Tools for Catechists: The Daily Roman Missal

Daily Roman Missal from Midwest Theological ForumWhen I show up to teach religious ed, there is one book you can be pretty sure I’ll have stuffed in my bag: a Daily Roman Missal.  Years ago I invested in a good-quality Missal, and I’ve never regretted it.  In terms of dollars-per-hour-of-use, my missal has been one of my best values, despite the hefty up-front cost.

Midwest Theological Forum recently sent me a review copy of the latest edition of their Daily Roman Missal. For those readers who’ve never taught from the Missal, today I’d like to give you a tour of how to use it in the classroom, and why I think it’s such a great tool for catechists.  For those who have an older edition and are considering updating in light of the new Mass translation, I’ll share some of the improvements MTF has made with this latest edition.

So What is a Daily Missal Anyway?

A daily Missal contains two key items:

1.  The order of the Mass — that is, all the prayers that we say at each Mass, and instructions like, “sit”, “stand”, “kneel”, “touch your toes”, etc.  (Just kidding about touch your toes.)

2. All the Bible readings for the Mass, for every day of the year.  You may have a Sunday Missal in the pew at your parish that gives the Sunday readings.  The Daily Missal covers every day of the week, for the three-year cycle of Sunday readings, the two-year cycle of weekday readings, and the readings for feast days, saints days, and special Masses like a Mass for the Dead.

There can be other items added on — and MTF’s latest edition contains loads of extras – but those are the two basic ingredients.

A Daily Missal Is Not the Liturgy of the Hours

Before I continue, let me clear up something real important: A daily Missal will not contain the prayers and readings of the “Divine Office”.  That’s the cycle of psalms, prayers, and spiritual readings that are prayed each day in a monastery (and elsewhere!), above and beyond just the regular Mass for the day.  Those prayers are found in a Breviary, which is a different book.  To get the hang of the Liturgy of the Hours, visit Coffee and Canticles hosted by Daria Sockey.

Now, back to the Missal.

Why Use a Daily Missal?

Studying the Bible in big chunks is important.  But reading through the Scriptures along with the Church — every day, if you can — helps you stay in sync with the liturgical year, and helps you see the connections between the Bible and the practice of our faith.  Many of us can’t make it to Mass every single day.  But most of us can fit in five to ten minutes of quiet time to read the daily Mass readings and spend a few minutes reflecting on them.

For personal prayer and study, online sources like iBreviary may be the most convenient for some.  And it can also be helpful to look up the day’s readings directly in your Bible, so that you can look at the context of each selection. I strongly urge you to use whichever resource best meets your needs.  But for teaching religious ed, and for studying the practices of the faith, I find that having a Daily Missal provides a view of the liturgy and the liturgical year that you just can’t get any other way.

Using the Daily Missal in your Religious Ed Class

I pack my Daily Missal when I teach religious ed, because I know that no matter what happens, I can teach the Catholic faith to anybody, anywhere, if I have this one book in bag.   The number one thing I use the Missal for is studying the Sunday Gospel with my students.   I like to study the next Sunday’s reading.  I can use my Missal to look up that reading conveniently, and at times we’ll choose a different feast day coming up — such as in preparation for Holy Week.

With older students, I have the kids look up the reading in their Bibles and read it independently, and then I’ll read the passage aloud to the class before we discuss it.  With younger students, you’ll want to just do a read-aloud, and may need to shorten the reading to highlight just one aspect of that week’s Gospel (or other reading). When you read aloud, pause to explain any difficult words, and to make sure students are following the story line.  Often in the Gospels, the Scripture will have more than one “he” or “she” in the action.  Use proper names, like this:

Jesus took Peter, James, and John his brother [you clarify: the brother of James], and led them up to a high mountain by themselves.  And he [you clarify: Jesus] was transfigured before them . . .” [Stop to make sure students know what “transfigured” means.]

Even adults may be unclear on who is doing what, or what an unusual term really means.

Learning to Pray the Mass

The other feature of a good Daily Missal is the complete text of the Mass, including the “rubrics” — the detailed instructions in red letters that tell priest and congregation what should be happening.  MTF’s Missal puts the Latin and English side-by-side on facing pages.  For use in the pews, most of us don’t need all four Eucharistic prayers spelled out — it’s enough to listen and join our prayers with the priest.  But for teaching the faith, having the complete text of the Mass on hand is invaluable.  This both allows you to answer odd questions, and to point out little details about the liturgy that can help students better understand the practice of our faith.

