising medium for the now defunct Gross Candle Co.” Quite a clever way of advertising for those times if you ask me!

For only $15, you can get a fine reprint of this marvellous publication from Romanitas Press. This will make a perfect addition for any Liturgical Library alongside Liturgical Manuals and Missals.

You can purchase a copy of Candles in the Roman Rite here from Romanitas Press’ website, where you will also find many other great resources about the Extraordinary Form of the Mass.

Review: Encountering Jesus – A Holy Land Experience by Vincenzo Peroni

Well COVID-19 restrictions have loosened up a bit throughout the world but international travel, unless essential, is not on the radar for a lot of people now I would think – at least for me. I do not picture myself travelling anywhere internationally in the next year two and unfortunately, pilgrimages fall in the same category, being a Canadian and Rome or Jerusalem is not a couple walks away.

However, no fear! While you can do virtual pilgrimages, Msgr. Vincenzo Peroni, a Papal Master of Ceremonies since 2012 and leader of “numerous pilgrimages in the Holy Land seems to understand this very well. In his book, Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience, with its English translation by Marsha Daigle-Williamson, published by Franciscan Media, one can become a pilgrim, walking along the roads that Jesus once walked.

The book is fairly simple – only 150 pages but upon reading it, really leads you to the Holy Land. It is an ideal tool to use while in the Holy Land, but for those who like myself, never stepped foot their, the reflections in here will allow you to close your eyes and “teleport” you, giving you and new perspective on what may seem to be a common Gospel story that you may know by heart.

There are 18 chapters in the book that leads the pilgrim through Nazareth, Ein Karem, Bethelehem, Capernaum, Mount of the Beatitudes, the Lake of Tiberias, The Church of St. Anne, Mount Tabor, Jericho, Bethany, Dominus Flevit, the Cenacle, Gethsemane, the Grotto of the Arrest, St. Peter in Gallicantu, the Holy Sepulchre, Tabgah and finally Emmaus.

While Franciscan Media books often consisted of a coloured cover and black and white printed textblock, I was amazed to find beautiful watercolour art marking the beginning of each chapter. The watercolour sketches are those of Alessandro Alghisi. While I think photographs could have been used for this book, there is something about watercolour art thatr really brings the book together – probably the simplicity of the text and the art brings Encountering Jesus into harmony.

Each chapter bears the same outline: The Gospel story of the place in which the Biblical event occurred, a meditation, personal reflection questions and a prayer. Now don’t be tricked thinking that this book is a guide book – no it is not. It is rather, perhaps, a spiritual guide book. You will not be told any of the historical facts of the places, nor the histories of the churches which are located on these holy grounds. However, this book call one to be in the moment and disregard all of that and instead, encounter the person of Jesus.

I think the purpose of a pilgrimage is defeated if one merely sees it as a vacation opportunity, a historical research opportunity. I remember how since I was only a couple months old, our family, along with thousands of other Vietnamese people in the Archdiocese of Toronto made a pilgrimage to Martyrs’ Shrine in Midland, Ontario and every year, our family made that pilgrimage (unfortunately not this year). There was something about making a pilgrimage which I loved. Maybe a part of it might be the beautiful scenery which people like to pull out their phones to take a picture of. However, for me, the moments that really stuck with me were the ones when I put my camera aside and be absorbed in the moment. I remember vividly a pilgrimage I made to the Shrine, the only time I’ve stepped foot there on a weekday without pilgrims. It was raining but I disregarded it and too a walk on the grounds where the Canadian Jesuit Martyrs once walked – this time, with nature all around and all the outdoor statuary and statues enveloping me as I walked in silence.

Another moment I remember was last March, when I went in St. Peter’s Basilica. I remember standing near the Papal High Altar, the Baldachino and made my Profession of Faith by the stairs leading to the Confessio – as close as I could to the tomb of St. Peter… again no camera but simply immersing myself in the moment and have an encounter with St. Peter and eventually, I realized, an encounter with Christ.

That is what Msgr. Peroni does so well with his book. Though I have never stepped foot to the Holy Land before, I can imagine grand and beautiful churches and we might find ourselves in awe of the beauty… but to dive deep into that moment from Biblical times from 2000 years ago, that is something we must strive to do. Msgr. Peroni presents this simple book to pilgrims and virtual pilgrims from the comfort of home with the goal that pilgrims will be “Encountering Jesus” who continues to journey with us as a pilgrimage companion every moment throughout history.

Review: Đồng Tâm Bilingual Music & Prayer Resource for Vietnamese Youth

This month, for The Liturgy Series, I’m reviewing something fairly interesting – a “bilingual music & prayer resource”. As Catholic who have grown up in a Vietnamese parish, it is often difficult to introduce English hymns for youth to follow along because that would leave older generation out. It is unfortunate – but that is the reality in which we live in. The Vietnamese came to USA, Canada and scattered all throughout the world, bringing with them the beauty of Viet culture and Viet piety, but some things just don’t speak to the Vietnamese Catholic youth.

