Wednesday, July 22, 2020

Three Months of the Late Tridentine Breviary

Vespers in the Church of S Francis in Assisi by Mikhail Petrovich Botkin

My edition of the Breviarium Romanum is an editio post typicam from the era of Pius IX. It includes the feast of Saint Joseph under the title Patron of the Universal Church. Someone printed the additional votive offices of Leo XIII and the instruction to cease transferring Semi-Doubles and put these things in the back at a later date. Since the first week of May I have followed the rubrics and instructions in my Breviary exactly, although I confess my ignorance of when the local cathedral or my home parish were consecrated, so those octaves may have been neglected. What follows are some observances on the late Tridentine Office prior to the alterations of S Pius X.

The Psalter

As noted elsewhere on this blog, by the time of Divino afflatu the Roman Office was encumbered with feasts of nine lessons, bringing out the psalms from the Commons on a near-daily basis outside of Lent and putting the Roman psalter into considerable desuetude. This is largely true in my late Tridentine Office, with even formerly minor saints from the original medieval kalendar of S Pius V receiving promotions of their feasts from Simples to Semi-Doubles. 

That said, there are still a sufficient number of feriae and Simples in a given month to give the psalter its place. This month the 7th and 9th were feriae while Pius I (11th), Praxedes (21st), Pantoleon (27th), Ss Abdon and Sennen (30th), and the vigil of the Apostle James (24th) all employ the psalter of the day on Simple feasts. Simples still use the Dominical Lauds and Prime psalms, but those hours already have very little true daily variability. Most of the variability happen at Mattins, where the ferial psalms would be said on all of these days. However, given the rarity of adjoining Simples and feriae even in as sparse a month as July, the Vespers of the day are rarely sung unless a lesser feast falls on Sunday. This month only the first Sunday was a Dominical Semi-Double. The rest have been impeded by John Gaulbert, Vincent de Paul, and Saint Anne, the mother of Our Lady. This is a remarkable contrast because in the kalendar of S Pius V the month of July compares to Lent in its sparsity of feasts in between the comparatively festive months of June and August. In this kalendar May and June have more feriae than July.

Variety is the Spice of Life

The monotony of the late Tridentine Office can be overstated. Although there is great repetition of the psalms, the differences in feasts and their nature (bishops, martyrs, virgins, confessors etc) means different Mattins responses, chant tones, and lessons are employed throughout the Office. An Orthodox friend once observed that the true treasure of the Roman Office is the second nocturne of Mattins, with the unique readings on the lives of the saints or the mysteries that day celebrated.

Another less obvious source of variety in the late Tridentine Office is the occurring Scripture. Despite the prominence of Double feasts and the de facto ignorance of the ferial psalter most days, the occurring Scripture is generally observed during the first nocturne of Mattins while the lessons from the back of the book only take precedent on the more ancient feasts or feasts which possess unique texts, today's feast of Saint Mary Magdalen being an example.

The Office of Our Lady on Saturday was observed a few times during the last three months and of course the Office of the Dead on the first day without a feast of nine lessons was read, too. These do add something to look forward to and supply the medieval spirit of devotion through liturgy to a kalendar with little room for personal discretion.


Variety does have its limitations, however, in this Office. Next month is August, the most festive month of the year in the Roman rite, with the feasts of Peter in Chains—ancient and great, the finding of Saint Stephen, the dedication of Our Lady of the Snows, the Transfiguration, Saint Lawrence and his octave, Our Lady's Assumption and her octave, Bernard of Clairveaux, Augustine, Louis IX of France, the Beheading of John the Baptist, and a number of other lesser days. There is not one day without a feast or vigil, and the 1570 kalendar of S Pius V is not much freer. 

Despite the density of feasts, August has no sequence of identical days. This past week my Breviary called for the exact same texts of a Confessor for four consecutive days (five if factoring in first Vespers). None of the saints were Doctors or martyrs, so aside from the occurring commemorations and Scripture, the exact same Office was said for four days without an octave occurring. This would not be a problem, as octaves are replete in the old kalendar and repeat aspect of the same Office for eight days aside from readings, if not for the fact that this particular Common is used numerous times every single month. At second Vespers of S Camillus de Lellis it instructed me to read Vespers as at first Vespers for a Confessor, non-martyr, non-bishop until the Chapter, at which point I was to switch to the Vespers of S Vincent de Paul, and read onward from the Vespers of a Confessor, non-martyr, non-bishop. By Sunday night I knew instinctively to begin Vespers with Domine quinque talenta tradidisti mihi....

