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A theorist, organist, and conductor, Jeff Ostrowski holds his B.M. in Music Theory from the University of Kansas (2004), and did graduate work in Musicology. He serves as choirmaster for the new FSSP parish in Los Angeles, where he lives with his wife and two children.
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"Religious worship supplies all our spiritual need, and suits every mood of mind and variety of circumstance."
— John Henry Cardinal Newman

The Real Trouble With Missalettes
published 14 July 2014 by Jeff Ostrowski

260 Missalettes ERY FEW PEOPLE have diligently studied the disposable Missalettes, so we’ll explore them in this article. Your parish should immediately stop buying these Missalettes, which force you to pay over and over again for the same Scripture passages.

Before anything else, we must make it crystal clear that Missalettes do not contain the daily Mass readings. To see with your own eyes, click here. Some of them include the SUNDAY readings, but others do not. Consider, for example, OCP’s Breaking Bread. I once spent an afternoon searching everywhere for Missalettes which include the readings, only to find out they don’t exist. Nor do they contain the Collects, Prefaces, or Mass Propers.

What do Missalettes contain? They contain the Entrance antiphon, Psalm Response, and Communion antiphon. A groundbreaking publication reproduces in large fonts every possible response for the entire Church calendar. Therefore, as of 2014, Missalettes are no longer necessary! Your parish can save that money or give it to the poor.

Some Missalettes containing daily readings do technically exist, but they are rare. In those books, the publisher—not the parish—has made the choice regarding which options will be printed for some feasts. Whether we like it or not, this procedure is opposed to what the reform under Pope Paul VI mandated, as well as several statements by the Bishops’ Committee on the Liturgy. They have “simplified” matters by eliminating legitimate options, which is not allowed.

WE MUST UNDERSTAND CLEARLY the various ways that Missalettes limit the legitimate options of the Ordinary Form. To do this, it is necessary to understand the postconciliar concept of a “feast.”



Before the Second Vatican Council, we had various feast days, like St. Valentine (14 Feb), St. Robert Bellarmine (13 May), St. Ignatius of Loyola (31 July), and so forth. After the Council, we frequently encounter what I call a TWO-FOR-ONE. [Here I’m not considering Sundays, or Solemnities, or Major Feasts: those are straightforward.] A TWO-FOR-ONE is possible since the postconciliar Mass often separates the “Lectionary stuff” from the “Missal stuff.”

Suppose you attend Mass on 16 July 2014. The liturgical calendar says Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time, so you open your lectionary and turn to that page. [You’ll notice that Lectionary weekdays have “Year 1” and “Year 2” options.]   Whew! That was easy, right? Now all that remains is opening up the Missal to that day and you’re done!   (Evil laugh.)

Ouch! You can’t locate Wednesday of the Fifteenth Week in Ordinary Time inside the Missal because it doesn’t exist. In these cases, the “Missal stuff” is taken from the previous Sunday. Let’s further explore this peculiar TWO-FOR-ONE concept.

A very frequent occurrence on daily Masses is a MEMORIAL. [For the moment, we’re not talking about Optional Memorials: only Obligatory Memorials.] Whenever you have a Memorial, the “Missal stuff” comes from the saint’s day, whereas the “Lectionary stuff” is usually taken from the continuous readings. 1 Now do you understand the TWO-FOR-ONE concept? The readings (“Lectionary stuff”) in a TWO-FOR-ONE have absolutely nothing to do with the “Missal stuff” on that day.


Generally speaking, progressive liturgists detest interrupting the continuous readings because they subscribe to a “more-is-always-better” philosophy with regard to the Bible. Some disagree, pointing out that Scripture at Mass was traditionally regarded as a prayer, not simply a didactic exercise. However, the preference for continuous readings is supported by the 1969 General Instruction of the Roman Missal, which said:

If he celebrates with a congregation, the priest should first consider the spiritual good of the faithful and avoid imposing his own personal preferences. In particular, he should not omit the readings assigned for each day in the weekday lectionary too frequently or without sufficient reason, since the Church desires that a richer portion of God’s word be provided for the people.

Si celebrat cum populo, sacerdos imprimis bono spirituali fidelium studebit, et cavebit ne iis suam propensionem imponat. Curabit præcipue ne frequentius et sine sufficienti causa lectiones omittat singulis diebus in lectionario feriali assignatas: Ecclesia enim cupit ut ditior mensa verbi Dei paretur fidelibus.

