REVIEW: NEW – The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described

I received a copy of the new, updated edition of The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described by Adrian Fortescue, J.B. O’Connell & Alcuin Reid.  Burns and Oates / Continuum, 2009, 496 pp.

This is the "Fifteenth Edition: Revised and Updated in the light of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum"

The bottom line: people who are really interested in the Roman Church’s liturgy, people who want to "Say the Black and Do the Red", in the newer form or the older form, will be able to learn a great deal from this book.  It is a rich resource.

Buy it HERE through

It’s list price: $70.00.  But it is on sale through Amazon right now before it ships for $51.69 (save $18.31 – 26%)

If you don’t have the previous edition of Fortescue/O’Connell, stick the crowbar into your wallet and do it.

The Cardinal President of the Pontifical Commission "Ecclesia Dei", His Eminence Dario Card. Castrillon Hoyos wrote a short preface.  He states, "It is now clear that Catholics have a juridical right to the more ancient liturgical rites, and that parish priests and bishops must accept the petitions and the requests of the faithful who ask for it.  This is the express will of the Supreme Pontiff…" (p. 15).  Moreover, "all seminaries should provide such training as a matter of course".

This book will be indispensable for that training, as well as for responding, as the Cardinal says, "in a spirit of pastoral generosity and love" in their ministry.

The book has a very useful ribbon marker.  The slip cover is very attractive. The binding seems quiet sturdy and meant to last.  The good quality paper is a sharp white.  The typeface is crisp and updated and the figures are new.

Many people will already have an earlier reprinted edition of Fortescue/O’Connell. 

This edition has some additional information not in the previous edition.

First, this edition states that it is, "Revised and updated in the light of Pope Benedict XVI’s Summorum Pontificum". 

Summorum Pontificum didn’t make any changes to the older form of Mass and sacraments other than to state that vernacular readings can be used without reading them in Latin beforehand (Intro., p. 17). Reid states that the Pope’s letter accompanying SP envisioned the use of additional prefaces from the newer rite and observance of some saints in the new calendar.

In the introduction Reid raises the question of how we use the older forms of Mass and sacraments given more recent legislation for the Latin Church.  What do we do about, for example, girls and women substituting for acolytes, Communion in the hand where approved, EMCHs?  He thus proposes principles to follow: pastoral and canonical.  In the first place, the Supreme Pastor of the Universal Church’s Motu Proprio is pastoral.  Thus, "The salvation of souls may not be served well by imposing liturgical practices on the ancient rites" (p. 18).  I think that argument could be used the other way as well.  In the second place, since the rites in the older books and older laws are "not readily disentangled" (p. 19), thus "the mens legislatoris is that usus antiquior be celebrated with respect for its integrity, in continuity with its tradition, and not have later – and sometimes controversial – changes imposed on it.  The older liturgical books cannot exist in a legal vacuum." With that in mind, throughout the book the references to the 1917 Code are retained and the relevant canons of the 1983 are also given.

He also states that "the date ‘1962’  is arbitrary" (p. 19), and that it necessary to study the value of the reforms in force in 1962.  I believe his intent here is to crack the door open for pre-1962 uses which some people put great stock in.

This would be a useful point for study with seminarians in classwork in seminaries when they are being trained in the older rites.

Reid has included some clarifications on questions which have popped up in recent times, such as "whether a layman should act as MC at pontifical ceremonies".  Also, the "section on ecclesiastical rank has been rewritten in the light of the prevailing legislation".  He also expands some descriptions of things which might have been clear in times past but, in the intervening dark years, have become less so to a younger generation.

One of the areas in which there have been many changes in the Church’s legislation and practice since the Council is in the sphere of sacred liturgical music.  A scan of the table of contents reveals the insertion of a new chapter: "XIV. The Music of Solemn and Sung Mass" (p. 169ff) which "draws from O’Connell, The Celebration of Mass (1964)" (p. 169 n. 1).  In the note Reid says, "Care must be taken not to use resources created for the usus recentior that do not accord with theliturgical books in force in 1962, howsoever worthy their execution".

"The official music of the Roman Tire is Gregorian Chant" (p. 169).  It is "obligatory for Mass in the Roman Rite", and in the Vatican edition of the Graduale Romanum (reproduced in the Liber Usualis). 