Divino Afflatu

These points are important if only because they mean Divino Afflatu outmoded the ancient Roman psalter to fix one problem without fixing the rest. Every day in the S Pius X system is a day of nine psalms and the occurring Scripture is read just as much. While I would not say Domine quinque talenta tradidisti mihi as often I would continue to say the chapter, Iste Confessor, and the antiphon  Similabo just as often. The quasi-Novus Ordo nature of the Divino Afflatu rubrics—mixing ferial psalms and festive readings on Simple, Semi-Double, and Double days—means that the tonal diversity of even the late Tridentine Office was suppressed in favor of more or less the same thing weekly. 

Divino Afflatu accomplished some reasonable things in the kalendar, making the "lollipop" Dominical feasts optional in favor of fixed days. Formerly the Patronal feast of the Church was always observed on the third Sunday after Pascha, Saint Joachim always fell on the Sunday after the Assumption, the Precious Blood was always the first Sunday of July, and Our Lady of Sorrows was always the third Sunday of September, and Our Lady of the Rosary would always be on the first Sunday of October, permanently suppressing those days. 

What was needed was not necessarily a reform of the psalter, but a reform of the kalendar. Almost every Italian or French founder of a minor religious order after the Council of Trent found his or her way into the kalendar as a Double feast of the universal Church despite the absence of wider devotion to these saints and their lack of enduring interest. Even a reduction of their ranks to Simple would not clear out the clutter. 

We need to relearn the craft of local kalendars. Would it be so bad if Camillus de Lellis and Jerome Aemeliani were only on kalendars in Italian dioceses? While local medieval rites are largely extinct, the principle of local kalendars is not and is a good solution to this problem, allowing these saints' veneration to continue where they are revered. Vincent de Paul would be a proper Semi-Double feast in France, widely loved, but perhaps not on the level of their patrons, Michael the Archangel and Joan of Arc.

Going Forward

Despite its repetition, my Breviary does represent the Roman Office and liturgy more fully than what came after it so I will continue to use it. It is the Roman rite, albeit an imbalanced expression of it. Despite its imperfections it also reflects the kalendar, on most days, as it is in both the pre-Pius XII and 1962 rites used by most traditional Catholics today, differences acknowledged (ex. switching S Dominic and S Jean Vianney).

Saturday, July 18, 2020

Taking Stock of the Roman Rite

Given the surreal state of the world during and after the Corona Contagion it may seem difficult to appraise the state of the Roman liturgy. All the same, the liberalization that Benedict XVI initiated turned into a semi-restorationist movement after the red pill that is the Bergoglian pontificate. Mutual enrichment, improving the Novus Ordo, and minimizing abuses were all lauded for six years and then reality struck.

News of a strange survey to the bishops of the world on the status of the old rite has re-invigorated fortress Tradistan, which is hardly the appropriate response. Two of the questions about the mechanics of how the old Mass is promoted do read oddly, but the idea that the older Missals are under threat looks grossly exaggerated. The supposed plan, rumored a few years ago, that Rome would reconcile the FSSPX, abrogate all permissions, and give the Fraternity total authority seems antipodal to Rome's extension of newer feasts to the older kalendar[s] and the accompanying extension of the old Holy Week, something long gone in the aliturgical FSSPX. After 13 years of ordaining more and more young priests interested in older rites and saying their first Masses the old way, particularly in the United States and some parts of Europe, putting the genie back in the bottle would not be as simple as in 1969.

Instead, it might be worth thinking about what is worth doing in the future for the old rite, which is not necessarily the same as the 1962 rite. The Roman liturgy has expanded in both ex-Ecclesia Dei and diocesan settings, but requires a bit more direction to take more permanent root among the faithful.


The foremost priority should be to get the old Mass, in some way or another, in every parish possible. Yes, there is an entire old liturgy. Yes, there is the question of 1962 vs. the real old rite. Yes, there is the Office. The explosion of old rite Masses in the United States in the last decade has shown interest in the older liturgy to be generally infectious, with priests who do the old Mass, if even only on occasion, adapting the manner of bringing Communion to the home bound or the richer texts in the Rituale for Baptism. 

