Being in spiritual communion with the rest of the world would be a good way to stave off madness

I have now owned my CTS New Daily Missal, the “people’s edition” with the new translation of the Mass, for a month. It is a handsome, beautifully produced volume and it has seen me through Holy Week and the Triduum, as well as Sunday and weekday Masses. Combining Sundays and weekdays, it is also a weighty tome. This is not a criticism – but it has taken some time to familiarise myself with the different sections. Now I have the six tassels in their right places to help me negotiate major feasts, saints’ days, liturgical seasons, Eucharistic prayers and so on; they are in the liturgical colours too: red, green gold, purple and two shades of rose. In his blog about the new Sunday Missal, William Oddie thought two tassels was not enough; six seems about right.

As the CTS points out, this Missal suffices for every Mass of the year – as long as you don’t mind its bulk. Having earlier taken possession of the slimmer CTS new Sunday Missal, I think I shall stick to this for Sundays. But if I were shipwrecked on a desert island and could take only one book with me, according to the formula of Desert Island Discs, I would now choose the New Daily Missal. In the past I might have thought pretentiously of asking for Proust – 12 volumes instead of one, not to mention the sufferings of Swann – but honestly: with no one to talk to and the days stretching ahead, the best way to cope – and stave off madness – would be to mark the days according to the supernatural calendar and stick to a daily routine of prayer. That way I would at least be in spiritual communion with the rest of the world.

Having attended Mass yesterday, for Thursday the second week of Easter, I was curious to contrast the two translations. My old weekday Missal has the entrance antiphon as “When you walked at the head of your people, O God, and lived with them on their journey, the earth shook at your presence, and the skies poured forth their rain, alleluia.” The new CTS daily missal has, “O God, when you went forth before your people/marching with them and living among them/ the earth trembled, heavens poured down rain, alleluia.” There is not so much of a change here as in eg the Eucharistic Prayers. Others more knowledgeable than me have written at length about the new translation; I think it emphasises, more than the old one, the reverence we owe to God and the proper humility required to address him.

As well as the well-chosen illustrations, taken from a 13th-century psalter of the French School, it is also good to have the brief biographies of the saints of the Roman calendar in this missal; and for the Sundays of the year, extracts from homilies of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. As with the old Roman Missal, all prayers are in Latin as well as English.

Speaking of my Roman Missal, which I received for my Confirmation, aged 11, I see that its table of Sundays and moveable feasts runs from 1957 to 1984: from Harold Macmillan to Orwell’s dystopia. I was given my copy in 1957 and thought the final date would never arrive. Before that, for my First Communion, I had been given what was then a popular children’s missal called “The Treasury of the Sacred Heart”, with the moveable feasts running from 1950 to 1976: from the dogma of the Assumption to the summer of the drought. My Roman Missal was then replaced by the Novus Ordo missal, with the calendar running from 1974 to 1999: from the Three Day Week to the Millennium. Time has hurtled on; the table of principal celebrations in the CTS New Daily Missal runs from AD 2010 to 2039. Heavens! With all the dire predictions thrown at us daily in the national press – from mass obesity to climate change, from population shrinkage to the march of Islam – I wonder if I’ll ever get there.

It doesn’t matter if I don’t. Opening my new missal at random, I read the entrance antiphon for the 29th Sunday in ordinary time: “To you I call; for you will surely heed me, O God; turn your ear to me; hear my words. Guard me as the apple of your eye; in the shadow of your wings protect me.”

Amen to all that.