For years, I’ve been struggling to find a bilingual hymnal in English and Vietnamese geared for youth. Thankfully, very recently, Oregon Catholic Press (OCP) has published a simple but beautiful compilation called Đồng Tâm. While their bilingual hymnal Thánh Ca Dân Chúa was another fine example of a bilingual hymnal, that hymnal was geared for a general Vietnamese Catholic Community of all ages. Đồng Tâm is geared towards Catholic youth, and is a resource that I would use for Vietnamese youth Masses and with my local Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement Chapter.

I am not going to speak much about layout or physical elements of the hymnal – on that note OCP has produced many great examples in terms of quality and practicality. However, I really want to speak about the content itself – what makes a simple and resourceful bilingual hymnal?

Let me note first, the hymnal comes in two formats: one is the congregation booklet with prayers and lyrics with musical notation. The other format is the guitar accompaniment with all the sheet music and guitar chords, but no prayers.

The Order of Mass

Now I’m going to be speaking mainly on the congregation booklet since that is where a bulk of the content is and what people would use. Besides the title pages and table of contents, the first thing I see is the Order of Mass (Nghi Thức Thánh Lễ) – presented with English on the left, and Vietnamese on the right. Very clean, readable format and easy to follow along, containing the people’s responses – so don’t expect rubrics or full texts of the Eucharistic Prayers in here – bare minimum for people to follow.

Mass Settings

There are three in here: Mass of Seraphim (Vietnamese), Mass of Renewal (Bilingual) and Mass of a Joyful Heart (English). I cannot complain at all with their selection of Mass Settings.

Mass of Seraphim (Bộ Lễ Seraphim) is the most common Vietnamese Mass Setting. Most often, if a Vietnamese Parish is not singing Mass of Ca Lên Đi 3, then they would be doing Mass of Seraphim by the late bishop Paul Hòa Văn Nguyễn. While more “chant-based” I’d say than Mass of Ca Lên Đi 3, it is easy to sing and used universally.

Mass of Renewal (Bộ Lễ Canh Tân) by Curtis Stephan now comes as a bilingual Mass Setting – one I’ve been wanting to integrate into our parish community but haven’t been able to yet. I think this Mass Setting is fairly easy to sing and learn and brings English and Vietnamese into at Mass.

Mass of a Joyful Heart is one of my favourite English Mass Settings. Though perhaps less known here in Canada, when given the chance, I would love to use this Mass Setting, especially for an English Youth Mass as it is upbeat and like the other Mass Settings in this resource, easy to learn.

Hymns and Songs

With about 60 hymns and songs, Đồng Tâm provides a great selection for use a bilingual Catholic youth events. The number of songs also means that the hymnal is fairly thin, easy to pack into a suitcase or backpack anywhere you need to go.

There are some beautiful Vietnamese selections such as Lắng Nghe Lời Chúa and Lời Thiêng and some interesting English selections including Enter the Journey and In this Place. However, my favourite feature of this hymnal are the Bilingual hymns, some from Vietnamese to English and some English to Vietnamese. It is so beautiful to hear Vietnamese hymns sung in English and fascinating when I hear Vietnamese people singing English hymns as common as Here I am, Lord in Vietnamese. Some bilingual selections include, Tâm Tình Hiến Dâng (A Gift of Love), Immaculate Mary (Ave Maria), Hành Trang Người Trẻ (Compassion of Youth), Con Đường Chúa Đã Đi Qua (The Way of Love), In Every Age (Trải Qua Mọi Đời) and Jesus Christ, You Are My Life (Giêsu Kitô, Chúa ở cùng Con) to name a few. You can view songs on OCP’s website on their Đồng Tâm page. Also included are the common hymns for Adoration including Tantum Ergo (in Latin and Vietnamese) and O Salutaris Hostia (in Latin and English). I wish they included Holy God, We Praise Thy Name – maybe possible in future editions? I would also love to see that hymn translated into Vietnamese one day as well.

The only concern is whether or not all the songs are permitted for use in liturgy, especially with the use of the heading, “Hymns and Songs”. Most of the songs I know are permitted for use in the liturgy. However, there are songs such as Gặp Gỡ Đức Kitô I’ve been told is not to be used in the liturgy as they are “Ca Sinh Hoạt” – in other words, songs used for recreational purposes or prayer outside of liturgical functions. I hope that in future editions, OCP will clarify on this point.

Devotions and Prayers

There are a good selection of common prayers and devotions in this resource in facing bilingual pages in the assembly edition including:

  • Prayers of the rosary
  • The mysteries of the rosary
  • Prayer to the Holy Spirit
  • Closing Litany (Ba Câu Lạy)
  • Eucharistic Adoration outline and Benediction
  • The Chaplet of Divine Mercy
  • Prayer to Our Lady of La Vang
  • Prayer to the Martyrs of Vietnam

The guitar edition only contains the headings of these prayers and devotions. Overall, I have to say, a fairly comprehensive selection of prayers. Maybe the Angelus and the Regina Caeli would be nice to have in future editions?