The laity kept the old Mass alive during a long winter, but its future depends on the willingness of priests not only to say it but also to promote it within the right setting. Saint Mary's in Norwalk, CT is an excellent example of this. Thirteen years ago they began a Sunday-only 1962 Mass in the basement of the parish, for the ordinary would not permit the older Mass to substitute for a new rite Mass in any church schedule, only to supplement it. Within weeks the Mass had to be moved into the main church and they configured their Mass schedule so that it became the main Mass on Sundays. All the same, the weekday and other Sunday Masses were still new rite, in the vernacular. There was a Wednesday night old Mass and the old Mass popped up on liturgically interesting days like Candlemas, but the clergy were careful to nurture interest among the laity rather than force it. A decade later there are now half a dozen other churches within a thirty minute drive, yet Saint Mary's still packs them in on Sundays, does the full old rite Holy Week (Tenebrae and all), and recently instituted weekday Masses in the older form. A forced issue could well have killed the parish or created a situation like that of Fr. Michael Rodriguez in El Paso, TX, but the discretion of three successive pastors has proven out over the last decade and a half.

With some place in a parish, the older Roman liturgy is more likely to grow than decline or stagnate. This presents a unique opportunity in the "messy" pontificate of Jorge Mario Bergoglio, where liturgical propriety and centralization are at their all-time lows in the post-Vatican II Church. As said before on this blog and elsewhere, one reason why the old Holy Week took off, even before the Ecclesia Dei permission for certain groups in certain settings, is the knowledge that the '62 Police are busy with other things or just don't care. The 1962 liturgy—Mass, readings on great feasts, kalendar, psalter, processions, Office etc—is not a full expression of the Roman liturgy and how the faithful have been united to God in prayer in the Western world and its spheres of influence. This affords Catholics ample space and power to promote the genuine old liturgy, either on great days (Gaudeamus omnes on Assumption) or lesser days (add the commemorations on Sundays and feriae).

This brings us to the third priority, which is the eventual, fullest practice of the liturgy whenever possible. I don't know what some priests, who protest that sung Mass on November 2 or a procession on February 2 is unnecessary, are really doing in their rectories, but they need encouragement to get out into the liturgical world. Fullness of liturgical practice need not mean pulling out all stops on the rare opportunity, in some parish with a once a month Latin Mass on Saturday morning, that the Mass is sung. No need for lace, polyphony, prissy movements, and daily-shined brass on every occasion, but do the liturgy well and at its highest appropriate expression whenever possible. Try to get your Missa cantata to become a solemn Mass, but don't make a "green" Sunday into a Duplex I Classis feast. Try to get first Vespers for your parish's patronal feast if Vespers would be novel in your parish. Ask if Father could give you absolution the old way—it makes Confession shorter. The restriction should not be your imagination, only your prudence.

The People

People who attend the old Mass generally get a "bad rap", as those bereft of the English language say. This is not entirely unjustified, but given fifteen years of experience with the "TLM" in different American and international settings it is fair to say that the eccentrics and "bohemian lunatic fringe" (cf. Geoffrey Hull) give the broader Traditionalist world a bad name.

This may be a controversial idea, but the best thing people who love the old Mass can do is wait for the day their bishop asks if they want to invite the FSSP or ICRSS into their diocese and then politely decline. Until a few years ago the Traditionalist clerical orders had no presence in New England, save the FSSPX retreat center in Connecticut and one mission Mass they ran elsewhere in the state. There were some of the eccentric Trads to be found, especially the sort who decry the lamentable state of ecclesiastical politics, but generally these were approachable people who had trekked through the difficulties of keeping the old Mass going and hence formed some sort of community, which made the accretion of visitors to the community something very easy. Ten years later many of my old acquaintances threw up their [newly found] fedoras with joy at the news some group was coming to their area. Within weeks the women dressed like characters from Laura Ingalls Wilder, the men complained about the bishops without end, the priests gave nothing but instructional sermons on behavior, and interest in Fatima became the equivalent of moral righteousness. Devotions exceeded interest in the example of the saints. One woman was spiritually unrecognizable seven years later. Those who did not home school suddenly arose suspicion. "Novus Ordo" became a synonym for any disagreeable phenomenon.

