The Case for Disposable Liturgy

It’s that time of year again.

Parishes all across the country are faced with the annual decision of whether to cancel their disposable missal subscriptions, or to renew it again “for just one more year”. 

Almost everyone knows that these subscription missals are not only of extremely poor quality – often getting beaten up, dogeared, and virtually torn apart by regular use in a matter of months – but that they are also at least 75% more costly to their parishes than permanent, dignified, long-lasting books for the pews.

Why do 3 out of 4 parishes continue to participate in this cycle of waste, degradation of the liturgy, and disrespect for the Word of God and the liturgical texts? The latest mailer from the leading disposable missal publisher makes the case very compellingly for why the majority of parishes today choose disposable liturgy.

Firstly, one of the most striking and utterly ironic features of this mailer – recently sent out to every parish in the country – is that it is very attractive: It is glossy, in full color, and printed on heavyweight paper. It is eight pages long and has very little text on each page, featuring instead a substantial amount of beautifully printed photography. The irony in this brochure is that the quality of this advertisement, which is instantly bound for parish trash cans after a single glance, is ten times the quality of the annual newsprint publications which it is promoting. Perhaps it is not ironic at all, but instead is a clever bit of marketing. Holding this beautiful, heavyweight promotional booklet certainly creates the illusion of quality products.

Next, we find the most important selling point, seemingly seeking to instill fear into the minds and souls of pastors: What if your needs change? How will you respond?

The pitch continues with the repetition of several key words and points that highlight the benefits of disposable missal programs: diversity, confidence, changing needs, fresh, flexibility, versatile, evolving, etc., etc. 

Let us ask ourselves for a moment – are these the words that should be used to describe the liturgy of Catholic Church? 

For each of them we can find a counterpart that better describes the true nature of the Church’s liturgical worship: universality, stability, catechesis and formation, timelessness, tradition, common to all, constant, etc.

Which words better describe the authentic nature of the liturgy to you?

Continuing on, the main selling point in this pamphlet couldn’t be more clear than the narrative found on the first page:

“Having a missal program that adapts to your changing needs, celebrates faith with an unmatched repertoire, and keeps you confident – knowing you always have the latest approved texts and music in hand – is invaluable.” (Emphasis as in original).

“Invaluable” is perhaps one way to put it. “Exorbitantly expensive” is another.

What might be helpful to pastors and music directors in assessing the true value of these products is a simple cost analysis between the leading disposable missal program and the leading permanent missal for the pew. This is simply an objective, dollars-and-cents comparison, apart from any means of instilling emotional or psychological distress.

A typical parish might maintain a subscription of 500 copies of the leading disposable missal program. The hard, published cost of this is $3,775.00 per year plus an annual shipping charge of approximately $800 per year. The total cost for this parish per year for this subscription is $4575.00.

This price is certainly lower than the cost of virtually any hardbound book, and it surely can be an attractive number when considering only the limits of a strapped annual budget.

But it is not the first year that breaks the bank for parishes. It is the second, the third, the fourth, the fifth… the tenth, even more.

After just three years, this parish will have spent $13,725.00, and will nothing to show for it other than the necessity of having to renew a costly subscription for yet another year. After 10 years of this, the total cost will be at an astonishing $45,750.00!

If the same parish, however, makes the switch to a permanent missal for the pew, it will break even with the leading disposable missal subscription in the middle of year three!

Put a different way, many parishes fear that they have to make a commitment of at least ten years in order to get the full value out of a permanent missal. This is not true. In fact, the cost of a three year subscription is greater than the cost of owning a permanent missal for three years.

This means that if you cancel your disposable missal subscription and purchase the Lumen Christi Missal instead, you will break even in three years, and potentially save your parish a whopping $34,475.00 over the course of a ten year period.

Thought of another way, if your “needs change” in three years time you can throw your permanent missals away, resubscribe to a disposable missal, and never have lost a cent.

When we look at the truth behind disposable missals we can see that a projected sense of security, flexibility and versatility is far from being “invaluable”. It is indeed extremely expensive. And what do parishes actually get in return? They get virtually the same newsprint, paperback missal sent out to them year after year with nothing more than a change of dates, with the addition of a few new obscure hymns, and a new cover. Truly, not much more changes than this.