The 2011 GIRM contains similar words:

If he celebrates with the people, the Priest will take care not to omit too frequently and without sufficient reason the readings assigned each day in the Lectionary to the weekdays, for the Church desires that a richer portion at the table of God’s Word should be spread before the people.

It would be inappropriate for me to debate this issue here. However, I would point out that the GIRM justifies its view by citing §51 of Sacrosanctum Concilium. It often seems that certain parties overemphasize (in a rigid way) certain parts of Sacrosanctum Concilium, yet completely ignore entire sections 2 of the same document!   Be that as it may, a sentence has been added to the current GIRM which was not found in the 1969 version (unless I am mistaken):

For Memorials of Saints, unless proper readings are given, the readings assigned for the weekday are normally used.


Did you catch that last quotation? “Unless proper readings are given.” What does that passage mean? The Lectionary Preface makes it clear:

When they exist, proper readings are given for celebrations of the Saints, that is, biblical passages about the Saint or the mystery that the Mass is celebrating. Even in the case of a memorial these readings must take the place of the weekday readings for the same day. This Order of Readings makes explicit note of every case of proper readings on a memorial.

In other words, sometimes it’s obligatory to use a certain reading from the saint’s Memorial and not the continuous reading. How does that look? I’m glad you asked:

      * *  PDF Download: Example of a “Proper” reading that cannot be omitted

In such instances, the common practice is to “mix” the daily readings with the “obligatory” readings. That is to say, even when the Gospel is proper (like 29 July, in the example I just gave), most priests still use the continuous readings for the First Reading & Responsorial Psalm.

ERHAPS THESE CONCEPTS can be made clear by taking the reader from beginning to end. We look at the calendar for July 2014 and observe that 21 July (St. Lawrence of Brindisi) lacks the word “Memorial” in red, meaning it’s an Optional Memorial—as opposed to an Obligatory Memorial. Therefore, the “Missal stuff” and “Lectionary stuff” can be taken from Monday of the Sixteenth Week in Ordinary Time, and most priests would choose this option … so how exactly would it look?

First of all, we recall that no “Missal stuff” for that day exists, so it’s taken from the previous Sunday:

      * *  2011 Roman Missal — Relevant Excerpt showing “Missal Stuff” (PDF)

If you compare the relevant pages from the 1975 Missale Plenarium—a special book which “pulls together” Lectionary & Missal—you’ll observe that the “Missal stuff” matches perfectly:

      * *  Missale Plenarium — Monday in the 16th Week in Ordinary Time (PDF)

Perhaps you’re a skeptical person like me. Let’s double check the Missale Plenarium for the 16th Sunday, and verify that the “Missal stuff” is identical:

      SUNDAY:   Missale Plenarium — 16th Sunday in Ordinary Time, Years ABC

Now for the “Lectionary stuff,” which comes from the Ordo Lectionum Missae:

      * *  Ordo Lectionum Missae — Relevant Excerpt showing “Lectionary Stuff” (PDF)

In America, because we speak English, our Lectionaries contain an English translation. Below is the 1970 Lectionary, which (as you can see) matches perfectly the Ordo Lectionum Missae. Of course, I could have chosen the current edition of the Lectionary, but the 1970 has a better layout:

      * *  1970 Lectionary — English Language Version (PDF)

Triple check the 1975 Missale Plenarium and you’ll see that everything matches perfectly. How cool is that?

OWEVER, THEOPTIONAL MEMORIAL” for 21 July (St. Lawrence of Brindisi) may also be celebrated. If this decision is made, the “Lectionary stuff” can be taken from the continuous readings (Monday in the 16th Week of Ordinary Time) or the readings for St. Lawrence of Brindisi. The most common choice would be “Missal stuff” from St. Lawrence and “Lectionary stuff” from Monday16. As to whether it’s allowed to mix and match Orations, Prefaces, Antiphons, Responsorial Psalms, and Alleluias from both of those, opinions vary. 3

Let’s pretend we choose the typical arrangement of “Missal stuff” from St. Lawrence with “Lectionary stuff” from Monday16. I’ve already explained how to find the Monday16 items, but how about the St. Lawrence items? Well, the 1969 Ordo Lectionum Missae had a very simple indication, reproduced exactly in the 1970 Lectionary:

