Sunday, 5 January 2014

Just like Fr. Z! Part I of the Review of the St. Joseph's Sunday Missal Complete CANADIAN Edition

Hello Everyone.

If any of you have been faithful viewers of Fr. Zuhlsdorf's, "What Does the Prayer Really Say" website, you will notice he does a fair number of reviews for products and missals for the liturgy of the Catholic Mass.

So I thought for a change, I'd be Fr. Z and review a product. You see, in Canada, we use the New Revised Standard Version - Catholic Edition translation of the Scripture for our lectionaries and Gospels in the Mass. While for the new translation of the Novus Ordo, a number of well known Catholic publishing companies have produced high-quality, keepsake Missals for the Church's 3-year Sunday, and 2-year weekday liturgical cycles, THEY ARE ALL IN OTHER TRANSLATIONS LIKE NAB-RE!!!!! That means you can`t really use the missals for Masses in Canada.

Currently, the Canadian laity had two options for bulk missals: 1) The Novalis produced "Living with Christ" missals which are disposable, but cost $5 per year, containing spiritually lacking "reflections" given by lay people and/or religious who lean to the liberal left, or 2) Also spend $5 but get the better quality St. Joseph's missal for the year, but kill another tree and waste more money, and you must keep purchasing a book each new Sunday cycle. Not to mention not all parishes have the St. Joseph`s books for sale. Most only know of the Living with Christ missals. Option 2 was my only saner way of life for the Novus Ordo liturgy these past couple of years ..... UNTIL NOW.

Just this year, Catholic Book Publishing Company, the printer of the New St. Joseph's Missals, became the first Catholic publisher to produce a 3-year Sundays and Holy Days (including Xmas and the Holy Triduum) hand missal for the laity in Canada. I am finally happy someone did this! Finally, I have a keepsake hand missal I can use for the Novus Ordo for all my 3 years and some Holy Days for the liturgy. Now, as a service to the laity of the Church and the viewers of this blog in Canada, it's best to see, how good is this missal? Is it a worthy investment of $49 Canadian + shipping and handling + Taxes ?????

Part I will cover up to the content of the Individual Sundays, while Part II will look at the summary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, and rate the missal overall with my answer to that burning question above.

Physical description and Looks (including artwork/pictures)
To start, the book is burgundy in colour and comes in imitation leather. The front and side text is etched into the imitation leather with gold paint, and the front cover has a simple etched cross with a chalice and a 2-ring circle with the letters JHS representing Jesus Christ in the species of the Body.


Also part of the book are two ribbons, a yellow and gold, which one should taper the ends with (via flame) to prevent fraying in future right when they are brand new.

The actual paper of the missal is the kind used for decent quality missals and books, but a bit thicker. It's not of an ultra fine texture, nor the newspaper texture of the regular 1-year pew missals. It is, however, different in quality over the 1-year versions made of the cheaper newsprint material.

The book is 4 1/4 X 6 1/4 in. This measurement is likely for the pages alone. When measured in cm with my ruler, the dimensions are 11.5 cm length x 16.5 cm width when the cover is included. Comparison, this book is about the size of a larger paperback novel.

Some sections of the text contain alternating red and black text, which are the prayer portions and the back sections of the Missal. The major portions containing the readings for the Mass are standard black text, of which there is sectioning of the major readings of the Mass, as well as some of the Novus Ordo propers (Entrance antiphon, Collect, the Gospel Acclamation (which to EF people would be the Gradual/Alleluia), The Offertory prayer, the Communion Antiphons, and the post-Communion antiphons).

As for the artwork, every week or major liturgy has a 1/4 section of picture at the top of the page in the New St. Joseph's art style. They are much better than that of the Novalis Living With Christ Missals, yet the artwork isn't as spiritually uplifting in those parts that it could be.

Now, interspersed among the regular pages are much better and spiritually inspiring artwork including:
  • The mysteries of the Rosary as well as a depiction of Our Lady of Fatima and the three children,
  • For major feast days/liturgies, sections of actual classical art depictions!

  • Some colour sections on harder paper, which are quite lovely to look at, like below,

In summary, at least the reader is being treated more closer to an adult in the visual content in what is present in the St. Joseph's 3 year Missal.