The Saint Peter Fraternity, the Institute of Christ the King, and the other groups are not the problem themselves. Isolation is the problem, and restricting the old Mass to a small parish creates a self-imposed ghetto mentality which simultaneously stunts the old Mass and turns its adherents to reactionaries rather than militants.

This is not the case everywhere run by the FSSPX, FSSP, and ICRSS, but it is prevalent enough to be a recognizable pattern is sequential pastors allow or encourage this sort of thing. In a world currently tearing down its history and accusing the non-woke of being inherently wicked persons, the last thing anyone needs is a new brand of crazy.

We should not prefer the old rite because it is less obnoxious than the new, although that is certainly true and a very valid reason for initial interest. We must prefer it because it is the tested means for the Christian to know God and to save his soul, to purify and realize God's image within him. If we accomplish this we may save the Mass and even ourselves.

Wednesday, July 8, 2020


"Science" is a word. Some self-purported secularists and rationalists seem to believe "science" is a spell, an incantation which calls wisdom and vanquishes superstition.

I remember some years ago Richard Dawkins and Roger Scruton debated the merits of religion as a social feature on BBC. Agnostic Scruton said Christianity merited its place through its patronage and inspiration for the great arts, namely the Sistine Chapel in Rome. Dawkins, in a trill of intellectual and rhetorical mediocrity, predictably made the platitude that it could have been even more beautiful if a scientist had built it. Applause roared from the mental midgets in the rafters.

Blame the Enlightenment. The Enlightenment philosophers championed a return to the Greek understanding of reason, at least as they read it, and believed science to be the purest expression of reason, despite the fact that hardly any of them were scientists or mathematicians. The romance with science began with Newton. "God said, 'Let Newton be!' and there was light," saith Alexander Pope. Voltaire and his mistress would translate Newton from Latin or English into French before committing the carnal act, the implication being the the gravitational constant drew Émilie to Francois.

At its heart science is not "truth" in a conventional sense. Pure science, the sort that can be tethered to mathematics—like physics and astronomy—is a systemic description of physical phenomena. The scientist is a person of unique talents, but also of a narrow temperament that does not equate well outside his sphere. Newton shook the Baroque world with his seemingly ex nihilo theories about gravity, mechanics of movement, and derivative calculus. Those things may be true, but are they truth?

The Enlightenment writers never said the definition of the derivative is the Truth in such a way as could replace Christ, God, the Church, and conventional morality, but they and their descendants certainly believed that such a mechanical understanding, a discursive sort of deduction could be applied to social and philosophical questions, too.

In following this thought, philosophers have consigned themselves to total irrelevance in the world. The last brilliant philosopher may have been Wittgenstein. The last meaningful one was Nietzsche. Neither one quite fit the Enlightenment mold, although both could be said to have essayed to find their own place and Mankind's place in a world in which rationalism has killed God. The philosophers' bromide, "science", made scientists into social commentators and pop celebrities, men like Hawking, Dawkins, and Tyson (the value of the contributions to science of these three are very different). None of them has added anything of value to government, to morality, to inspiration for quotidian life, nor have they pointed the direction for a shining future for Mankind, despite some cheer-leading. Common people who today say they "believe in science" and who a century ago said they "believe in reason" and five centuries ago said they "believe in the Scriptures" have no more idea what Darwin really wrote about evolution than they know about Aristotle or the Book of Job. All of this would be fine if only we were not told that science is a model of behavior and thinking fit for all problems and questions.

History, as Americans are learning today, is an important subject. It is also a very human and hence personal subject. Science has some place to contribute to History as far as testing the age of the documents or digitally recreating events to test purported narratives, but generally reason and understanding are totally different modes of thinking. The former relies on an objective hypothesis, tests it against available facts, and then sets a precedent for the future that others must accept. Understanding is far less linear, far calmer, and far more nuanced. Information can be destroyed or re-discovered. History is often based on a received understanding that forms modern beliefs and attitudes and which hence, even if scarcely documented, must be accepted as the de facto narrative. It is also a subject which is very personal, that is, involving persons and their reasons and hence involving right and wrong. Were the Senators right to kill Julius Caesar? Or for Catholics, what was the understanding of Holy Orders in the first few centuries of the Church? And because progressives love carnal questions, is homosexuality, as we know it today, something that can be found in every society and generation in the past? Science does not purport to have an answer and "science" certainly wants to have an answer.

