Sancta Missa


By Rev. William A. O'Brien, M.A.


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There are certain books essential to the performance of the Sacred Rites. These are as follows:

1. The "Missale Romanum" (The Altar Missal). This is the most important of all the books used in the offering of the Divine Mysteries. It is the official prayer book of the Church. It is in Latin and contains the text of the "order of the Mass" (The Ordinary of the Mass), which never changes, and of the "proper parts of the Mass, " which change throughout the year, as also the Rubrics, i.e., the rules prescribed by the Church for the offering of the Sacrifice of the Mass, and the Rites for certain Blessings. The Missale Romanum is made in different sizes and styles of bindings. When not in use, this book should be kept in a case and preferably lie flat in a cool place, as heat is apt to warp its covers.

2. The "Missale Defunctorum" (The Altar Missal for the Dead). This is a special Missal containing the Masses and Funeral Rites for the Dead. It is used only in Requiem Masses and at Funerals.

3. The "Rituale Romanum" (The Roman Ritual). This is a book used in the administration of the sacraments and the conferring of various blessings.

4. The "Liber Epistolarum et Evangeliarum" (The Book of Epistles and Gospels). This is a book as large as the "Missale Romanum." It contains the epistles and gospels for the entire year. It is used by the deacon and subdeacon for the reading of these parts during Solemn Mass. Sometimes the complete "Missale Romanum" is used instead.

5. The "Caeremoniale Episcoporum" (Ceremonial for Bishops). This is a book containing detailed prescriptions for the performance of the liturgical services generally.

6. The "Pontificale Romanum" (The Roman Pontifical). This is a book containing only the ceremonies that are performed by Bishops.

7. The "Graduale Romanum" (The Roman Gradual). It contains the text and chant of the Mass for every day in the year and is used by the choir.

8. The "Vesperale Romanum" (The Roman Vesperal). This book contains the chant and text for the service of Vespers as sung by the choir.

9. Divers books and cards used at the Altar

a) ALTAR PRAYERS. A book or a card containing prayers which are recited by the priest and the people in English or in a language other than Latin, as e.g., "The Prayers after Low Mass"," The Divine Praises" recited after Benediction; divers Litanies, etc. It also includes certain liturgical prayers recited by the priest outside of Mass, e.g., "The Asperges," "Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament,” etc.

b) ALTAR CARDS. These are three in number, one large-sized and two small-sized cards. They are usually in an ornamental frame. For RequiemMasses, they are either unframed with a black border or in a black frame. The large card is placed in the center of the altar, leaning against the tabernacle. It contains the "Gloria," "Credo" and some other prayers that the priest says from memory at the center, of the altar during Mass. One of the other smaller cards contains the Gospel of St. John and is placed at the gospel side end of the altar, while the other has the prayers that the priest says while washing his hands and finds its place on the epistle side of the altar.

10. The Church Record Books. These are books similar to business ledgers. They are prescribed by the Church for the permanent recording of baptisms, marriages, deaths, confirmations, etc. If circumstances permit safe-keeping, they may be kept in the sacristy. The principal record-books are as follows:

a) The "Liber Baptizatorum" (Baptismal register) 
b) The "Liber Confirmatorum" (Confirmation register) 
c) The "Liber Matrimoniorum (Marriage register)

Let the sacristan ever remember "A place for everything, and everything in its place," be it a book, a vessel or a vestment, etc.




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