You can hear in the following an echo of the work of great proponents of Church music such as the late Msgr. Richard Schuler: "All other religious music should have the qualities proper to the sacred liturgy; it must be holy – excluding all that seem trivial or profane.  It must have true artistic quality – it must be able to uplift mind and hearts of those who hear it to Almight God and facilitate their contemplation of Him in the liturgical rites.  It must be universal in character – suited to the variety of peoples that make up the Church of Christ." (p. 170)

He speaks about polyphonic settings for Ordinary and Proper settings, adding that " vernacular and metrical hymns are excluded during the liturgy proper. 

So much for the four hymn sandwich!

Reid speaks to the pace of the singing of the texts by the sacred ministers and presents information on the standard tones for singing prayers and readings and invitations to prayer, etc.

When he gets to "The Use of Musical Instruments" he says, "Whilst the music of the Church is purely vocal and idelly unaccompanied the use of organ is permitted on all Sundays and feast days."  Also, "Other instruments may be used when the organ is generally permitted but not on those occasions when the organ is only allowed to accompany.  These instruments must not be connected with profane music and all automatic and mechanical instruments are forbidden".  I believe it is Reid’s intent to argue against orchestral Masses, but he doesn’t not state that purpose explicitly.  Many slippery questions arise when we start talking about sacred and profane connotation of instruments, which can shift – but only slowly – over time.  I wonder if many people today don’t associate the pipe organ more with a certain Broadway musical or a ball game than they do with Church.  On the other hand, the pipe organ clearly has the power to invoke an association with churches.  But in Vienna, perhaps so do violins and trumpets and tympani.  A tough topic.  The Church’s post-Conciliar legislation provided for flexibility.  Had the principles given by Reid – echoing his elders – been embraced and observed, I doubt we would be having this conversation.  But – they weren’t.  Instead, the idea of sacred music was twisted far from the Church’s true intent and we got rubbish.  Perhaps an entrenching is in order.  Also, practically speaking, just about any parish could feasibly have a schola but not an orchestra.  But I disgress.

In any event, this section gets into what is "more correct" or "less correct" depending on one’s point of view.  The prescriptive tone here is wisely relaxed.

Another new aspect of this edition is Chapter XX: The Faithful at Mass, which was effectively a non-issue in the older editions.

Reid has a section of "Rules for the Laity at Mass", a) at a "private" Mass, and b) at Solemn or Sung Mass.

Everyone knows that Summorum Pontificum makes a distinction between "public" and "private" Masses and some bishops have tried to use this as a weapon against the Holy Father’s provisions. Also, since the time of the Liturgical Movement, when more responses from the congregation were invited, people want to know if it is okay to sing or speak during Mass.

For Reid, a "private Mass" is one not publicly scheduled.  There are indications for standing, kneeling, etc.  He correctly points out that there are no rubrics for lay people in the older form of the Solemn Mass.  The assumption is that they do what the clergy in choir do. He provides these guidelines.

He digs into the "Dialogue Mass" issue (p. 244ff), citing the important 1958 instruction Musica sacra which deals with active participation.

Included in this section is what to do when there are civil dignitaries at the Mass.   So, when you have the king or the president at your Mass, you will know how to set up a prie-dieu, what happens if they show up late, what to do at the kiss of peace, etc.  I hope the University of Notre-Dame is paying attention…

Reid also mentions the fact that some bishops have sought to restrict the Pope’s norms (p. 18).

This book will make that a lot harder!

If you are a parish priest, a seminarian, or involved in the training and execution of worship in any way in your parish or institution, you should have this book.  You would not make a mistake in giving it as a gift to the same.

Buy it HERE through

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  1. Does anyone know if the late Msgr Richard Schuler celebrated the Extraordinary form regularly or whether he really had any interest in it?

  2. Greg: He did not and he wasn’t interested in it. He wanted to do the Novus Ordo properly, according to the books and the Roman style.

  3. “Another new aspect of this edition is Chapter XX: The Faithful at Mass, which was effectively a non-issue in the older editions.”

    The previous edition did have a chapter on the Dialogue Mass, including Musica sacra. But if this is an expansion of that particular subject, it might justify getting the latest edition. At least it might for me. In any case, I’m happy to see it adequately dealt with, along with the other new subjects mentioned here.

  4. Romulus says:

    “whether a layman should act as MC at pontifical ceremonies”

    Having done so last week, and facing the prospect of doing so again this weekend, I’d certainly be interested in Reid’s opinion.

  5. Anthony O'Brien says:

    qui rubricistarum ordinem
    viam caeli impedisti da nobis, quaesumus,
    ipsis in mare rubrum detrusis,
    ut per aliam viam vitam aeternam consequamur.
    Per Christum Dominum nostrum.

    [LOL! My fictitious Rubricians should recite this often.]