General Internal Content

Inside the Missal is, from start to finish, the following:
  • Preface
  • Calendars of Major Feast Days to 2030, of the 3 year Sunday Cycle
  • General Introduction
  • Order of the Mass, the "Ordo"
  • Listings of the Major readings for each Sunday, and some Major Feast Days for each of the 3 year Cycles. This includes some Propers of Saints
  • Catechism of the Catholic Church: An Overview
  • "Treasury" of Some prayers
  • General Index, with others for Biblical Readings, Psalms, and Prefaces

More In-Depth Analysis of the Content
The Preface
Already this Missal gets off to a somewhat liturgically/theologically incorrect start for the lay person holding the Missal, calling the Mass a "meal" that became a living memorial of Christ's sacrifice on the Cross. It's the meal part that's wrong. Yes, the Passover Seder has a meal element, and that is part of the whole Passion, Death, and Resurrection of our Lord, but that's not the whole Mass. The Mass is the re-presentation of His Passion, Death, and Resurrection, where Heaven (and the Saints), and Earth meet, giving us the foretaste of Eternal Salvation in the Sacrament of the Eucharist.

Then the preface gets into the whole debacle about the issue of "active participation" in the Mass, which the "spirit of Vatican II" clergy and laity misinterpreted to mean, do lots of stuff, or, do what makes you feel good about Jesus. At least the Missal gets this somewhat correct what this was supposed to mean:
"The Church, therefore, earnestly desires that Christ's faithful, when present at this mystery of faith, should not be there as strangers or silent spectators ... through a good understanding of the rites and prayers they should take part in the sacred action conscious of what they are doing, with devotion and full collaboration. They should be instructed by God's word and be nourished at the table of the Lord's body; they should give thanks to God; by offering the immaculate Victim, not only thorugh the hands of the priest, but also with him, they should learn and also to offer themselves through Christ the Mediator, they should be drawn day by day into ever more perfect union with God and with each other, so that ... God may be all in all." ([5]-[6])
To that effect about preparation ....
"In order to enable the faithful to prepare for each Mass AT HOME and so participate more actively AT MASS, the editors have added extensive introductions and notes to the Missal: General Introduction, through provoking Mass themes, and helpful explanations of the scripture readings and the Order of Mass as well as capsule summaries of all Missal texts - all geared to the spiritual needs of daily life." ([6]).
But what exactly are these preparations? Are they sound, and theologically/doctrinally OK, or are they more of the ``Spirit of Vatican II`` type that doesn`t nourish the lay person? Let's look further.
The General Introduction
It is in this section that the Missal attempts to explain general knowledge with relevance to the Mass, some origins, some symbolism, and what happens at major parts of the Mass.

The intro starts with "The Christian Passover". It describes the Passover and its importance to the Jewish people adequately. Then, it describes how Christ changed its meaning, referring to the Passover Sacrifice, which has now become that of His own body and blood. It connects this to Paul in 1 Cor 5:7 when he says "Christ, our Passover, has been sacrificed." It then tells us that the difference between the Jews and Christians, is that "...We Christians celebrate the Eucharist as a memorial of our redemption from the slavery of evil, effected by Christ's Death on the Cross." (1). True, though this is only one element of the Mass/Jesus' Sacrifice. This is good, however, to relate the Old Testament being completed in the New Testament, an element that can be often overlooked in this post-Vatican II era of anti-sacrifice, pro-meal Mass ``theology`` and ``symbolism.``

In the next section, "How to Celebrate", the Missal continues, finally acknowledging the sacrificial aspect of the Mass, saying "In the celebration of Mass, in which the Sacrifice of the Cross is perpetuated, Christ is really present in the very assembly gathered in its Name." (2)
So it doesn't 100% leave the Mass as a Meal, and it does acknowledge the "Communal Body of Christ", one of Christ's 3 aspects of His Body (Living Person, Eucharist, and Community in the Church). Unfortunately, it does a poor job at describing the ministry of the Priest and his relation to the community, and doesn't call the Sacrament "Holy" orders: "... the Eucharist is the action of the whole Church ... through the Sacrament of Orders, some Christians are singled out to exercise a special ministry in this priestly people, whose "spiritual sacrifice is brought to completion ..." (2). I'm sorry, but priests are not just in a ``special ministry.`` While we are to exercise in the carrying out of Christ's ministry as "priest, prophet and king" as Vatican II says, it's HOLY orders. It's not just any special ministry, and those people are not "singled out" as if it is an ostracizing burden. Priests are alter Christi, whose souls are indefinitely changed upon Ordination, and are the only ones who can administer the Sacraments and carry out the Mass. However the New St. Joseph`s (herein, NSJ) missal isn't all to blame, it quotes the General Instruction of the Roman Missal 2002.