Extra Features

There are a number of publishers of Daily Missals, and I have not reviewed them all.  I was very happy with my 1998 4th Edition from MTF in partnership with Our Sunday Visitor.  For the 7th Edition, MTF has packed in an impressive array of additional features.  I’ll mention a few of my favorites:

The Liturgical Year at a Glance The complete calendar of all the major feasts, numerous tables showing how the cycles readings fit together, and a listing of the Holy Days of Obligation. These make it super easy to look up all those niggling questions about the Church calendar that kids are always asking, and can really test a catechist’s memory.

Short Saint Bios for Each Feast  These are just two or three sentences, but they’ll prevent disasters like not being certain whether St. Hilary was a boy or a girl (boy), give you the dates the saint lived, and provide a couple highlights of the saints’ life that will fit right in with catechsim class.

A Vast Collection of Devotional Prayers  Find everything from essential liturgical devotions such as The Stations of the Cross or the how-to’s of Eucharistic Adoration, to lesser-known but powerful prayers that might fill an important slot in your class.  How about these excerpts from the Prayer of St. Bonaventure:

“Grant that my soul my hunger for you, the Bread of angels and the food of holy souls . . .”

“May my heart always draw near to you, seek you, catch sight of you, be drawn to you, and arrive in your presence.”

Even very young children can be introduced to the rich treasures of our spiritual heritage, in little bite-sized, kid-friendly doses.

Catholic 101 As an all-in-one sourcebook for catechists, MTF’s 7th edition of their Daily Roman Missal hit it into the park by including all the essentials of the faith in a little section called, “How to be a better Catholic.”  It got everything from the Ten Commandments and the Beatitudes; lists I’m always getting confused like the “Gifts of the Holy Spirit” versus the “Fruits of the Holy Spirit”; and the how-to’s of before, during and after receiving the Sacrament of Confession.  We all show up to class with little gaps in our formation and lapses of memory; these refreshers are a great resource, so I’m thrilled to see them included in the new Missal.

Here is an inside-the-book preview that includes the complete table of contents.

Bringing Beauty, Reverence, and Seriousness to Our Faith

I didn’t buy my first Missal in order to impress anybody.  And as gorgeous and useful and comprehensive as MTF’s Daily Roman Missal is, it’s not a book that many parishes can afford to buy in bulk to hand out to catechists.  I bring mine to class because it’s a convenient little package that packs a wallop, and since I use it every day, it’s usually not lost. (Which can’t be said about most things that land on my black hole of a desk).  But there’s one other thing I love about this book: It’s beautiful.

I’m a jeans-&-t-shirt catechist.  My home could charitably be called “casual”.  I want a car I can hose out, and a rosary that can run through the washing machine in my pocket, and be just as good when it comes out the other side.  But there’s something lovely, something fitting, in the beauty of MTF’s Missal, and the reverence it evokes.  It’s good for students to see it in use.  To see sacred things wrapped in a sacred package.  And that these beautiful treasures are not museum pieces, but living works of art that animate our lives, day after day.

MTF’s 7th Edition of the Daily Roman Missal is edited by Rev. James Socias.  He’s also the author of Introduction to Catholicism for Adults, which I am reviewing chapter-by-chapter at the Happy Catholic Bookshelf. When I’ve completed that book, I’ll post an overall review here as well.  I’m just getting under way with that study for the Year of Faith, but here are my notes on Chapter 1.

  • Deacon Joseph Pasaquella

    What an excellent Post! Thank you again Catechist Jennifer Fitz for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us regarding this particular rendition of the Daily Roman Missal.

    I find it also very useful as a deacon to be able and equipped to follow and Diaconate at Masses both in English and in Latin. I agree it is a great teaching tool for us to have handy when teaching religious education to children, young and mature adults also.

    When I was a Pentecostal Pastor, I always had my Bible with me. But as a Catholic Deacon I carry my beautiful Daily Missal with me. As pointed out, it is a great resource of prayers to teach folks and contains devotions also. The Mass, the Holy Eucharist is the source and summit of our faith and lives as orthodox Catholics. Why not have a great Missal with you?

    I have spoken to one pastor that has been encouraging his parishioners in his parishes to purchase their own Missals. After a few years, the parish has eliminated the need to buy those disposable Missals that were only meant to be used temporarily until proper Missals were printed into the vernacular. Before Vatican II it was the norm for everyone to own his own Missal and young folks often received this first Missal at their first Holy Communion.
    And the very good leather bound ones were passed downed from father to son, from mother to daughter etc..