  6. Fr. Kowalski says:

    Thanks Father, for the heads up. I bought my copy on sale! Yeah!
    A biretta tip to you, dear Father!

  7. In the UK Anonymous says:

    I’m interested in the comments about vernacular readings, and the following comments about not imposing later liturgical practices on the TLM. Some of the people I know who attend the TLM would have difficulty with the Latin readings being substituted for vernacular readings, even though permitted by Summorum Pontificum. Wouldn’t an equally valid option be to continue a practice in circulation in the 1950’s, of having the readings given in Latin as normal, then read in the vernacular before the sermon? This would avoid upsetting the sensibilities of many TLM devotees, yet be in accord with Summorum Pontificum.

  8. Mitch_WA says:

    Anon: Personally that little bit of discomfort is not a big deal It is a valid option and one I think should be used more. Reading the Epistle and Gospel twice is redundent and having just before the homily in rapid sucession is not in keeping with the honorific ways they were previously read and should be read (imo). Read them in the vernacular the first time around and call it good. (I occasionally go to a OF Mass with Gregorian Chant and the Readings are beautifully chanted in English, so that also could be done for High Masses).

    Also as far as upsetting the sensabilities of some at a TLM, should perhaps be done. Just as there are those people who will glare at you for quietly making the responses with the server. Some people go over the top in rigidity with the liturgy, these people seem opposed to organic development, and rather just want to stay in 1962. Traditions should not be wholesale uprooted but I believe our Holy Father gave this option in Summorum Pontificum so it could be tried out and if it worked well it could stick.

    just my two cents.

  9. TJV says:

    I must say, I never understood the great acclamation that Fortescue receives in some ceremonial circles. Having worked as a Master of Ceremonies for many years in both Ecclesia Dei settings and Reform of the Reform settings, I have always been of the opinion that Fortescue was grossly inferior to J B O’Connell’s The Celebration of Mass. In my opinion, they are not even on a comparable level. I recall hearing that Fortescue was originally so poorly done that O’Connell had to be brought in to revise and edit the work, which is why his name appears along with Fortescue on the book. I am not seeking so much to put down Fortescue as to promote the great rubrical writings of O’Connell.

  10. Reminder: I don’t allow “anonymous” comments on the blog.

  11. mbd says:

    As I recall, the 1958 edition also has a short section on the actions and posture of the faithful at the Missa Cantata and Solemn Mass. Not sure if it was retained in the 14th edition.

  12. Paul Goings says:

    Of course O’Connell deals only with the Mass, and not the ceremonies of the liturgical year, pontifical ceremonies, the ceremonies of the Ritual, or the Divine Office. So something else is needed, if one wants a ceremonial manual in English. And Fortescue was available twenty years before O’Connell. (And even if it had many errors, it was still far better than Dale’s Baldeschi!)

  13. FightingFat says:

    This is very interesting! Fr. Z, can you recommend any good literature which will explain the mass to non-clergy?

  14. Ken says:

    “Summorum Pontificum didn’t make any changes to the older form of Mass and sacraments other than to state that vernacular readings can be used without reading them in Latin beforehand (Intro., p. 17).”

    I thought we were awaiting clarification on this issue (section six of the motu proprio). It states “In Masses celebrated in the presence of the people in accordance with the Missal of Bl. John XXIII, the readings may also be given in the vernacular, using editions recognised by the Apostolic See.”

    What does “also” mean? To me it means re-reading the Epistle and Gospel in the vernacular from the pulpit after it was properly read at the altar in Latin. Why was it not translated properly in most English versions of the motu proprio?

    It’s a little disturbing to see this fine book jump to conclusions in the new edition, which I will not purchase. [Thus applying a scalpel to your proverbial nose.]

  15. Matt says:

    I would have to agree. I think that the proper translation is “may be given” in the vernacular. Now there are two ways to interpret this. Does “may be given” mean that the readings “may be given” in the vernacular *in addition to* them being read in Latin or does it mean that they “may be given” *instead of* reading them in Latin.

    This is a clarification that needs to come from CDW now. [No… the PCED still has competence, not the CDW…. for now.] Reading in the light of tradition I would say that the translation needs to be intrepreted as “in addition to” and not “instead of”. I am sure that those coming from the NO will think the latter and those coming from tradition all think the former.

    In any event, ALL of the Indult and Summorum Pontificum Masses I have gone to have read the readings in Latin FIRST. The vernacular readings are technically considered part of the Homily and NOT part of the Mass. This is why you see many priest remove the Maniple after reading the Gospel. They homily is actually an interruption of the Mass for the benefit of instructing the faithful. I think this the proper way that this issue should be approached.