One thing I would like to point out are spelling errors inside Đồng Tâm. For example, the bold heading 71, “Prayer to the Holy Spirit” is misspelled as “Prayer to the Goly Spirit” in the guitar edition. A smaller mistake is found in song 66 in Immaculate Mary where “Lourdes Hymn” is spelled as “Lourds Hymn” in both editions. While not really major mistakes, I do hope that both editions will be thoroughly reviewed before the next printing.

Final Remarks

I am very pleased with this first edition of Đồng Tâm. It is a resource that I have been hoping to see for quite some time. This resource could help bridge the two generations of Vietnamese Catholics, the older which grew up in Vietnam and the young which grew up outside of Vietnam. That is really the spirit of the reforms of the liturgy after Vatican II – an active participation in the liturgy (see Sacrosanctum Concilium 14). Đồng Tâm and other Catholic bilingual hymnals are certainly good investments for cultural Catholic youth groups.

Check out Đồng Tâm here on the OCP website!

Review: Verbum 8 Silver Catholic Study Software

Are you someone abiding by health regulations by staying home with nothing to do? Why not pick up something to read or cook? A month into lock down, you probably have been doing that stuff. But have you ever considered going deeper in to Catholic faith?

Today, I want to introduce a piece of software which I don’t think is spoken enough among members of the Catholic community – that is Verbum, a software meant to assist lay people and clergy in studying not only the Bible but Theology and resources in preaching and ministry. In this review, I am reviewing Verbum 8 Silver but please note there are seven different levels – the higher the level, the more resources are provided:

https://verbum.com/product/165456/verbum-8-silver

In this review, I just want show you how simple the platform is and the wealth of resources that are embedded within Verbum 8 Silver.

User Interface

Verbum has within itself a very simple user interface that allows easy navigation. I know some people are very hesitant to use computers, let alone use software because they fear its difficulty. However, the creators of Verbum understand that. Let’s take a look at the homepage of the PC software:

Homepage of Verbum 8 Silver

As you can see, the homepage is clean, and colourful but not overwhelming. I like how the dashboard is customizable. So far, I have customized it with a Saint of the Day widget, and a Catholic Lectionary widget which I can click and easily access the day’s readings and saint biography.

Up in the top, you can easily search up the resources in the very large library:

A feature that I truly love about this software is how convenient it is to search up Bible verses and quotes. Don’t you ever have that moment that you know a Bible verse or an idea of it but don’t know where it comes from? Verbum makes it easy to locate it in Scripture. For example, this Sunday’s reading, “I am the Good Shepherd…” Where does exactly does that come from in the Gospel of John? Well let’s see:

You can parallel translations with other translations, which is a very good feature for those may perhaps want to critique other translations or just see how other translations differ.

Going back to the home screen, there are some other notable features including guides and tools to help Catholics study the Bible and Theology.

Another notable feature is that you can save screen layouts. Perhaps you may want a different screen layout for Bible study but even more specifically for Bible Journaling, or Greek Word Study or even when reading the Psalms… You can also create your own layouts and go back to previous layouts.

Overall, I think there is a very simple, user-friendly interface in which any average computer user may use.

Library Content

I am now going to speak about the content – I think this is what you really want to know about what’s in the software itself, specifically the contents within Verbum 8 Silver. As mentioned before, the higher the level, the more content that edition bears. I was very surprised with the wealth of e-books on here. The website indicates that, Verbum 8 Silver “805+ digital books including Monasticism for Everyone (5 vols.), Theology of the Body Collection (7 vols.), and G. K. Chesterton Collection (11 vols.).”

Don’t be tricked into thinking that Verbum is merely a Catholic Bible Study program. While there are many good resources for Bible study, it is also a great software to study the various dimensions of the Catholic Church from liturgy to spirituality. Here, I am extracting a list of categories based from Verbum website – complete list of titles can be found here. Note the category and the number of titles in that category:

  • English Bibles (7)
  • Confessions and Catechisms (2)
  • Church Documents (54)
  • Church Fathers and Patristic Period (46)
  • Bible Surveys and Introductions (5)
  • Liturgy and Worship (5)
  • General Biblical Studies (24)
  • Medieval Theology (1)
  • Biblical Commentaries (11)
  • Bible Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (6)
  • Theology Dictionaries and Encyclopedias (2)
  • Preaching and Teaching (1)
  • Spirituality (30)
  • Church History and Historical Theology (5)
  • Old Testament Studies (2)
  • New Testament Studies (7)
  • Devotionals and Spiritual Growth (15)
  • Sermons (3)
  • Greek Texts and Translations (2)
  • Hebrew Texts and Translations (1)
  • Hebrew Grammars, Lexicons, and Tools (1)
  • Systematic Theology (1)
  • Biblical Theology (28)
  • Hermeneutics and Exegesis (2)
  • Ministry (3)
  • Marriage and Family (8)
  • Study Bibles (7)
  • Apologetics and World Religions (17)
  • Atlases, Maps, and Media (5)
  • General Reference (1)
  • Literature and Poetry (7)
  • Philosophy (6)
  • Media Collections (12)
  • Courses (3)
  • Audiobooks (3)
  • Other (1)
  • 20th Century Theology (16)
  • 21st Century Theology (42)

Wow, that’s a lot of books! And yes, it is. Even though it is not the maximum number of books like the Portfolio edition, but for me, a lay Catholic who likes to read Catholic books and wishing to do deeper Bible study and personal faith study, I think this is sufficient enough.

