The new Roman Missals for the altar have started to arrive so as we unpack them we're writing reviews of each one so you can decide which one you really want to get. We have also created a Roman Missal comparison chart that lists EVERY available altar missal and the major features of each. We don't have all the information yet but as the missals arrive we are filling in the blanks.
Please see our review of the Magnificat Altar Missal for details about the contents of the missal. This review will focus on the unique design of this missal.
This review is for the Catholic Book Publishing Chapel Roman Missal. Catholic Book Publishing has been one of the primary publishers of liturgical books since Vatican II. I would bet that over 75% of altar missals used in the United States came from them.
This new edition shows that they know how to put together a solid missal that feels like quality.
This missal is shipped in its own box to give it extra protection.
The missal itself is burgundy instead of red like the previous edition. It is the lightest of all the missals we've seen so far coming in at a feather-weight four pounds, three ounces. It also is only 2 1/4 inches thick so it's easy to hold in one hand. I also like how well-bound the cover is. The spine and front cover are distinct and the red edges on the pages are a nice extra touch without the expense of gold-leaf. The one thing I would have appreciated is different cover art that didn't look like it came off a Sunday-school clip-art CD.
The tabs on this missal are a good size for gripping and the color-coding for each section makes it easy to keep track of where you are. I was also happy to see that the tabs are firmly attached to the pages with large adhesive sections. Some of the other missals seem to be asking to have the tabs torn out.
The inside cover has clip art of a cross on one side and a chalice and host on the other. This is one of the things that I haven't liked about ceremonial books to date and some of the art work in the new missals. In the past, missals were full of wood cuts and art that actually was art. One thing that most of the publishers of missals did this time around was produce missals that are heading back in the right direction. Unfortunately, some of the tendencies of the past fifty years are hard to shake. (See the Liturgical Press altar missal for the prime example.)
Moving on to the title page we have a full-color masterpiece of the Last Supper. Unfortunately, there isn't an appendix about the art in the missal so you'll need to do your own detective work to find out artists and names. One thing that Catholic Book knows how to do is produce an economical missal. This chapel edition is the least expensive missal available and yet it is still a quality book. One of the ways they managed to do this was by printing the color art on the same paper as the the rest of the book.
The paper used in the book is white and thick enough to allow for easy reading. The ordinary of the Mass is printed on a thicker paper.
The ordinary of the Mass begins with a gorgeous picture of what I THINK is a cathedral. The next page starts with clip art that looks like it belongs in another book. Why couldn't they have just gotten some old black-and-white line drawings from old missals? They produced them before Vatican II and must have a nice archive.
One nice addition that Catholic Book Publishing did do was illustrate the first letters of the major sections of the missal with various biblical symbols.
Another nice touch are the ribbon markers. The missal has five markers, purple, white, green, blue and red. The ribbons start off narrow at the top to help prevent page tearing. They also have gold chi-rhos stamped on the bottoms.
There is a clear difference between the various publishers. Some of them published a missal to publish a missal. Some published a missal because they actually believe that beauty and the liturgy go together. In spite of the unfortunate choice of clip art, Catholic Book Publishing has gone for beauty over practicality in this solid and inexpensive volume.