HE FAMOUS “Fulton J. Sheen Sunday Missal” (1961) is now available for free and instant download. Needless to say, Archbishop Sheen did not produce the Missal alone: it was a joint effort by many, especially the Jesuit priests Rev. Philip Caraman and Rev. James Walsh. However, Sheen did compose the lengthy “Introduction” (which every Catholic ought to read) and seems to have exercised an influence on the general contents. For example, the choice of English translations — Msgr. Ronald Knox for the “Lauda Sion,” Gerald Manley Hopkins for the “Adoro Te,” and so forth — is a clear signal of Sheen’s involvement, because of his well-known admiration for those men.
IN ADDITION to the aforementioned “Introduction,” Sheen’s Missal has several other remarkable features. The descriptions of priestly vestments are excellent. It also includes the entire “Fore-Mass” (as Fortescue called it) and Offertory alongside the readings for every feast. That choice meant printing the “Kyrie Eleison,” for example, close to eighty times. Sheen was not known as a liturgist, but this choice was truly sensational, because those in the pews don’t have to turn to a different page for the Collect, Preface, Gloria, Offertory, and so forth.
Certain translations employed are noteworthy, especially poetic texts like the sequences and Pange Lingua. Similar to the Campion Missal, the editors made judicious use of Drop Caps and went out of their way to print all the “extra” post-Pentecost Masses in addition to every feast that could ever occur on a Sunday — a tremendous help to Catholics in the pews. The date of publication (1961) is fascinating, considering what would come a year later! The pages use a singular numbering system wherein Latin and English are combined. Furthermore, it’s nice that this book contains most of the changes of the 1962 Missal, such as the Holy Week of Pius XII and optional dialogue Masses.
This book must have been in production for many years. For one thing, it shows such elegance. The unified, lovely images (such as the Divine Pelican, often preached on by Sheen) appear to have been created specifically for this layout. In general, the book seems like an effort to make a significant contribution to Catholics’ liturgical life. I mentioned earlier the distinctive translations such as: “Raise your hearts.” — “They are raised to the Lord.”
For myself, the most interesting part of the book is the translation used for the “Pange Lingua” of Fortunatus (Good Friday). Producing the Campion Missal, we spent two whole weeks searching for different translations of this magnificent hymn. Sheen ultimately decided upon a metered translation which doesn’t rhyme: a truly marvelous choice.