One of the resources that I like the most, besides the Biblical resources, is the Companion to the Catechism of the Catholic Church. While I love having hardcopies, I like how you can see the two texts side-by-side.

You can do so with all of these texts to supplement Biblical texts, Church documents… one of the pros of e-books. This makes cross referencing other texts easier.

Even with the portability and wide capabilities you can do with e-books, personally, there is nothing like a physical book with printed pages. Often times, I like to have a hard copy and an e-copy of a book. Hard copies I keep at home and e-copies I use while travelling or for school. However, some people may solely like hard copy books and some solely e-copies… it all depends on one’s own preference. However, Verbum 8 Silver provides a very good, portable library that you can carry virtually anywhere.

If you really want a single book that is not available in your library package, you can purchase it from Verbum.com and the title will be added to your Verbum library!

Verbum Web App

You may have thought that I was a little crazy that I can say that you can carry your Verbum “virtually everywhere”. Is Verbum not a software downloaded onto a computer? Well, not necessarily. One of most favourite features is that if you need to access your Verbum library on a “foreign” computer, you can actually access the whole program on a web app. I thought there would be very limited features, but from my end, it seems that it contains most of the features as on the software version on my computer with the exception that it is portable – as long as you have your Verbum account, you can access it virtually anywhere.

Audience

Are you a Catholic serious about studying the Catholic faith but found that investing a personal library of physical Catholic books too pricey? Is price a factor deterring you from studying the Catholic faith more? Or perhaps convenience of having everything on one device? Then Verbum is for you.

Are you a priest, deacon or a Catechist and want a comprehensive platform with texts and close study of the Word of God and various texts of the Church Fathers and Catholic Spirituality? Do you want a virtual library that would be easily accessible anywhere, even on the go so you can write homilies and reflections? Then Verbum is for you.

Closing Remarks

Verbum is an easy to use platform and e-library for any Catholic who desires to study the faith more and perhaps don’t know where to start. Depending on your needs, you can choose the level of Verbum that you wish. These lockdown days have allowed me more time to use Verbum and the more I use it, the more I discover the richness of what Catholicism has to offer. It would be an investment – but I think Verbum will certainly be very well worth it.

The Catholic Man’s Top 10 Catholic Reads for Quarantine

While many of us might be complaining about having to stay indoors with some bored out of their minds, I think it is important to take time to look at bright side of things because life is not all about negativity. One of those bright sides is that with university classes now completed, and my workplace still closed, the spare time on hand have been devoted to reading. Today, I am recommending the following 10 Catholic Reads during this quarantine time, some of which I have reviewed on here and some not.

1. The Miracle of Hope: Francis Xavier Nguyễn Văn Thuận; Political Prisoner, Prophet Of Peace

The late-Cardinal Francis Xavier Thuận Văn Nguyễn persevered through the darkest nights – thirteen-years in a communist prison in Vietnam, nine of which spent in solitary confinement. However, even in those dark nights, he kept the flame of faith alive. Some people have commented about how restless they are during this lockdown – but it is nothing compared to what the Venerable Văn Thuận went through during his days in Vietnam. This book opens one’s eyes to the injustices Cardinal Văn Thuận’s family had to endure, and his own personal trials and liberation. This biography of the late Cardinal by Andre Châu sheds light on a life of man who suffered much, but within his suffering, he was a source of hope and light for those around him.

2. Sinner: The Catholic Guy’s Funny, Feeble Attempts to Be a Faithful Catholic

Have you ever heard of “a man with a large nose” named Lino Rulli? One of the funniest Catholics of all time, Rulli is a radio host of The Catholic Guy Show on SiriusXM 129. To someone who is a first time listener of The Catholic Guy Show, his show may seem a little weird, but the more you listen to him, the more you get to know who Rulli is and how he sees Catholicism. Sinner speaks to Rulli’s attempts “to be a faithful Catholic”. He starts right off the bat understanding that his is not a perfect Catholic, but yet he still tries in every way to be the ideal Catholic. He does so not in a biographical way, but with a sense of humour. Pair a listening of The Catholic Guy Show and Sinner, and you will have yourself a happy day. (Note: SiriusXM is free to listen to till May 15!)

3. Saint: Why I Should Be Canonized Right Away

A sequel to Sinner, Lino Rulli speaks ironically not of his triumphant saintly ways, but rather attempts to achieve sainthood – the vocation in which every Catholic should be striving for. We can all relate to the stories of these attempts to achieve sainthood. Yet do you ever feel like sainthood is too hard? Rulli points out that sainthood is in now way easy, but we have to keep trying over and over again. It takes virtue – and what virtues really are, are good habits and in order to form habits, we need to something and practice it over and over again. So don’t give up on sainthood!

