Before the compilation of such books, several books were used when celebrating Mass. These included the Gradual (texts mainly from the Psalms, with musical notes added), the Evangelary or Gospel Book, the Epistolary with texts from other parts of the New Testament, mainly the Epistles (letters) of Saint Paul, and the Sacramentary with the prayers that the priest himself said.
In late mediaeval times, when it had become common in the West for priests to say Mass without the assistance of a choir and other ministers, these books began to be combined into a "Mass book" (missale in Latin), for the priest's use alone. This led to the appearance of the missale plenum ("full or complete missal"), which contained all the texts of the Mass, but without the music of the choir parts. Indications of the rubrics to be followed were also added.
The Roman Missal (Missale Romanum) published by Pope St. Pius V in 1570 eventually replaced the widespread use of different missal traditions by different parts of the church, such as those of Troyes, Sarum (Salisbury), and others. Many episcopal sees had in addition some local prayers and feast days.
At the behest of the Second Vatican Council, Pope Paul VI greatly increased the amount of Sacred Scripture read at Mass and, to a lesser extent, the prayer formulas. This necessitated a return to having the Scripture readings in a separate book, known as the Lectionary. A separate Book of the Gospels, with texts extracted from the Lectionary, is recommended, but is not obligatory. The Roman Missal continues to include elaborate rubrics, as well as antiphons etc., which were not in sacramentaries.
The first complete official translation of the Roman Missal into English appeared in 1973, based on the text of 1970. On 28 March 2001, the Holy See issued the Instruction Liturgiam authenticam. This included the requirement that, in translations of the liturgical texts from the official Latin originals, "the original text, insofar as possible, must be translated integrally and in the most exact manner, without omissions or additions in terms of their content, and without paraphrases or glosses. Any adaptation to the characteristics or the nature of the various vernacular languages is to be sober and discreet." The following year, the third typical edition of the revised Roman Missal in Latin was released.
These two texts made clear the need for a new official English translation of the Roman Missal, particularly because the previous one was at some points an adaptation rather than strictly a translation. An example is the rendering of the response "Et cum spiritu tuo" (literally, "And with your spirit") as "And also with you".
The fresh official English translation, prepared by the International Commission on English in the Liturgy (ICEL), was adopted by English-speaking episcopal conferences and received confirmation from the Holy See.
The text of this revised English translation of the Order of Mass is available at this website page, and a comparison between it and that at present in use in the United States is given under the heading "Changes in the People's Parts".
For use by laypeople
The term "missal" is also used for books intended for use not by the priest but by others assisting at Mass. These books are sometimes referred to as "hand missals" or "missalettes", while the term "altar missal" is sometimes used to distinguish the missal for the priest's use from them. Usually they omit or severely abbreviate the rubrical portions and Mass texts for other than the regular yearly celebrations, but include the Scripture readings.
One such missal has been used for the swearing in of a United States President. After the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, Lyndon B. Johnson was sworn in as President of the United States aboard Air Force One using a missal of the late President, because it was presumed to be a Bible.
- Catholic Encyclopedia: Missal
- Missale plenum
- Sacrosanctum Concilium, 51
- The "typical edition" of a liturgical text is that to which editions by other publishers must conform.
- Transcript, Lawrence F. O'Brien Oral History Interview XIII, 9/10/86, by Michael L. Gillette, Internet Copy, LBJ Library (page 23 at ).