The big book, from which you will see the priest reading during Mass, is officially known as the Roman Missal. It is called Roman because it the official text of the Mass for the Roman Rite. The word Missal comes from the Latin, missalis, pertaining to Mass. It is broken into a number of sections, which nevertheless remain in one volume.

   First it contains the General Instruction on the Roman Missal, (GIRM). As the name implies these are some general instructions on what the Mass is supposed to look like. It makes a handy and useful reference when comparing what may happen at Mass, with what is actually supposed to happen.

   Next it contains all the prayers recited by the priest at the altar during Mass. That means all the prayers for every day, for the entire liturgical year. These prayers are: the Opening Prayer (sometimes called the Collect); the prayer over the gifts just before Communion (the Super Oblata); and the final or Closing Prayer.

   Also the Missal contains what is called the "Order of the Mass". The Order of the Mass contains all the words and actions which are said by the priest and congregation which are used every day and do not change. The actions are directed in smaller red letters, hence the name rubrics.

   The Missal also contains the four Eucharistic prayers that can be used at a "regular" Mass along with the prefaces. Next are the prayers for special occasion Masses such as weddings and funerals. There are also three separate Eucharistic prayers for children for some reason. The Missal does not contain the Scripture readings for Mass, which are contained in a separate book called the Lectionary.

   All of this together makes for a quite large volume, as you can imagine. Each of the sections is neatly tabbed, and cloth page markers come standard to help keep it all straight. Although this volume is officially the Roman Missal, or Missale Romanum in Latin, it has the word "Sacramentary" etched into its spine. Sacramentary is a rather modern term. It came into use after the second Vatican Council. According to a rather lengthy foreword in the Missal itself, the Sacramentary is supposed to be a book used exclusively by the priest to accentuate the different roles for the clergy and laity.

   After the second Vatican Council directed that the liturgy be changed, a new Missal had to be created to reflect the changes. The Missal for the "Mass of Paul VI", also called the "New Order" Mass, was first approved by Paul VI in 1969 in the Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum. The Congregation for Divine Worship (part of the Roman Curia) declared in 1970 that the "New Order" was edito typica, or the Mass we are supposed to use. At that time the Roman Missal was officially published only in Latin. A committee called the International Committee on English in the Liturgy, or ICEL, then published the official English translation in 1973.

   The Missal was updated by Rome in 1975. That edition is known as the second typical edition. ICEL worked on a translation for many years and finally submitted it to the Vatican in 1999. The Congregation for Divine Worship took a look at ICEL's translation and declared it dead on arrival. The sharp and public rejection of ICEL's translation was the subject of much discussion in liturgical circles.

   The Vatican has just recently published the third revision of the Missal, which was presented to John Paul II on Holy Thursday 2000. In its final form it was published in Latin in 2002. We do not have an approved English translation for the third edition of the Missal. So although we are officially under the third typical edition of the Roman Missal, the prayers we hear, the responses we give, and the rubrics we use at Mass, are still from the first edition, translated in 1973.

   We should also be aware that in addition to the official GIRM in the front of the Roman Missal, we are also bound by the "Norms". A conference of bishops is authorized to ask for adaptations to the GIRM to fit the local area. These adaptations are called "Norms" and can be used to force the average parishioner to do, or not do, all kinds of things at Mass.

   A recent example of this is the newly instituted "Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States of America." These "Norms" were developed by our own local conference of bishops, the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, (USCCB) and confirmed by decree of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments (CDWDS) March 22, 2002 and mandated to be implemented on December 1, 2002.

   Remember that the GIRM contained in the third edition of the Roman Missal was published in its final form in Latin in 2002. Remember that as of this publishing (Jan 2003), the Vatican has not approved an English translation of the third edition of the Roman Missal. Any translations that the USCCB or any one else uses at this time are only "study versions".

   This brings up the questions of "What, if anything, has the new Roman Missal actually changed in the Mass?"; "When will we have the approved translation for the new edition?"; "Will this translation be any better than the last one?" These are excellent questions that all informed Catholics should be asking. Hopefully we will soon have a truthful answer.



Published by The Minnesota St. Thomas More Chapter of Catholics United for the Faith, January 2003.