Friday November 11, 2016

A Military Missal Prayer Book

By Stephanie Soule

In the stacks of the U.S. Catholic Special Collection, I recently came across My Military Missal, a prayer book intended for the use of American Catholic military personnel during World War II. Published in 1942 by the Confraternity of the Precious Blood, the missal was distributed by the National Catholic Community Service. The NCCS was a member agency of the United Service Organization, and was formed to minister to the needs of Catholic military personnel, civilian defense workers, and their families.

The missal is 128 pages, and measures about 2 ⅝ by 4 inches. It’s a very slim volume that could have easily been tucked into a rucksack, or carried in a pocket. It has several unique features designed for its use by the armed forces. First, on the back cover, the missal displays printed rosary beads. The beads are represented by raised bumps on the back of the cover, enabling a person to feel or trace their way along the rosary and keep track of their progress through the prayer, similar to how he or she would with a string of rosary beads.

For military members unable to attend Mass due to their remote or dangerous locations, the missal offers a “Mass-Clock” and “Mass-Clock-Prayer.” The “Mass-Clock” displays all the time zones of the world, so that a Catholic could consult the clock, and find a time zone where morning Masses were being offered. The Catholic could then recite the “Mass-Clock-Prayer” to unite their prayers with the prayers of those Masses.

The Missal also offers advice to “Catholics in the Army and Navy,” which includes the counsel to “Give good example as a Catholic gentleman. To non-Catholics, you represent the Church. Encourage other Catholics to follow Christ, ” and “Remember, it is appointed for you ‘once to die.’ Pray to live and die as a soldier of Christ.”

This Veterans’ Day, it is enlightening to look back and examine how faith encouraged and sustained Catholic military personnel during World War II. This Missal allowed Catholics to continue to practice their faith, even in the extraordinary circumstances of war. To see this missal and other devotional objects used by American Catholics, visit the U.S. Catholic Special Collection on the third floor of Roesch Library. The Collection is open Monday through Friday, from 11:00 am to 4:00 pm. 

- Stephanie Soule, Librarian/Archivist, U.S. Catholic Special Collection

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