      * *  PDF Download: — 21 July, St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1970 Lectionary)

But the 1981 Ordo Lectionum Missae mysteriously added “suggestions” for each feast. The problem is, 99% of priests don’t realize that these are suggestions only. They cannot be blamed, because there’s nothing to remind them of this fact:

      * *  PDF Download: — 1981 Ordo Lectionum Missae (with mysterious suggestions)

Who added these suggestions? Nobody knows. Fr. Ronald Krisman, formerly Executive Director of the Bishop’s Committee on the Liturgy, has said these suggestions were first added in the 1981 Ordo Lectionum Missae. However, our research indicates they go back at least six years earlier to the Missale Plenarium of 1975. You can see that the 1975 suggestions are identical:

      * *  PDF Download: Suggestions for St. Lawrence of Brindisi (1975)

Even the Gospel Acclamation is identical, which you can observe by noticing that the “729,8” found in 1981 Ordo Lectionum Missae (see above) matches perfectly the 1975 suggestion:

      * *  PDF Download: — Gospel Acclamation referenced by the 1981 OLM

INCE THE TIME HAS COME TO CONCLUDE this essay, permit me a few final thoughts. The 1962 Missale Romanum frequently allowed the priest options for daily Mass. However, those choices were nothing compared to the amount permitted by the Ordinary Form. Many books have tried to “cover all their bases,” but in the end add even more confusion. For example, consider the Missal published by Midwest Theological Forum for more than two decades. This book still contains numerous typos and errors, resulting from a monumentally confusing system requiring thousands of page turns. 4

The St. Isaac Jogues Daily Mass Companion is incredibly straightforward and easy to use. Moreover, it does not limit the choices of the priest, as the Missalettes have done for so many years. This is true no matter which Memorials the priest desires to celebrate. It’s also true no matter which votive Masses the priest decides to celebrate, Sacred Heart (Friday) and Blessed Virgin Mary (Saturday) being especially traditional.

If you still doubt that disposable Missalettes limit the options for daily Mass, read the following excerpts (taken from current Church legislation):

Should, however, the continuous reading during the week from time to time be interrupted, on account of some Solemnity or Feast, or some particular celebration, then the Priest shall be permitted, bearing in mind the scheme of readings for the entire week, either to combine parts omitted with other readings or to decide which readings are to be given preference over others.

In Masses for special groups, the Priest shall be allowed to choose texts more particularly suited to the particular celebration, provided they are taken from the texts of an approved Lectionary.

Thus, in the Missal, thirty-four Masses for the Sundays and weekdays in Ordinary Time are found. They are used in this way: a) On Sundays the Mass corresponding to the number of the Sunday in Ordinary Time is ordinarily used, unless there occurs a Solemnity or a Feast of the Lord which takes the place of the Sunday. b) On weekdays, however, any of the thirty-four Masses may be used, provided the pastoral needs of the faithful are taken into consideration.

Since, indeed, many possibilities are provided for choosing the different parts of the Mass, it is necessary for the Deacon, the readers, the psalmist, the cantor, the commentator, and the choir to know properly before the celebration the texts that concern each and that are to be used, and it is necessary that nothing be in any sense improvised.

When a possibility is given of choosing between one or other text laid down, or suggested as optional, attention shall be paid to the good of participants, whether, that is to say, it is a matter of using an easier text or one more appropriate for a given gathering, or of repeating or setting aside a text that is assigned as proper to some particular celebration while being optional for another, just as pastoral advantage may suggest.

On the weekdays in Ordinary Time, however, besides the orations from the previous Sunday, orations from another Sunday in Ordinary Time may be used, or one of the Prayers for Various Needs provided in the Missal. However, it shall always be permissible to use from these Masses the Collect alone. In this way a richer collection of texts is provided, by which the prayer life of the faithful is more abundantly nourished.


1   The so-called “continuous readings” are what we alluded to earlier. For example: “X-Day of the X-Week in Ordinary Time.”

2   For example, consider §36 and §116 of Sacrosanctum Concilium.

3   We’ve already seen that a “proper” Gospel can be mixed with continuous readings and Memorial propers, so it would be difficult to imagine legislation preventing further mixing. However, it seems only logical to keep the Alleluia verse with whatever Gospel is chosen.

4   This book often sends the user to a different page, which then references another page, which in turn references yet another page!