Review of the Magnificat Roman Altar Missal


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.

Our first review is of the Magnificat Roman Altar Missal. Magnificat is the publisher of the wonderful Magnificat Magazine and the related Advent, Lent and Rosary companions. They have also branched out into children's books. You can also read the description with detailed "specs".

A couple of things to note about the specs:

  • This missal weighs in at nine pounds. Think about how old your altar servers are who will be holding this book and make sure they can do it.
  • The missal is 11 1/2 inches x 8 1/2 so it isn't small.
  • There are five satin ribbon markers built into the spine. You can also get an upgrade to woven jacquard ribbons that are beautiful but I would want to have an example of them to make sure they aren't so thick or "sharp" on the edges that they tear pages.

The Magnificat altar missals arrived in a cloth draw-string bag encased in a  bubble wrap envelope. The extra protection that these missals got was a nice plus considering the cost and weight of the missal.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Cloth Bag

The first thing to notice about the book is that the binding feels solid. The front and back covers don't "float" around the spine. They feel like they are meant to open and close and that's it. The leather cover has gorgeous embossing of Christ on the front and the Chi-Rho on the back. Even the spine gets some nice detailing.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Front Cover


Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Spine

Upon opening the front cover I was immediately reminded of old books. The kind of old books that you find in personal libraries with floor-to-ceiling dark wood shelves, a fireplace and a comfortable high-backed chair. The front piece has marbled paper and the leather on the inside of the cover is even embossed. The binding is reinforced by a ribbon which should help keep the cover from tearing free from the inside.

The missal has gilded pages and the paper is a pleasant ivory color that is thick enough to make reading easy.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Inside Cover

The first page of the missal contains a full color image of the Trinity. I guess I should mention here that there are dozens of full-color pieces of art throughout the missal. Some publishers chose to stick to a specific style or location for their art but Magnificat used artwork from many different eras and styles which makes for an almost museum-look to the missal. The back of the missal contains a "bibliography" of all the works of art.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal First Illustration

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Sketch Art

The missal starts off with an interesting collection of documents:

  • The original 1970 promulgation of the Latin text of the revised missal.
  •  The 1975 promulgation of the second edition of the Latin missal.
  • The 2000 promulgation of the third edition of the Latin missal (a good reminder how long it took to get to the English version).
  • The 2010 approval of the English edition of the Roman Missal.
  • The 2010 decree of publication for the English edition of the Roman Missal.
  • The 1969 Apostolic Constitution Missale Romanum.
  • The General Instruction of the Roman Missal with the approved adaptations by the US bishops' conference.
  • Norms for the Distribution and Reception of Holy Communion Under Both Kinds in the Dioceses of the United States.
  • Universal Norms of the Liturgical Year and the General Roman Calendar.
  • Special Days of Prayer for the Dioceses of the United States.
  • Table of Moveable Feasts.


Next we get into the proper of seasons starting with the first Sunday of Advent and ending with the Feast of Christ the King.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal First Sunday of Advent

The Order of the Mass is in the center of the missal marked by leather tabs. The pages of the Order of the Mass are on a heavier paper than the rest of the missal.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Tabs

The Order of the Mass is tastefully formatted with "Illuminated" letters at the beginning of the major responses and smaller emphasized letters at the beginning of each dialogue section spoken by the priest. Interestingly, the tab for the Roman Canon (the Eucharistic Prayer that has been used for over 1500 years) is set apart from the others. Another interesting note is that the Sanctus and Pater Noster are both in the Order of Mass in Latin and English but none of the other prayers are.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Illuminated Letter

After the Order Mass is a section that includes Solemn Blessings for the End of Mass, chant music for the Eucharistic Prayers, the Order of Mass with a single attending minister (a private Mass) and the additional approved Eucharistic Prayers.

Following that section is the Proper of Saints which includes both sketch and full-color artwork to go along with many of the feasts.

The next section contains all the "common" Masses. These are for the celebration of Masses for particular types of saints (martyrs, pastors, virgins, etc.) The prayers are "common" to all celebrations involving the different categories of saints except for the inclusion of the specific saint's name.

The next section contains Ritual Masses. These are Masses said for special events including:

  • RCIA
  • Viatacum
  • Baptism
  • Holy Orders
  • Marriage
  • Blessing an Abbess
  • Consecration of Virgins
  • Religious Profession
  • Dedication of a church and altar

The next section contains Masses and prayers for various needs and occasions. Some of these include:

  • For the Church
  • For the family
  • For the nation
  • For refugees
  • For good weather

The next section contains Votive Masses. A Votive Mass is a Mass without a particular feast day but is celebrated instead for the benefit of the faithful. For example, the first Saturday Mass celebrated in honor of the Blessed Virgin.

After that section is are Masses for the Dead. These include funeral Masses, Masses for children who die before baptism, anniversary Masses and others.

At the end of the book are a series of appendices:

  • Various chants for the Order of Mass
  • Rite for the Blessing and Sprinkling of Water
  • Rite of Deputing a Minister to Distribute Holy Communion on a Single Occasion
  • Rite of Blessing a Chalice and a Paten Within Mass
  • Example Formularies for the Mass Petitions
  • Invocations for the Penitential Rite
  • And, finally, a very nice section with prayers to prepare for Mass and to offer thanksgiving after Mass. I was disappointed that this section didn't contain the vesting prayers that priests used to say while vesting before Mass.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Prayer Before Mass

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Thanksgiving After Mass

The missal also comes with a package of red and gold tabs that I think are for the priest to add to the missal for sections he uses frequently.

I have now had a chance to go through three of the new Roman Altar Missals and can say that without a doubt, this is the most beautiful and most carefully constructed of any of them. My only reservation is the use of sketch art, even though it consists of studies by famous artists, gives the missal a bit of an unfinished feel, especially when some of the sketches were originally on folded paper and those lines are copied into the missal.

Please be sure to visit our Roman Missal comparison matrix to see all the major features of the missals one page. It will help you make a decision about which is best for your parish.

Magnificat Roman Altar Missal Back Cover

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