4. Eucharistic Miracles and Eucharistic Phenomenon in the Lives of the Saints

Eucharistic Miracles by [Joan Carroll Cruz]

Are you thirsting for the day we come again to celebrate the Eucharist together again? I certainly am – livestream Masses is no way the same as physical and communal celebration of the Eucharist. While Eucharistic Miracles and Marian Apparitions are not doctrine, they may, in a sense be concrete confirmations of the doctrines of the Church that cannot be explained scientifically – they are divine signs. Maybe prior to this pandemic, you may have found yourself partaking in the Mass and other acts of piety out of a sense of routine. However, I hope that after a “fast” from the Sacramental reception of the Eucharist, once these restrictions have been lifted, we will have a greater love and devotion for the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar.

5. A History of the Church in 100 Objects

Have you ever wanted to learn about the rich history of the Catholic Church but found a thick history book full of text to be daunting? Well this book is for you. Colourful with high quality pictures of 100 artifacts from the time of Christ to the current times of the Church, this book takes you through the Church’s history in a way that is appealing to every Catholic. If you want to do a crash course of Church History, only scratching its surface, then start reading this title!

6. Breakthrough: A Journey from Desperation to Hope

People have had many opportunities throughout the past weeks to choose from a variety of priests and bishops to “attend” Mass virtually. One of those many priests is Fr. Rob Galea – now a popular Catholic speaker and singer. However, he did have his past. His story of true conversion of heart that turned his life around and eventually lead him to the priesthood… like a modern day St. Augustine conversion. Feeling lost? Especially during these times? This book is for you.

7. Encountering Jesus: A Holy Land Experience

I know some people were expected to be in the Holy Land this Holy Week for the grand celebrations of Catholicism. The thing with books is that it can take you to various places. Msgr. Vincenzo Peroni brings pilgrims back or to the Holy Land in his new book, Encountering Jesus. With Biblical passages, meditations, reflection questions and prayers, Msgr. Peroni is able to capture the events and atmosphere the Biblical sites brought up within this short book. There will be an in-depth review coming in a couple of week on this blog, but for now… I know this book is going to be in my carry-on the day I get to go the Holy Land. For the time being, I’m on “reading” pilgrimage.

8. Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship

Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by [Casey Cole]

Some have said that quarantine period has made this year’s Lent seems like an “authentic” Lent. However, with Lent comes Easter and to prepare ourselves anew, once this pandemic is over, I highly recommend using this time in discernment. For months or years, we may have followed Jesus in a routine matter, or maybe out of obligation. However, Franciscan Fr. Casey Cole’s book Let Go allows one the chance to do a deep examination of conscience. To truly be “liberated” and follow Jesus with out whole hearts, there are seven things that Fr. Casey says you need to “let go” from yourself in order to open yourself up to Christ.

9. When in Rome: A Journal of Life in the Vatican City

Rome and Vatican City – the centre of Roman Catholicism… I have such vivid memories of my time there in March 2019. I always wondered what it would be like to actually live in the eternal city. This journal of Robert J. Hutchinson’s life in Rome with his family gave a simple, authentic account which I really loved. Allow yourself to step into Hutchinson’s shoes and take some days of “normal” life in Rome, going through the city of saints and relics.

10. Laudato Si’ (Encyclical on Climate Change and Inequality: On Care for Our Common Home)

Laudato Si’ is probably one of the highlight encyclicals of Pope Francis’ pontificate. The call for the care for our “common home” by our Holy Father still continues to echo throughout the world even five years later after the encyclical was published. The thing is, with Papal Documents, Catholics or people in general seem to get tidbits here and there, but fail to read the documents in its entirety or spend devoting time to study them. As we approach the fifth anniversary of Laudato Si’, it is fitting that we spend time to read to re-read this Papal Document. Let us arise out of pandemic not only with a new self, but a new world, a new and clean environment.

Disclaimer.

Review: MTF’s Roman Missal, Third Edition (Classic Edition) – Part 2

This is a continuation of a two-part review of Midwest Theological Forum’s (MTF) Third Edition of the Roman Missal, Classic Edition. Throughout the review, The Catholic Man compares this missal with the Roman Missal published by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops. Before reading Part 2 of this review, I suggest you read Part 1 here.
*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.

The Tabs

A common feature in any Roman Missal are the tabs. The tabs are found in the Order of Mass to help the priest easily go to commonly used sections in the Roman Missal. Another practical feature is that the tabs should help facilitate the flipping of pages during the Eucharistic Prayer – the most important part of the celebration of Mass.

Midwest Theological Forum’s Roman Missal tabs (Click image to enlarge)

The MTF Classic Edition has 24 bonded-leather tabs which marks:

  • The Introductory Rites (1 large red tab)
  • The Penitential Act (1 large red tab)
  • The Gloria (1 large red tab)
  • The Liturgy of the Eucharist (1 large red tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer I (1 small green tab, 4 small red tabs)
  • Eucharistic Prayer II (1 small green tab, 2 small red tabs)
  • Eucharistic Prayer III (1 small green tab, 2 small red tabs)
  • Eucharistic Prayer IV (1 small green tab, 2 small red tabs )
  • The Communion Rite (1 small green tab, 3 large red tabs )
  • The Concluding Rites (2 large tabs)

The way I determine the place the tab leads to is ultimately the page in which the section leads to. For example, to lead me to the Introductory Rites, which starts on a page on the right, the tab should be placed on the left. page so when I life the tab to lead me to the Introduction Rites, I would land on the Introductory Rites. If the tab were on the Introductory Rites page, I would pick up the tab, then turn it back a page… it’s hard to explain, but I hope the pictures will be helpful. Overall, a very practical selection of tabs.