Enlightenment thinkers believed reason, and hence science, could answer all Mankind's questions and reform societies in a peaceful, egalitarian manner. They similarly believed education should be more broadly available because it diffused this mechanism for thought. What no Enlightenment writer thought was that reason and the scientific approach was fit for every man. Voltaire wondered what would happen if people ceased to believe in God. Religion became seen as a behavioral educator for the masses while reason was for the educable elite. This understanding of religion and of the non-rational is still espoused by the likes of Jordan Peterson, who still has his merits.

Instead, religion is gone and "science", or scientism, is a widely believed and un-practiced dogma of the new faith of our day, Materialism. It is like a ejaculatory prayer to be uttered against a demon Christian. How hopeless these people would be if they took the time to believe in it.

Friday, July 3, 2020

Fancy Catholics

Are you "fancy"?

"[Rad Trad], you are verrrrry fancy," I was told by a coworker, chewing and spitting out the words in his deep drawl.

An old classmate heard that I began attending the Divine Liturgy some years ago and snarled, "Did those babushka ladies and their fancy liturgy win you over from reality?"

It is with a sense of bedlam and near-resentment that people condescend that which they do not understand as "fancy." Anyone who has attended Vespers at my parish with the Rad Trad himself cantoring knows how very un-fancy the Byzantine rite can be. I was once forbidden to sing the Regina coeli before Mass at the Oxford Oratory, but the Greek rite singing loud is preferable to singing well, making me an ideal cantor for lesser services.

The concept of an ordered taxis is offensive to some Catholics born a generation ago, reared during the post-Vatican II "liturgy wars" between parishes that did not rip out their pipe organs and the more modern parishes with priests refusing to don the chasuble and singers strumming guitars. The general calming down since those days and the revival of the real Roman Mass exposed a new generation to an altogether different type of worship, where order regulates each step and each office dictates ontologically who does what. The choir sings the Introit in the Roman Mass, the subdeacon sings the Epistle in the Roman Mass, the cantor chants the stichera at Greek Vespers. There is no question of which opening song, who lectors, and which cantor will wave her arms during the responsorial psalm. Indeed, the music isn't much harder than secular musical styles, they just require a few months of patience to learn.

So how did liturgically minded Catholics, especially the Traditionalists, get so "fancy"?

It was in part our own making. In order to retain the old Mass during the years betwixt Missale Romanum and Summorum Pontificum, mainstream Catholics had to concoct some reason, other than those expounded by the likes of Michael Davies and Mgr. Lefebvre, to continue the old Mass. In places like France the Liturgical Movement baked the liturgy into the piety of those who wished to continue it. In the Anglosphere this was untrue and required a different approach.

The solution was to champion the old Mass for its cultural value, its great aesthetic beauty, and its unique features like periods of quiet. This is certainly how many American Catholics had to approach their bishops following the 1984 and 1988 "liberalizations" under John Paul II and it was similar to the approach of the the writers of the "Agatha Christie" indult:
"Today, as in times gone by, educated people are in the vanguard where recognition of the value of tradition in concerned, and are the first to raise the alarm when it is threatened. We are not at this moment considering the religious or spiritual experience of millions of individuals. The rite in question, in its magnificent Latin text, has also inspired a host of priceless achievements in the arts - not only mystical works, but works by poets, philosophers, musicians, architects, painters and sculptors in all countries and epochs. Thus, it belongs to universal culture as well as to churchmen and formal Christians. In the materialistic and technocratic civilisation that is increasingly threatening the life of mind and spirit in its original creative expression - the word - it seems particularly inhuman to deprive man of word-forms in one of their most grandiose manifestations. The signatories of this appeal, which is entirely ecumenical and non-political, have been drawn from every branch of modern culture in Europe and elsewhere."
Thus, we did not wish to be "fancy," but became fancy for a time nonetheless. Anyone who has ever attended spoken Mass at an FSSPX church or in a pre-Summorum indult Mass at 3pm in a ghetto knows how very un-adorned the old Mass and its attendees really are, unadorned with silly instruments and bored people wanting to take their turn in front.

We have all heard this canard before, but I hear it less and less with each passing year. That is some cause for optimism.