Dan Burke is an award-winning author, writer, and speaker on Catholic spirituality. He has written and/or edited nine books on faithful Catholic spirituality and is the Executive Director and writer for EWTN’s National Catholic Register. Dan is the president of the Avila Institute for Spiritual Formation, and the creator of Divine Intimacy Radio and SpiritualDirection.com.
Since the allowance of the vernacular in the Mass following Vatican II, the idea of people having their own Roman Missal has fallen into relative obscurity. The erroneous thinking that the Roman Missal was simply there to help one follow the Latin has, sadly, resulted in a temporal and eternal disconnect with the liturgical and spiritual heartbeat of the Church. The liturgical year of the Catholic Church is far more than an artificial collection of feasts and seasons. It is a profound and soul-altering spiritual rhythm that provides a veracity as real as cosmic time. The Roman Missal provides us with a vital navigational tool for the spiritual reality of our glorious faith.
Praying the Mass
“The Mass is the most perfect form of prayer.” – Pope Paul VI
When most of us call to mind a Roman Missal, we think of the Order of the Mass, which presents the basic liturgical structures and rhythm of our worship. The Order of the Mass grants us the foundation for understanding the Holy Sacrifice of Christ and our timeless participation in his death and resurrection. When we attend Mass, we are entering into a moment where time and eternity meet. Reception of the Eucharist is a real participation in Christ’s historic sacrifice, and that deeply intimate experience with Christ in the Eucharist orientates us toward the glory of Christ’s eternal kingdom. It is past, present and future all coming together in the Eucharist, which is then wrapped in prayers, Scriptures and the solemnity proper to it. In this understanding, the Roman Missal aids the Catholic in engaging heart and soul in the most perfect prayer more perfectly.
A Treasury of Catholic Prayers
Beyond Sunday, the Roman Missal is a wealth of wisdom that offers the individual Catholic a myriad of sacred prayers. Life is turbulent — at times a challenging path where feelings of being lost or overwhelmed are all too common. Other times, life is a resounding joy and a blessed event filled with miracles, daily needs, friends, family and the charity of Christ. For all of these circumstances, our forefathers of the faith have composed prayers to help Catholics communicate with God and express their hearts in wondrous lucidity. The Roman Missal is a tome of these wise expressions and should be an at-hand resource for any Catholic and their family.
We are well aware that our Catholicism cannot be isolated to one day a week — that the faith must be a habitual and daily event that colors the very expression of our lives. However, the daily discipline necessary and the proper actions to accomplish this spiritual necessity can be very difficult. The Roman Missal presents the structure of the liturgical year for every day of the week, offering the readings and prayers to help the individual Catholic participate in the daily expression of the divine reality of our faith.
The Missal and the Home Altar
Home altars are important focal points for any Catholic family striving for holiness. Often set aside in bedrooms or even closets, home altars are domestic sanctuaries that provide Catholics with a quiet place of prayer and meditation. Among the crucifix, the icons and the candles, the Roman Missal is a vital part of the home altar, as it brings into a place of family prayer the liturgical guide gifted to us by the Church.
A Personal Bond
Catholics dedicated to praying the Rosary can witness to the intimate bonds they develop with their own rosaries. Each bead in each mystery is a witness to God’s faithfulness, whether it is an answered prayer or a comfort in mourning. Each decade of the Rosary comes to be a memorial for the divine events in our lives. The Roman Missal is no different. Holding it in your hand each week at Mass, turning to its prayers in times of need, and having it serve as a spiritual guide is likewise a divine bonding experience. In time, as with the rosary, the pages and prayers begin to call to mind the divine actions we have witnessed, and grant us the endurance and joy to live the good life.
Proper of Saints
We are not the first — or last — ones to strive after a life of holiness. The Roman Missal can be a constant source of spiritual direction, and the proper of the saints serves to reinforce that reality through brief accounts of their lives and enriching prayers related to each. The study of our forefathers, the celebration of their fidelity, and the acceptance of their present reality and intercession all serve to bind together the family of God. As the Church militant, we must look back to the lives of the Church triumphant and look forward to receiving the eternal prize they now embrace.
Ritual, Votive and Requiem Masses
The Roman Missal also includes special Masses and rituals for various occasions. Votive Masses and Masses for the dead are unique circumstances in our lives, circumstances that can be difficult for our families. Again, like the rosary, having in your hand your Roman Missal that has consistently been a source of guidance and comfort is invaluable in the most arduous of times.
Are you looking to draw closer to the heartbeat of the Church? The Roman Missal will provide you with blessings for decades to come. If you have never owned one, the new translation of the Mass provides a great opportunity to make a purchase (Christmas is coming!). And if you have an old one, it’s a perfect time to update. Which one? I am not an expert, but I own a beautiful and faithful compilation provided by Midwest Theological Forum that you can find here. Many blessings on your journey …