New missal rolling off the press

A happy Glenn Byer is hoping to mail out the Canadian version of the new Roman Missal ahead of schedule.


A happy Glenn Byer is hoping to mail out the Canadian version of the new Roman Missal ahead of schedule.

September 26, 2011

When Glenn Byer came to Ottawa a year ago to take a new job heading up the Canadian bishops' publishing house, the service was about to face its biggest challenge ever — the publication of the new English translation of the Roman Missal.

"We knew it was coming and we had started planning for it," Byer said. "In fact shortly after I got here we began working on the layout."

The production has gone so well it could be ready ahead of schedule. "I have what is probably the best team in the world," Byer said. "I direct and they make it happen."

Cheerful and smiling, Byer seemed relaxed and about ready to hand out cigars when interviewed Sept. 9, instead of like a nervous expectant father pacing the hallways with a furrowed brow over the upcoming delivery.

The massive nearly 1,500-page volumes for parish use and the smaller chapel-size versions have already been printed and have gone to the binders. This is a complex process of sewing and adding 11 tabs and six ribbons. The printer, St. Joseph's Communications, has promised them a shipment date of Nov. 10, Byer said. "We hope to start shipping earlier than that."

The team is getting ready to man the warehouse to ensure parishes get their missals on time for use on the First Sunday of Advent, the beginning of the new liturgical year, he said.

But many parishes could soon be worshipping according to the new translation in the sung portions of the Mass, such as the Gloria, Sanctus and Agnus Dei. Bishops have permission to allow parishes to begin using the new settings as early as the end of September, said Father Bill Burke, director of the CCCB's National Liturgy Office.

These settings are found in the missal's companion volume Celebrate in Song. While the missal was being prepared for publication, CCCB Publications prepared this resource, which includes three new Mass settings based on the new translation, as well as 40 new hymns not found in the Catholic Book of Worship III.

Planning for the new missal began before last year's October plenary of the Canadian Conference of Catholic Bishops (CCCB), as CCCB Publications surveyed the English-speaking bishops and any French bishops who were interested on key layout questions such as what type font to use.

The text "has to be read from a distance," Byer said. They also had to consider how much ink on a page — the density of the text, and the size of the font and all other considerations to "contribute to readability."


Since the bishops are also priests who will use the new missal, they were consulted on a range of design questions. Many bishops had also travelled to other countries and seen other countries' missals and wondered why the Canadian version did not contain similar reproductions of artwork.

So, a decision had to be made about whether to include artwork, and whether to print them in full colour or two colours.

The CCCB decided to go with artwork by 19th century artist Jacques Tissot, reproducing 25 images of his paintings depicting the life of Christ. But instead of full colour, the Canadian missal will use red and black.

"Our artists took (Tissot's) images and stripped out the colour and then washed it with the red," said Byer. The black with tints of red, is "just beautiful," he said. The images are so striking, CCCB Publications will soon publish a separate product featuring just the missal artwork.

A page of the new Roman Missal showing the start of the First Eucharistic Prayer.


A page of the new Roman Missal showing the start of the First Eucharistic Prayer.

Byer said the number of pages also raised concerns about binding, the weight of the pages and the kind of ink to be used. It had to lay flat and the ribbons - extremely high quality with folded ends to protect against fraying — had to be durable, too.

The missals must survive 30 years of use, travel and rugged treatment, said Burke.


Byer, who grew up in Busby, Alta., pointed out that his childhood church was only open on Sundays and during the winter on weekdays the temperature inside could go down to -30C. In summer, the heat and humidity could head into the upper 30s, so the binding has to survive temperature extremes, too.

Now the proofs are back from the printer and Byer is proud of the result. The design of the pages is "second to none," Byer said.

Burke said there are more than 2,000 English-language parishes in Canada, so the first print run is for 5,000 of the large missal and 5,000 of the smaller missal for chapels, schools or personal use. They expect to sell half of the print runs right away, and keep the remainder for serving the needs of future years.


Catholic parishes in Canada must use this new missal, which has been approved for use in Canada, uses Canadian spellings for most words, and contains the propers for Canadian saints' days and festivals such as Canada Day, Remembrance Day and Thanksgiving, said Byer.

There are 34 adaptations to the calendar alone, he said, and close to 60 prayers specific for Canada. CCCB Publications is not allowed to sell the missal outside of Canada.

"The prayers . . . really reflect the Canadian experience: how do Canadians stand before God in a different way because of their culture, because of their background, because of how our country was founded," he said.

St. Joseph was one of three companies invited to bid on the missal printing project. The company was able to provide "the quality we needed in our time frame at a reasonable price," Byer said.

Orders have come in from across the country, he said.

At there will be areas for priests and bishops, music directors, parishes and diocese. The website also includes articles and workshop materials to help make the transition as smooth as possible, Byer said.