The Missal redeems itself a bit in the next section, "3. Structure". It says of the Mass: "If properly understood, participating in the Eucharist is exciting - even without the usual trappings we associate with excitement, such as a swinging band! Music at Mass is meaningful only if it is underlines and fosters activities of the heart and mind. (3).  Wow, can't believe this Missal actually said this. It's unfortunate numerous parishes don't get this message. The Mass isn`t some entertainment venue for a rock band to play while feeling all good about Jesus. It belittles what is actually going on at the altar and most young people, are not entertained by it all, nor want it. That fact that this missal says it ... well, close to priceless.

It also does a decent job in explaining symbolism of certain things of Mass in the short section 4: "... the Penitential Act ... points to cleansing from sin. Genuflecting is a sign of respect for the Blessed Sacrament, kneeling is a symbol of humility, and sanding expressed respect for God."

The intro then goes into each part, step by step, with good overall descriptions of what is done, what it means (not in depth), and what is expected of the lay member, and sometimes, even the priest and other clergy. Personally, more depth can be given on each part, such as in my postings about the parts of the Ordo for the EF/Latin Mass, but it does do a good job. It even uses technical terms that I wish I had known! Did you know that we are in the Anamnesis when the Priest is calling to mind our Lord`s Death, Resurrection, and Ascension, and we offer God in thanksgiving, this holy and living sacrifice ...? Well I know now thanks to this Missal! And I did not even need to take studies at St. Augustine's Seminary in Toronto to know that!

The General Prayers for the Ordo of the Novus Ordo Mass
The Ordo is displayed in a combination of black and red text. When there are parts you must go to Today's Mass, or other parts of the Missal, there are boxes that tell you to do so, or it's the pp. notes in the red text.

The actual text of the Mass is in black Times New Roman font, and your responses are boldfaced. In addition, all options are given for each part, whether it's the opening Greeting, the Penintential Act, the Eucharistic Prayer, etc.

When one turns to an individual Sunday to read the Scripture portions, and/or antiphons, it is only in black text. Titles are de-noted decently, and your responses are denoted by a R, with the responses in boldface text. The scripture passages are preceeded by brief reflections that tell the general gist of the passage and possibly relating it to the introductory reflection and other readings. The Responsorial Psalms list BOTH the GRAIL and the NRSV text versions of the portions, but the music is most of the time wrong and your cantor will use what is likely the version of the Psalms from the Catholic Book of Worship III.

The Content of the Individual Sundays (e.g. 1st Sunday of Advent).
Now I dig into the content of an individual Sundays, including its reflections. The prayers of each Sunday and its readings, are what they are, in the NRSV text, with your responses in boldface. So really, the review is on the reflections that accompany them. I will be using the First three Sundays (1st to 3rd) of Advent and its reflections to show you how good the "reflection portion" is.

All the Mass themes and Biblical commentaries were composed by a Fr. John C. Kersten, S.V.D. (Society of the Divine Word). He has been doing the composition and reflections for the New. St. Joseph's missals for quite a while based on internet searches for older missals. I cannot ascertain the orthodoxy of this priest and his writings from internet searching. The only other thing to note is that possibly, unless there are two Fr. Kerstens, S.V.D, the reflections in this missal might have been released posthumously, as the SVD order page has an archived obituary for a Fr. Kersten in 2012.

Each Sunday and Major Feast Day opens with a reflection on it's theme. For the 1st Sunday of Advent, it is "Be Watchful". Here is what is written:
"With God Revealing himself in the Lord Jesus, we Christians believe that there is a future for human beings. Life is not an absurdity. Death is not "a transition from being into nothingness," as some contemporary "sages" allege. Life has meaning. In the confusion of daily life, the Lord Jesus comes to save us from apparent absurdity, from dangerous inertia and the numbness that the sedatives of modern life can bring about. The only prerequisite is that we be watchful and open up to him and his message found in the Scriptures. As the mystery of his Nativity ... may he find us watchful in pryer and exultant in his praise (preface of Advent II)" (113)