Overall, I like the MTF tabs – very helpful for practical usage. However, I would forgo the tabs of the Communion Rite – it is the only missal so far that I’ve seen that has tabs for all pages of the Communion Rite. There is often one that marks the start of the Communion Rite… but maybe other publishers have it on all the Communion Rite pages but I simply have not encountered those missals (yet).

The Canadian missal used of tabs is fairly interesting. The tabs are made of the synthetic leather material as the cover, and therefore after constant use, experiencing disintegration. There are 11 tabs in total in the Canadian edition which marks (unlike MTF, the tabs on this one are all the same size in red):

CCCB’s Roman Missal tabs (Click image to enlarge)
  • The Introductory Rites (1 tab)
  • The Liturgy of the Eucharist (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer I (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer II (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer III (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer IV (1 tab)
  • The Communion Rite (1 tab)
  • The Concluding Rites (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation I (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer for Reconciliation II (1 tab)
  • Eucharistic Prayer for Various Needs (1 tab)

Okay, let’s look on the good side: There is a tab for the Introductory Rites, The Liturgy of the Eucharist, something to mark the Eucharistic Prayers (even the less commonly used ones!) the Communion Rite and the Concluding Rites. Good. None for the Penitential Act? Fair enough, though one there would be useful.

But the biggest issue for me would be the lack of tabs throughout the Eucharistic Prayers. The tabs are there to mark the places of the Eucharistic Prayer, but besides, none are there to facilitate the page turning which is such a pity.

It is interesting how there are tabs to mark the less used Eucharistic Prayers: the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation and Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs. Something which I still ponder on is why there is one to mark the place of each of the two Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation but only one to generally mark the four Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs? Some inconsistency there in my opinion. Though these Eucharistic Prayers are not used as often as the four “main” ones, I do have to say, MTF should consider adding tabs for these less commonly used ones. I have been to Masses were the Eucharistic Prayers for Reconciliation are used, especially during Lent. I have never seen the Eucharistic Prayers for Various Needs used in my life yet, but hopefully I will encounter a priest who uses them.

The Art

Art has always been important in the life of the Church and art in the Liturgical Books elevate the content of what is contained in these books. Scrolling through online, I have seen magnificent examples of art used in Liturgical Books. For me, I much prefer classic Christian art to be used in missals and MTF suits my tastes for that.

The MTF edition does not use one source of art, but a variety of classic Christian art to adorn their missal, reproducing these pieces in full colour. Unlike some missals I have seen, the art is printed on the same paper as the rest of the missal. Nevertheless, the art printed is beautiful. A feature I like is the Index of Illustrations featured at the end of their missal because it shows how much art is embedded within their missal – approximately 50 pieces of art in here.

Midwest Theological Forum’s Roman Missal Eucharistic Prayer I page with art (Click image to enlarge)

While most pre-Vatican II Missale Romanum may not contain coloured art, most often, the Canon Missae page is coloured with a depiction of the crucifixion. A commonly used depiction is the Christ on the Cross by Velaquez. MTF brings one back to missals of that era by using that depiction of the crucifixion. The MTF uses various colour plates to introduce various feast days and seasons… very beautiful and impressive. I also like how there is a gold colour border which accents each art piece. I just love the selection of art in this missal.

Faith of the Fathers: Some Good Friday Art By James Tissot ...
The Crucifixion by James Tissot (original colour)

The Canadian missal has some interesting tastes in terms of art. Their art comes from a singular source of French painter James Tissot (1836-1902) “adapted for use in The Roman Missal” the copyright page says. Honestly, I am not a big fan of the art used in the Canadian missal. While James Tissot has produced magnificent pieces, the Canadian missal in my opinion have reduced the beauty of his art. Take for example The Crucifxion as used in the Roman Canon. The original coloured image has a sense of depth to it, meaningful indeed. Unfortunately, the images reproduced in the Canadian Missal have reduced it to red and black toned prints. All the images are printed in two-colour which to me is a let down. Images such as this rendition of The Crucifixion is beautiful in colour but loses something when reproduced merely in red and black ink and even cropped. I believe the Canadian missal’s art, if they really wanted to use Tissot’s art, should have reproduced it in full colour like the MTF missal. It would be more striking and more beautiful. Another critique in terms of the Canadian art is the use of embellishing text scattered throughout. In fact, the advertisement states, “Beautiful artwork and calligraphy throughout…” First of all, why do I need a bible verse in fancy text below an image? I think the image speaks for itself… no need for a bible verse beneath it… no need for any biblical commentary throughout the missal. Second, I dislike seeing the “calligraphic” blurbs of text throughout – I think they are unnecessary. A missal is not a newspaper where you will see excerpts of people’s quotes throughout. The art should serve the text and elevate the content of the text. The art of a missal should not be wordy, or have additional commentary added to them. Unfortunately, the Canadian missal has not been able to to achieve this as well as some American missals.

