Should We Use the Missalette at Mass?

by Steve Ray on March 18, 2015

From Jimmy Akin’s blog:

Richard Becker, who describes himself as a “God-haunted lunatic,” has an entertaining rant against the use of missalettes at Mass. Being a God-haunted lunatic myself, allow me to counter-rant in the same spirit.

In his piece, Becker poses a number of arguments against using missalettes at Mass. Let’s take a look at them:

1) The Argument from Van Morrison

Becker’s first argument compares going to Mass to going to a Van Morrison concert, which Becker indicates would be an incredibly thrilling experience for him.

I don’t know Van Morrison’s music myself, but fair enough.  De gustibus non est disputandum (Latin for: “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”).

Becker then asks whether, upon going to such a concert, he would Google the lyrics and read along with the stage performance. He says:

Noooo, of course not! I’d soak it all in – a total immersion, listening to and watching a great songwriter give voice to his own compositions, himself, in person! They’re songs I mostly know already by heart anyway, but even if I didn’t, why would I waste that exquisite privilege by reading along?

That’s what I think of when I go to church and see folks with their noses in the missalettes – those little booklets in the pew that contain all the readings and parts of the Mass. Worse still is when their eyes are glued to iPhones or other gadgets as they follow along on apps while the lector drones on pointlessly up front.

Allow me to draw your attention to some of Becker’s key words: “They’re songs I mostly know already by heart anyway.” That’s a relevant difference. Most people at Mass don’t mostly know the scripture readings by heart anyway.

And far from diminishing the experience, for many members of the congregation, reading along enhances their experience of the readings.

That’s. Why. They. Do. It.

That’s also why people, including me, sometimes Google song lyrics. I don’t know if Becker ever does that, but I do. It’s one of the ways that I help avoid mondegreens.

So I don’t have a problem if people use missalettes at Mass—or, for that matter, their electronic equivalent.

On the other hand, if someone prefers not to use one, that’s fine, too.

And, if I may ask, why should Becker be dismayed by looking around at other people at Mass and seeing if and what they’re reading? On his theory, shouldn’t his attention be focused the lector, to drink in every detail of his proclamation of the readings?

At a Van Morrison concert, wouldn’t he be watching the stage performance and not the other members of the audience? ….

The Other Arguments Used Against Using Missalettes — and Jimmy Akin’s Response to Each:

2) Argument from College, 3) Argument from the GIRM, 4) The Alter Christus Argument, 5) the Argument from Protestant Services, 6) the Argument from the Annunciation, 7) A Role for Misselettes? 8) “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”, 9) Implications for the Lector

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Dave Callahan March 18, 2015 at 8:24 AM

Sorry, without the missal I would have to resort to mumbling through the prayers I don’t have memorized. Also how about the priests and lectors with accents so heavy that you only recognize every 4th word? Thank you Jimmy for all that you have and will teach to me.



surkiko March 19, 2015 at 4:03 AM

I will go out on a limb to say that the missalette is the greatest “invention.” Protestants do well by carrying their personal bibles with them but that’s not so critical for those of us who are blessed with a liturgical calender of bible readings already so thoughtfully planned out by the Church. I don’t know you but I always find it very helpful to read along (silently) with the lectors. I will also admit to becoming a bit disoriented when a cantor would substitute the responsorial psalms with some contemporary hymns (against rubrics, I think). I must be more challenged with my cognitive skills since I find it easier if I can “hear with my ears” and “see (the texts) with my eyes” at the same time. In my wounded humanity, I can focus better if I apply two or more senses in concert to help in internalizing a liturgy which can become formulaic and formal by habit. There are other side benefits. I can observe that most people who don’t use a missalette also missed the printed instructions to beat their breasts in the triplication of “mea culpa” in the Confiteor; or bowing at the words of the Incarnation in the Credo. My favorite missalette also contain inspirational prayers like “Anima Christi” and “Thanksgiving After Mass” (by St. Thomas Aquinas) which I use to meditate after Holy Communion and after Mass. Lastly, some Christian groups scorn at Catholics for lacking the gift of singing. It wasn’t always this way — We just need to pick up the missalette again, turn to the hymns in the back, and offer up our songs of praise and worship!

Say What March 19, 2015 at 10:54 AM

Then there’s the argument from Lousy Acoustics/Sound Systems which is related to the argument from Hearing Impairment.

Lorraine June 1, 2019 at 8:38 AM

I follow along with my missalette all the time, and I can't even begin to count how many times the lector has missed a single word that changes the entire meaning of a sentence. In addition to the accuracy of the written word, my brain is wired so that I need to see the words to understand what's being said when it comes to complicated readings (and to me the sentence structure in the bible is very complicated). The few times that I've forgotten my missalette have led to me being completely lost.

Leave a Comment

Previous post:

Next post: