Breviary, Prayer Book, Missal, Hymn Book? What do I really need?

I’m looking for some support texts to help me as I transition away from Protestantism and toward Catholicism. I don’t really understand the differences between a Breviary, Prayer Book, Missal, or Hymn Book. As a result, I’m not sure what I need in order to get me started on my way. Can any of you help?

I already have a Catholic Bible, a Rosary (or 3) and CCC. I’m looking for something to help guide me through the mass and other sacraments as well as a diverse collection of prayers. I also wouldn’t mind some kind of daily devotional.

Again, any help is greatly appreciated. I feel a bit overwhelmed by all the new terminology.

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The gateway drug that really got me into the Church.
Daily readings, the Mass, and a ton of devotionals. The writers love Josemaria Escriva, and quote him a lot


Breviary is for people who pray the Liturgy of the Hours. If you are just at the stage of figuring out what it is, you’re probably not ready for that yet, and can skip it for now.

Missal is what you use to follow the Mass. It has the Sunday readings and other prayers, and sometimes the daily readings. Most Catholic churches contain a paper Missalette in the pew you can use, so you probably don’t need your own Missal just yet either.

(If you just want to see the daily scripture readings, and you’re in USA, go to and pull up the daily calendar page. It will be there, for free. )

Catholic churches also have their own hymnbooks they use, again in the pews. They don’t all use the same book so you’d be best off using the one provided by the church you attend.

A prayer book might be nice. The Pieta Prayer Book has a good selection of basic prayers, and is inexpensive.


The book that contains the Liturgy of the Hours, the daily prayer of the Church

Just a book of prayers. Not too important.

See what I posted above.

Your parish should have one… you needn’t buy one

A breviary is a book that contains a version of the Liturgy of the Hours. There is the 4 volume set, and there are single volume versions for the entire year, such as Christian Prayer, or Benedictine Prayer. A prayer book is simply that, a book of common prayers. There are many versions that can be found easily with any search of Catholic Prayer Books.
A missal is a version of the prayers of the Mass, the readings for selected days, and often include other prayers. Some are the Sunday Masses only, along with Holy Days, while others are of the Masses for every day of the year.

Does anyone have any thoughts on the St. Joseph Annual Missal?

It’s fine, but to be honest it looks very similar to the missals that your church will likely provide in the pews for free for you to use while there.
Not much reason to buy one.

I’ve heard it’s good. But personally, in my opinion, you should either go big with the daily missal or just use a phone to go to the USCCB page. Still, if you want to use it for a year to see if you want to upgrade to a daily one, go for it.

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There is also the St. Joseph Sunday Missal

The parish I want to join uses something called the Vatican II hymn book. It also includes the readings.

Thanks, Tis_Bearself. I’m relatively new and this is a concise explanation. I’ve seen postings about Breviary and wasn’t really sure what that was. I’d love to pray LOTH, but I’m not consistent with my Magnificat readings and prayers. Perhaps it’s a hold over from my Baptist sola scriptura days :slight_smile:

You could try starting with just night prayer. I think it’s the easiest to learn, and takes only ten minutes.


Aw, I remember feeling overwhelmed too when I first started really practicing my faith. I wanted to get every book, sacramental and resource there was and figure it all out. One step at a time :smiley:

I think a missal will have what you need- prayers, a guide for the Mass, reflections… I’m in Canada and I just buy the Sunday missal that my church sells each year, so I don’t have any thoughts on a particular missal.

As I do not have a daily missal, I used to subscribe to The Word Among us for daily reflections as well as daily Mass readings. My former parish used to sell them. I might start subscribing again.
As for daily Mass readings, I get them on my phone. I really like the iBreviary app as I am starting to pray the Liturgy of the Hours, and it also contains daily Mass readings and prayers. Laudate is a great app too!

Praying for you and your journey!

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I have this; it’s great. It has a nice selection of prayers and devotions in the back. Not much need for anything else for a beginner. (For me, coupled with Christian Prayer, I’ve got everything on the OP’s list covered.)

@mrsdizzyd @Tis_Bearself
It’s also worth noting that TisBear’s advice is typically true for smaller churches - paper missalettes available. Larger churches have the hymnals like you seem to have Mrs D - hymns with readings in the back. There’s probably a front section that guides you through the Mass parts that don’t change, but otherwise, that’s not especially helpful for newbies.

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That was definitely my experience today. Most of the mass was in the front, but I had to flip around a great deal to keep up. There was some in the front, some in the back, and some in the bulletin. I gave up once we got to the Eucharistic Prayer and just listened until the end. I knew the old mass by heart from being in Catholic school, but the new translation is going to take some getting used to.

Hey, they still say the old Mass if you’re interested in it…

Getting used to the words and being familiar with the Mass will come with time.
It’s okay to just listen and get lost sometimes. :slight_smile:

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I don’t know as the size of the church has anything to do with it. I’ve attended some huge churches and parishes (two of my regular stops are among the biggest parishes in a large archdiocese) and they all subscribe to one of the paper missalettes.

I’ve honestly never been to a Catholic church anywhere in USA that has hymnals “with readings in the back” and I wonder if this might be a regional preference for some region where I don’t tend to visit or go to church.

However, in the last year or so I’ve pretty much come to rely on the USCCB website for the readings, as I now go to daily Mass a lot (I didn’t before) and the paper missalettes usually do not contain the readings for days other than Sundays and holydays. Lugging a missal around everywhere on my schedule is not going to happen, but I almost always have a cell phone with me to access the USCCB reading.

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Time out to honor the best Catholicism quote ever. :two_hearts::two_hearts::two_hearts:

Back to the thread. :wink:

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I haven’t been to many Catholic Churches, but I was confused by it myself. I used it to sing the hymn and them put it down. I was looking all over for a missal for the readings and noticed the woman in front of me still looking at the hymn book. Sure enough, the readings were in the back. Quite convienent to have everything all in one book (once you know where to look).

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I’ll second this!

@mrsdizzy, I watched a lot of videos from the Basilica in Washington, DC before I finally started going to Mass. I was still a bit lost, but it was more familiar than it would’ve been if I’d just walked in cold. And I followed along with a Missal to get the “flow”.

I bought one of these…

They make them for daily Mass too (just as small, but in two volumes). The print is not super super tiny. They are literally pocket size - the book is just about the size of my hand - and fits easily in my purse. I put tabs on the pages so I could flip back and forth and find my place (the book tells you what page to turn to for, say, the Opening Rites, so on my tab I wrote page numbers visible from front and back).

I of course travel a lot/go places on temporary duty, so I wanted something small, portable, and not necessarily electronic (I love books too much).

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