CCCB’s Roman Missal Eucharistic Prayer I page with art (Click image to enlarge)

The Price

It is not a surprise that printed copies of the Roman Missal are not cheap, but they are a necessity for the celebration of Mass – iPads and tablets are not dignified for the celebration of Mass. Let’s take a look at the price tag of the MTF Missal (both are altar-sizes – MTF does not seem to have a Chapel edition of the English missal):

Now take a look at the Canadian missal

I can let you draw your own conclusion on these prices. But for your insight, with the money used to purchase a Canadian edition, I can purchase and invest on other beautiful editions from other American publishers and even the Catholic Truth Society (CTS) in the UK.

Closing Remarks

Tired of listening to me moan and groan about the Canadian edition of the Roman Missal and instead praising an American edition of the Roman Missal by MTF? Some may say that I am showing disobedience to the bishops of Canada. Well no. As I affirmed in the beginning, I have complete respect and submit my obedience to the bishops of Canada. I am in no way promoting Canadians to use an American missal – that seems to be forbidden by the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops as it states in the Decree of Publication embedded within the Canadian missal:

This present edition, published by the authority of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops is the sole English translation and version of the Roman Missal that is approved for us in the Dioceses of Canada, beginning with the First Sunday of Advent, 27 November 2011.

Decree of Publication of the Roman Missal, emphasis added

I wanted to feature MTF’s missal here to showcase something that I believe is a beautiful and dignified example of a missal that publishers should strive to have. I will feature more as part of The Liturgy Series.

The truth is, I agree with Fr. Raymond De Souza’s opinion on the Canadian Roman Missal and an Shawn Tribe’s view of the Canadian missal in comparison with other editions out there. The Canadian missal is honestly underwhelming. Editions like that of MTF are beautiful and its external features truly elevate you in the sacred mysteries, whether it be with colours used in the art plates, the colour of ribbons, or the aesthetics of the book itself. While some may argue that the texts of the missal are the “stars”, not the aesthetics of the missal. While true, but the aesthetics must serve the text the missal holds. Beauty elevates one’s mind to the Creator of beauty – God himself. Therefore, beautiful art serves the people of God well. I end with Fr. De Souza’s words, “Parishes should not buy American. Or British. Or Canadian. They should buy beautiful.”

Thank you again to Midwest Theological Forum for allowing me the opportunity to review their Classic Edition of the Roman Missal. Their publications are superior and are great investments. I hope to review other publications of theirs in the future and perhaps even feature more of their publications on this blog including their Latin Missale Romanum, Chapel Edition, The Didache Bible or the Rituale Parvum… that is another chapter to write on The Catholic Man Reviews.

On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer by Antonin Scalia

On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer: Scalia, Antonin ...

While there are many cons that comes with this time in history, being stuck inside, going through Lent and Easter without the celebration of Mass and Holy Week, one of the pros is that now that my University exams are completed, I am able to dedicate a lot of more time to reading. There is a title that I have been reading on and off for over a year now – that is On Faith: Lessons from an American Believer by the late Justice Antonin Scalia.

I did not know much about Justice Scalia prior to reading this book. The only instance I learned of Justice Scalia was a coincidence: I was surfing the web one day in early 2016 and bumped into a livestream of the Mass of Christian Burial for Justice Scalia. What lingered with me the most from the funeral Mass was Fr. Paul Scalia’s (the late Justice’s son) homily for his father’s Mass.

As a Canadian, why read a book by an “American Believer”? I honestly don’t know why… but I was attracted this title. “On Faith” – such a bold statement in today’s society. The reason why this book took some time to read for me – more than a year – is that I did not spend time reading it in one sitting. Rather, I read it in segments and pondered upon what Justice Scalia said in his speeches. His speeches in my opinion is a mouthful to take in but it really gives you some food for thought.

It was interesting to read such bold Catholic speeches from not a bishop, priest, deacon, not even a religious brother or sister, but from a regular lay Catholic who happens to be a Justice working at the Supreme Court. However, as a lawyer and a Justice working with the law, it is evident throughout the book (and Fr. Scalia also affirmed this) that Justice Scalia always distinguished his identity as a Catholic and as a Justice. He did not let his religious beliefs affect the way he interpreted the law. But outside of his day-to-day job with the law, he was a devout Catholic and when he had the opportunity to give witness to his faith, he did so – and his speeches contained this book is a testament to that.

However, this book has also showed me a Catholic who was a sinner, but strived his best to seek “the best”. He loved traditional Catholic liturgy, and upon reading, that picture Justice Scalia clutching that missal that was mentioned in this text really captivated me – he treasured the Catholic liturgy. While Justice Scalia had his own ways, there was something about the role of faith in Justice Scalia that made a positive impression on people and the testimonies located at the end of each section of the book were really helpful in doing that.