Not Bad .... but not all of the reflections are of decent quality. Some teeter the line with being drunken with the "social justice" ethos that plagues certain corners of the Church, a works without faith mentality. This is present in the 2nd Sunday of Advent's introduction, with the theme being Christ's Leadership:
" Christ is the answer to the frightening questions of life. When the leaders of a nation are corrupt, its people usually suffer. The human family on this planet is afflicted with many maladies resulting from lack of leadership ... Jesus Christ is the God-given Leader, who came to establish God's kingdom on earth, "a kingdom of truth and life, ... a kingdom of justice, love, and peace" .... Are you accepting Jesus Christ and the outlines he gives us for a better society? We know that the ideal society as envisioned by Jesus will never be fully realized on this planet ...." (119)

In this paragraph, the social justice ethos has given the lay person reading this reflection the WRONG interpretation of the kingdom of God. Christ's kingdom was that of Heaven. Yes, we are supposed to do His will here on earth, but this is NOT our kingdom nor His. Other Scripture have Christ Himself saying His kingdom is not on Earth. Also in this reflection, it's all just "let's change the world" and make it a happy place for you and me and Jesus. Sorry folks, but there is more to our Faith than social justice. It is a vital part of our faith (for in James 2, St. Paul tells us ``Faith without works is dead,``) but it is a PART, NOT ALL, of a whole that Christ commanded us to do in His Name.

However, other times, the priest's provided reflections really hit you in the gut and speak to us in our modern times. Just look at this one for the 1st Sunday, 2nd reading from Romans 13: 11-14:
"Be watchful! Wake up! Orgies, drunkenness, promiscuity, lust, rivalry, and jealousy are part of the human condition. The deeds of darkness can make us numb and insensitive to the beauty of life. Put on the Lord Jesus," i.e. be ever more intimately united to him and what he stands for, and a bright future of Shalom - peace - will be yours." (116)

What? Orgies, promiscuity, lust? Those are not PG rated words here in this reflection! The "pornification of society" appears in advertisments and free pornography on the Internet, the legalization of prostitution and other inhumane sexual acts, etc. So this reflection it totally relevant to 2013 and beyond. And how about this in the 3rd Sunday of Advent:
``.... Christian hope opposes despair, which often results in suicide or just ``copping out.`` It opposes escaping from reality through the use of drugs, abuse of alcohol, or excessive addiction to the pleasures of modern life. Christian hope knows how to handle depression: You get on your knees knowing that over the world of the starts, a loving Father must reside (``Òde to Joy`` in the 9th Symphony of Beethoven)`(126)

Alcohol and drug addiction? Sadly, teens do start to get into this early in high school. Thank God the priest in charge of the reflections for this Missal isn't afraid to use a few well-placed "bombs" here and there that our world isn`t all sunshine and rainbows, and powerful physical, mental, and spiritual evils are here in place.

My overall thoughts on the content of each of the prayers and their reflections, is that they do speak to a youth/person in the modern era of the new millenium, with one major deficit and one quam. These reflections are more spiritually relational than educational in the opening parts before the Scriptural reflections, lacking in solid catechesis, or anything about the Sundays or their Feast days themselves. It would have been better to pair up a brief liturgical/catechesis lesson on the Sundays, THEN follow up with a brutally honest reflection that pertain to our modern era above. Now THAT, would have been an impressive combination for a post-Vatican II missal.

The quam is that at times they are the "goopy sugary mess" of social justice that does not speak to the totality of the Catholic faith. Seriously if that's all the faith is, what's the difference of being another faith, or a secular, humanistic, atheist/agnostic? The Catholic Faith, and therefore, you, as a lay person reading this Missal, deserve more nourishment and answers to your questions about applying the Catholic faith in this modern era than, "go serve the poor" or "make the world a better place".

So while this is much better than the so-called ``reflections`` the Novalis "Living with Christ" missals have to offer in content, and these reflections were all written by a Catholic priest versus laypeople, there could have been much more sustenance here and a better job.


Onward to Part II!

1 comment:

  1. The Catholic Company is really stupid with their book covers. They should put the translation name of the cover somewhere to tell whether its NAB or NRSV, or US/Canada if they prefer. But giving the US/NAB and Canada/NRSV the same cover is just ignorant. And it looks like they only came out with the Canadian version for Sundays but not weekdays, is that right?