  16. Ken says:

    The key word in section six of the motu proprio is “etiam.”

    “Art. 6. In Missis iuxta Missale B. Ioannis XXIII celebratis cum populo, Lectiones proclamari possunt etiam lingua vernacula, utendo editionibus ab Apostolica Sede recognitis.”

    etiam: “and furthermore, as yet, still, even, also, besides”

    Since English translations of the motu proprio skip this important word (which proves the point that translations should be suspect and avoided if possible — learn Latin!) we should not change the way the 1962 missal is said based on our own interpretation of a 2007 document.

    Again, I express displeasure at the new edition’s assumption regarding this unsettled point.

  17. “Comment by TJV — 25 March 2009 @ 9:23 am”

    If you’re really going to make a go at being an MC, it’s best to get both O’Connell and Fortescue. The former tends to be more comprehensive for the celebration of Mass itself, while Fortescue deals with the Roman Rite as a whole. I find myself going from one to the other all the time.

    As to the issue of vernacular readings, while a complete substitution wouldn’t bother me personally (aside from the difficulties one might have as a purist using Gregorian chant with an English text), I would sooner defer to a strict reading of the Latin text, until a more authoritative clarification is issued. That said, the single error in question would not by itself prevent me from obtaining the newer expanded edition.

  18. A canonist says:

    S.P. no 6 makes no sense if it is simply permitting the readings in the vernacular after their reading in Latin: that was permitted before and there was be no need to legislate to permit something already permitted.

    This book is not in error in asserting that Benedict XVI has permitted their reading only in the vernacular. That is the only sound canonical explanation for the insertion of no. 6 in S.P.

    Whether they should be read in the vernacular only is a pastoral question for the clergy responsible. But the law is clear: it is permissable on the authority of the Supreme Legislator.

  19. Henry Edwards says:

    I study (with relish) the propers and readings in Latin before each TLM I attend, and look forward to hearing them in Latin. I dread the first high Mass at which I hear the Gospel chanted in English rather than Latin at the altar. It will feel like a tragedy if I ever hear the deacon chant the Gospel in English as he faces north at a solemn high Mass.

    However, I realize that having readings in vernacular is an organic development whose time has come, it having been authorized by the Supreme Legislator.

    Presumably, this is because he sought not to merely preserve the older form for fly-in-amber types, but to revitalize the liturgy for the whole Church, both by “mutual enrichment” of the newer form and by attracting newer adherents from among those who never knew the older form.

    Making the best of it, I have found that (for me) the readings in English at low Mass seem relatively inoffensive — as compared with the personal loss I’ll feel the first time time I hear Latin chant replaced by vernacular.

    Especially at low Mass — which is often not the best introduction for newcomers — vernacular readings seem to be more inviting. If they help to accelerate both growth of the older form and its favorable effect on the newer form, is the net result bad?

    All that said, I personally greatly prefer the readings solely in Latin. And, indeed, given missals and propers leaflets in everybody’s hands, see no good reason for tedious and redundant repetition in English during the sermon. But then, it’s not just about what I (or you) like, is it?

  20. Mark S says:

    I think the various comments made above almost prove the point made by “Anonymous” regarding the readings. Unfortunately I think this is one of those issues where people on both sides become overly-adversarial, which both sides digging their heels in. As Dr. Reid pointed out (as quoted by Fr. Z.) the pastoral aspect of all of this is important as well (and the Pope did say “may”, not “must”.) So if people object to English-only readings, why not continue having them in Latin AND English? What harm does it do? If a priest knows his congregation is very traditionally-minded, give the readings in Latin first followed by a translation; if the congregation is new to the TLM, why not have the readings in English only, as a way of easing them into the TLM?

    As an aside, the reason why O’Connell was brought in to revise Fortesque, was because Father Adrian Fortesque died at a relatively young age (49) in the early 1920’s. According to the preface for the last edition of the book, he wrote the first edition primarily to make money for the poor parish of which he was pastor during the First World War, and wasn’t overly enthusiastic about it – which was very obvious to O’Connell, when called upon to review the first edition. Fortesque revised the book in about 1920 due to new editions of the Missal and Breviary having been published, but then died, and the task of updating future editions of the book was taken over by O’Connell.

  21. BeleagueredSeminarian says:

    Father, you’re very convincing! I’m a poor seminarian but I went ahead and put a crowbar to the wallet! I’ll have to rely on this and the Frat video to learn the EF as my seminary continues to refuse to teach it to us.

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