The book consisted of mainly Justice Scalia’s speeches and testimonies from people who knew him well is crowned with his son, Fr. Scalia’s homily from the Funeral Mass on February 20, 2016 at the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception. No eulogy – the Mass of Christian Burial for Justice Scalia was summed up well in the homily his son gave, as everything pointed to Jesus Christ, the one whom Justice Scalia longed to imitate. However, like everyone of us, the late Justice is a sinner as he recognized indirectly in his speeches, “We are here, then, as he would want, to pray for God’s inexplicable mercy to a sinner; to this sinner, Antonin Scalia. Let us not show him a false love and allow our admiration to deprive him of our prayers.”

I found reading the homily and this interview on EWTN between Fr. Scalia and Raymond Arroyo really gave me a better understanding of Justice Scalia’s life and legacy.

Overall, this was a very interesting read. It comes to show how even lay Catholics holding high positions in an American society understand and live their faith, especially those in the legal field where yes – there are major challenges and obstacles to leap over. At the end of the day though, like Justice Scalia recognized, we are all sinners but knowing that, how are we striving to live our faith in Jesus Christ?

You can purchase a hard copy of this title here.
Or, you can also order an e-copy here.

Disclaimer

Review: MTF’s Roman Missal, Third Edition (Classic Edition) – Part 1

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.

182-506
The Canadian Roman Missal (Credit: CCCB Publications)

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

Now let’s take a look at the paper. The MTF chose interesting paper combinations. Unlike the Canadian edition which is consisted of one type of paper throughout, MTF has a 60gsm paper for a majority of the missal with the exception of the Order of Mass which is used much more frequently, with 100gsm paper. I found the 60gsm paper lighter, but maybe too thin and rapid page turning can result in accidental The MTF has a cream colour paper which is aesthetically pleasing.

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.

The Ribbons

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.

Book Review: Let Go – Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship by Fr. Casey Cole, O.F.M.

I began Lent reading Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship written by Catholic YouTuber Evangelist, Fr. Casey Cole, O.F.M. and published by Franciscan Media. (If you are not yet familiar with Fr. Casey’s work, I suggest you visit Breaking in the Habit YouTube Channel.)

Fr. Casey previously wrote a book, Called: What Happens After Saying Yes to God published in 2018. With Let Go and Called, Fr. Casey wants to convey to people the steps it takes to truly become a follower of Jesus.

Let Go was personally for me a book that I needed. As someone involved in youth ministry at my parish, and other parish ministries, it is easy for me to get caught up with things but fail to spend time to receive spiritual nourishment. This book was one that came to me at the right place, at the right time and I just simply could not put it down since I began reading.

There was something about Let Go that spoke to me that I kept wanting to read on and on and on, even late into the night. While I have read interesting novels or biographical Catholic titles, this book was different. The book spoke to me because honestly, I have a lot of flaws. Sometimes, I fail to “let go” of the things that Fr. Casey laid out in his book. I felt a personal connection with every chapter… it was sort of like an Examination of Conscience or rather, an “Examination of my Ministry Life”.

While reading Let Go, one may be tempted to think of others within the parish or even in your own family who fail to “let go” and stumble upon the seven blocks explained in the book. However, the point of Let Go is not for you to (mentally) point fingers at people. It is a call for each Christian to look at oneself, and determine, “What do I need to ‘let go’ of in order to live up to my vocation as a follower of Jesus?” That is what Let Go was effective at – it prompted me to think about my spiritual life, my relationship with Jesus. Sometimes one may think, “I am pious and have a strong relationship with Jesus.” But when we think that, that is when we fail to grow in our relationship and strengthen our vocation as Jesus’ followers.

Let Go was a nudge for me, or rather a “wake-up” call for my spiritual life. Sometimes, especially those in ministry are constantly on the go, go, go, and busy serving others but fail to reassess ourselves. For some, this can go to the point where we are completely depleted of spiritual resources, or worse, we abandon our vocation to follow Jesus. That is why I find it important to read books like Let Go that allows us for a reassessment of our spiritual lives so to better serve the People of God.

On a personal level, as a Youth-Leader candidate in the Vietnamese Eucharistic Youth Movement, Let Go was and still continues to be a helpful tool in my discernment as I asked myself questions, “Am I serving because I want X, Y, Z,? Do I want to serve to please a friend? Or do I serve for the greater glory of God?” The reflection questions Fr. Casey poses at the end of each chapter are very helpful in any process of vocational discernment. It would even be more effective if you were to reflect on the questions and record your answers in your Spiritual Journal.

Are you a youth minister? Are you discerning a vocation? Are you someone the Church and need some time of retreat? Are you a Christian who wants to reassess your spiritual life? Then Let Go: Seven Stumbling Blocks to Christian Discipleship is the book for you.

Purchase a paperback hard copy here from Franciscan Media.

During this COVID-19 Pandemic, and need a spiritual read to end off this Lent on a strong note, but worried your book will take forever to arrive? Franciscan Media got your back with e-copies and even audiobook copies of Fr. Casey Cole’s Let Go.

Note: Disclaimer here.