There is an alternative, however. It is a hardcover missal with a gold embossed cover, has a sewn binding with two ribbons and is printed on the highest quality paper. 

It is the Lumen Christi Missal and it is ready to help you communicate to your parishioners the permanence, timelessness, universality and beauty of the sacred liturgy. At the same time it can save your parish thousands of dollars.

If you make the switch from a disposable missal before this Advent, you can save 10% on your total order (use coupon code advent2013). 

The liturgy is not disposable – it is eternal. You can help shift the expectations of your parish from the fear of constant change and vulnerability that is fostered by the leading disposable missal publishers, and instead focus it on a sense of stability, permanence, and timelessness with one single change.

The choice to make the switch has never been easier.

Learn more at

13 Replies to “The Case for Disposable Liturgy”

  1. As much as I would love to own the Lumen Christi, I feel compelled to point out that the price comparison only holds for the OCP materials – which are of very poor quality and very expensive over time.

    However, GIA publishes Sunday's Word, which covers an entire liturgical year, for $2 a copy (and it's much nicer looking than OCP's missalette). In your 500-book parish that equals just $1000 per year plus shipping. That takes the payback time for a permanent book out considerably.

    That said, I really hope that everyone chooses the permanent book, for many other reasons.

  2. Jared, do you know what your shipping costs are? This alone nearly doubles the $1000 cost each year. Annual shipping is very expensive and adds up quickly.

    If shipping is $800/year then the break even point here is 6 years. For a book that can easily last 12 years or more, it's still a pretty good deal save 50% total over the life of the book.

  3. I always wondered whether the changing program (wheich generally never happens) could be countered with a seasonal (Advent/Christmas/Easter/OT/Feasts etc) booklet (thinking about size) with traditional material (Gregorian/Plainchant) and hymns, but includes high quality emply plastic sleeves to insert the odd 3 or four hymns (or any other extras) that may be required….

  4. The benefit of the disposable missal being that it contains hymns. Are a lot of the hymns dreadful? You bet! Do people still like singing them? You bet!

  5. Ironically, before the vernacular Mass, parishes did not (at least in England) hand out free missals. You had your own, children were usually given one for their First Communion, and the Ordinary of the Mass was printed in the CTS 'Simple Prayer Book', on sale at the back of the Church, price one shilling. By the time the Novus Ordo came out, these were obsolete, and publishers were slow to catch up. Hence the ghastly "missalettes" on cheap paper, which seemed sadly appropriate for the new liturgy. They did give rise to one hilarious moment, when on Pentecost Sunday the page-turn occurred at the words "they heard what sounded like powerful wind from heaven".

  6. One thing left out…the fact that the referenced permanent missal does NOT contain the daily readings, while most disposable missals do. I enjoy meditating on the daily readings during distribution of Holy Communion and when one of those "dreadful" hymns are being sung.

  7. Our parish has used the "Breaking Bread" missalette/hymnal for many years. The one we get doesn't even have the Sunday readings, just synopses. They do sell one version that has Daily Mass propers, but that doesn't appear to include the readings.
    Starting this Advent, we will be switching to the GIA "Gather" hymnal. It's no "Lumen Christi," but it at least has the readings and won't be tossed out every year.

  8. I second Kathy's question. Are you referencing Magnificat perhaps? This is an entirely different publication than those that we're discussing here.

  9. There are different products. A lot of parishes—at least a lot of parishes with which I am familiar—get two publications: a hymnal (which may last a whole year) and a quarterly misalette. The misalette contains the readings and whatever other sort of proper-ish material OCP or GIA wants to throw us, while the hymnal just contains . . . hymns. Both volumes fit inside a single ugly plastic cover.

  10. Yes, but most of these simply have antiphons for daily Mass propers, not readings. I'm not aware of a single mainstream disposable that contains daily readings.

    The Lumen Christi Missal contains daily Mass propers for the entire year, in Lectionary Cycles I and II, including the Proper of Saints. I note that "Sunday's Word", referenced above is only a resource for Sundays, and doesn't include anything for daily Mass.

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