Richard Becker, who describes himself as a “God-haunted lunatic,” has an entertaining rant against the use of missalettes at Mass. Being a God-haunted lunatic myself, allow me to counter-rant in the same spirit.
In his piece, Becker poses a number of arguments against using missalettes at Mass. Let’s take a look at them:
1) The Argument from Van Morrison
Becker’s first argument compares going to Mass to going to a Van Morrison concert, which Becker indicates would be an incredibly thrilling experience for him.
I don’t know Van Morrison’s music myself, but fair enough. De gustibus non est disputandum (Latin for: “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”).
Becker then asks whether, upon going to such a concert, he would Google the lyrics and read along with the stage performance. He says:
Noooo, of course not! I’d soak it all in – a total immersion, listening to and watching a great songwriter give voice to his own compositions, himself, in person! They’re songs I mostly know already by heart anyway, but even if I didn’t, why would I waste that exquisite privilege by reading along?
That’s what I think of when I go to church and see folks with their noses in the missalettes – those little booklets in the pew that contain all the readings and parts of the Mass. Worse still is when their eyes are glued to iPhones or other gadgets as they follow along on apps while the lector drones on pointlessly up front.
Allow me to draw your attention to some of Becker’s key words: “They’re songs I mostly know already by heart anyway.” That’s a relevant difference. Most people at Mass don’t mostly know the scripture readings by heart anyway.
And far from diminishing the experience, for many members of the congregation, reading along enhances their experience of the readings.
That’s. Why. They. Do. It.
That’s also why people, including me, sometimes Google song lyrics. I don’t know if Becker ever does that, but I do. It’s one of the ways that I help avoid mondegreens.
On the other hand, if someone prefers not to use one, that’s fine, too.
And, if I may ask, why should Becker be dismayed by looking around at other people at Mass and seeing if and what they’re reading? On his theory, shouldn’t his attention be focused the lector, to drink in every detail of his proclamation of the readings?
At a Van Morrison concert, wouldn’t he be watching the stage performance and not the other members of the audience? ….
2) Argument from College, 3) Argument from the GIRM, 4) The Alter Christus Argument, 5) the Argument from Protestant Services, 6) the Argument from the Annunciation, 7) A Role for Misselettes? 8) “In matters of taste, there can be no disputes”, 9) Implications for the Lector