In the past books were objects of beauty and made to last, that art has been lost

One really does wonder about all the fanfare that is accompanying the new translation of the Roman Missal. The new translation even has its own websiteto which you will be directed from the address www.missal.uk.org. Yet it is only a new translation, not a “new Missal”, and not a most certainly not a “new rite”. I have the feeling that once the new translation has been in use for a few weeks people will wonder that they ever used any other.

What really concerns me is the new edition of the Missal, in the sense of the new book which will replace the current edition of the Missal that we all use. Most parishes are using the Roman Missal published by Collins in 1972, which is a lamentable piece of work. Forty years on, most of these books are falling apart, unattractively bound up with sellotape, with pages falling out or going brown with age, and ragged at the edges. The standards of productions were clearly not high. The American editions, not by Collins, were smaller in size, easier to read, and, by and large, have worn very well.

I hope, as a bibliophile, that the new edition of the Roman Missal will be a triumph. In the past books were objects of beauty, and they were made to last. I have read many a novel in a nineteenth century edition which looked almost as good as new; and I have come across plenty of nineteenth and early twentieth century altar Missals that were gorgeously covered, stunningly illustrated, and in excellent condition. Why can’t we make nice books any more? Perhaps the Catholic Truth Society, who are publishing the new edition of the Roman Missal, will buck the trend. The photograph accompanying their sales pitch on the website is encouraging.

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As for the old Collins Missals, what are we to do with them?

I have not noticed any official guidance about how these holy books are to be disposed of. Ones in good condition can of course be given to libraries – old liturgical books are a priceless resource, and how we all wish even a few had survived from the early centuries. Ones in poor condition can hardly be left out with the rubbish, so the best thing for them is to be disposed of reverently.

The Jews used to entomb copies of the scriptures that had grown tatty with age, and my suggestion is that old editions of the Missal that are of no further use, whether “hand” missals or altar missals, be placed with the deceased in their coffins, and thus be buried or cremated.

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