Hand missals are one of the few things that all factions of the Church today can agree on. One the one hand there are the traditionalists who swear by them, by and large. Then there are the liberals who make sure that a missalette is in almost every pew, in almost every mainstream church. And the reason is simple and agreed upon by both sides....to increase participation. But there is a question that is raised....is the end of the hand missal a good one? I'll elaborate.
Yes, we're to participate in the Mass. No question about that. But there are two types, participatio activa and participatio actuosa. I've gone on about that argument for years and years. (source) I will posit that the use of a hand missal is not a way to participatio acutosa, but simply a means to to participatio activa. If we are to engage the Mass in an internal way, the hand missal, it would seem, is an impediment to that. Flipping to different parts of the Mass become the focus and paying attention to the liturgical action becomes dependent on whether or not one is turning to the right spot at the right time. And what happens if a wrong ribbon is turned? Scrambling to find the right place...
I would argue that it is far more important that the individual enters his mind and heart and soul to the Mass by offering his prayers AS THE CELEBRANT OFFERS THE MASS, rather than making sure that he is following along at the proper place in the missal.
I am making the move to not using the hand missal at all. It is better that I offer the prayers without the "worship aid" and simply enjoining my prayers to that of the MEDIATOR OFFERING THE PRAYERS AT THE ALTAR. I am using the hand missal during the week to understand the Mass, so that when Sunday comes, I can worship, by participatio actuosa, rather than being bound to the action of flipping through the hand missal. I also realize that people are in a different place, and that they may NEED the hand missal, but I firmly believe that if one were to use the hand missal during the week to know the prayers and readings, then he would not need it on Sunday.
I also believe that this is one of the keys to an authentic renewal in the liturgy. Far too many people, both liberal and conservative are reliant on things which impede proper worship at the altar. If we are to properly understand the liturgical action, as envisioned by the Council Fathers, then it isn't by understanding the accidents of the Mass, but understanding the essence of the Mass. Understanding that there are accidents WHICH ARE MORE APPROPRIATE is important, but the essence of the Mass key. I think that ultimately the use of the hand missal at Mass is a hinderance, but it is necessary insofar as people need to understand the catechetical nature OUTSIDE the Mass, then apply it INSIDE the Mass....through worship (participatio actuosa), not through participatory actions (participatio activa). The hand missal is the latter.