Rorate Caeli

1962 Missal at 50: A “particular” curiosity of the 1962 Missale Romanum

In our special series on the 50th anniversary of the traditional Missale Romanum of 1962, an article by Mr. Louis J. Tofari. We are open to other guest articles on this series.


John XXIII offers the Holy Sacrifice,
Dec. 1962

A “Particular” curiosity of the 1962 Missale Romanum

Louis J. Tofari

This anno Domini 2012 marks the 50th publication anniversary of the 1962 Missale Romanum. Well, sort of. That's often the problem with misnomers like “1962 Roman Missal” - they're catchy titles and thus easy to remember, but often inaccurate!

So why is “1962” a misnomer? Though the last rubrical revisions to the iuxta typica (standard) edition were completed by June of 1962, and the last textual in November (the long and eagerly-awaited insertion of St. Joseph's name into the Communicantes), nevertheless, a "1962" Missale Romanum could not be had in hand (or on altar) until May of 1963 at the very earliest. This was courtesy of the Vatican's instructions to Printers of the Apostolic See so as to prevent a missal gap war (i.e., undue competition).

In the United States though, the last insertion to the “1962” Missale Romanum actually occurred in 1963 – in fact, just a month before it was due on the shelves of Catholic religious supply stores everywhere. The point in question particularly affected the missal edition being printed by the famed Benziger Brothers – once proudly boasting offices in New York, Boston, Cincinnati, Chicago and San Francisco, but now virtually no more. Benziger did not receive their last printing instruction for the missal until April 8, 1963 via the imprimatur of Cardinal Francis Spellman of New York.

This episcopal approbation was for the first-time insertion of the Praefationes Particulares into Benziger’s American-produced missal. These were the so-called “Gallican Prefaces” that could be utilized if a diocese obtained permission from the Sacred Congregation of Rites. As the addition of this special section occurred after Benziger’s missals had already left the presses, this led to a printing curiosity with their edition.

The printed, but apparently still unbound, missals consisted of two parts:

-1: the juxta typica parts (the standard universal sections and texts found in every Roman Missal regardless of the region in which it was printed in), and
-2: unique to the Benziger edition: the Missae Propriae Dioecesium Statuum Foederatorum Americae Septentrionalis section containing the feasts and calendar dates particular to the USA as a whole.

So when Cardinal Spellman’s inclusive approbation was received, the special prefaces were simply added after the aforementioned sections – but after a section of 22 blank pages.

To this observation you might be inclined to say, “So what?” It is true that missal printers would occasionally include some blank pages at the end of the missal, either for make-up pagination purposes (e.g., a sewn signature must be in sets of four pages), or to enable the insertion of newly-issued feasts. But 22 pages and between printed sections... that's quite an exception, in fact, a rarity indeed (if never seen before). Their presence was made even stranger after turning the last page of the Praefationes Particulares section, only to find another eight blank pages, but of heavier text stock and each perforated along the spine! [NB: if you own a copy of the SSPX’s Benziger reprint (available from Angelus Press), don’t bother rushing off to find these perforated pages – deemed unnecessary, they were omitted in their reprint.]

The oddity of these blank pages becomes even more apparent when comparing the Benziger edition to one printed by Pustet. More formerly known as Ratisbonae-Pustet (but also publishing under the name “Frederick Pustet”), this German Printer to the Apostolic See was located in Ratisbon (Regensburg), Bavaria, but in its heyday also had offices in the United States. In Pustet’s “1962” Missale Romanum, the Praefationes Particulares section bears an imprimatur dated June 27, 1962 (granted in Ratisbon). This earlier date is significant, because it gave Pustet enough time to set up their presses so they could include the special prefaces immediately after the iuxta typica section without the addition of any blank pages.

If anything, this obscure curiosity found in the Benziger Brothers’s edition of the “1962” Missale Romanum shows how the year commonly used (including in the Apostolic Letter Summorum Pontificum) to refer to the revised missal promulgated during the pontificate of Pope John XXIII is really not completely accurate as far as publication dates go. But concerning the fixing of the iuxta typica portion, certainly this date is accurate, and thus it is a befitting moniker.

May the 1962 Missale Romanum – which in preserving and promoting the uncompromised Catholic Faith is slowly helping to turn the tide in the struggle against the enormous liturgical crisis of the Novus Ordo Missae – enjoy a happy anniversary et ad multos annos!