REVIEW – Peter Kwasniewski’s new book: Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages

I’m digging into Peter Kwasniewski’s new book:

Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages


It has a forward by the great Martin Mosebach, author of The Heresy of Formlessness (a must read, a hard read but richly rewarding).

Firstly, I could read Peter’s prose forever.  He writes with clarity and great force, which surely reflect both his deft mind and his convictions.

Next, I think we may have a Vulcan Mind-Meld going on.


1  Why the New Evangelization Needs the Old Mass
2  Reverence Is Not Enough: On the Importance of Tradition
3  The Spirit of the Liturgy in the Words and Actions of Our Lady
4  The New Liturgical Movement: Urgent Care for a Sick Church
5  Different Visions, Contrary Paths
6  Formed in the Spirit and Power of the Liturgy
7  Laying Our Foundation on Solid Rock
8  How the Usus Antiquior Elicits Superior Participation
9  A Perpetual Feast of All Saints
10  The Peace of Low Mass and the Glory of High Mass
11  Homage to Our Lady, Queen of the Liturgy
12  “Always Forward, Never Back”

Intriguing, no?

The book is seeded through with exquisite photo images and apt accompanying quotes.  There is a prayerful tone within as well.  Peter is a Benedictine Oblate.  For example, at the end of one chapter you find on a page apart:

Prayer for the Traditional Movement

O Lord, remember in Thy Kingdom N. and N.,
[names of individuals or communities]
and all religious, clergy, and laity throughout the world who are dedicated to the usus antiquior.
Bless us, govern us, defend us, purify us, and multiply us for the good of souls,
for the restoration of Thy Church,
and for the glory of Thy Holy Name.

Every couple pages there are illustrative quotes blocked out which you will wish you could commit to perfect memory.  For example, just flipping to a random page (106) I find…

Those who doubt and deny win immediate fame. And the defer- ence refused to tradition, to antiquity, to authority, is given at once and wholly, with infinite thoughtlessness, to the notions of some writer or other, to one of those prophets of the hour who trumpet the vague phrases: progress, evolution, broad-mindedness, and dogmatic awakening. This is intellectual foolery. And it seems to me that good sense and dignity require from us not only an atti- tude of reserve, but above all a spirit of tranquil resistance and conservatism. Conservation is the very instinct of life, a disposi- tion essential for existence. We shall be truly progressive if we hold fast to this spirit, for there is no progress for a living organism which does not preserve continuity with its past.

Moreover, the book is deeply personal.  I am confident that you will resonate with what he writes.  Here is a sample with my usual treatment:

“Always Forward, Never Back”

Every line written in these pages is born from my personal experience of the things of which I speak. I have sat through every possible permutation of the Novus Ordo, and some impossible ones. I have collaborated or argued with every type of priest or liturgist. I have seen the Reform of the Reform in action and made such contributions to it as I could. I have worked with bishops who promote all the best and bishops who ruthlessly stomp on tradition. I have participated in silent private Masses, magnificent Pontifical Masses, and more or less successful dialogue Masses. I try never to write about anything that has not been intimately and frequently a part of my life as a Catholic. [And now some honest self-examnation…] This will, I trust, help explain the bitterness and harshness of some passages, the tolerance and pragmatism of others, and the melancholy triumphalism that permeates the whole—at once exultant over so many victories and chastened by the sight of so much devastation. It is a hard time to be thinking and writing about the liturgy, when so much is in flux, indiscernible and unpredictable, at the mercy of potentates and volunteers. I am thoroughly prepared to be surprised with the passage of each year at how many good things have sprung up and how many bad things have persisted or emerged from hibernation.

Dr. Eric de Saventhem (1919–2005), first President of the International Federation Una Voce, spoke these prophetic words in a speech in New York City in 1970—words all the more remarkable in the face of the escalating victories of philistinism and modernism, the threat of total devastation, and the hopelessness of the situation emerging at that time: [Speaking of great quotes…]

A renaissance will come: asceticism and adoration as the main- spring of direct total dedication to Christ will return. Confraternities of priests, vowed to celibacy and to an intense life of prayer and meditation, will be formed. Religious will regroup themselves into houses of strict observance. A new form of Liturgical Movement will come into being, led by young priests and attracting mainly young people, in protest against the flat, prosaic, philistine or delirious liturgies which will soon overgrow and finally smother even the recently revised rites.

It is vitally important that these new priests and religious, these new young people with ardent hearts, should find—if only in a corner of the rambling mansion of the Churchthe treasure of a truly sacred liturgy still glowing softly in the night. And it is our task, since we have been given the grace to appreciate the value of this heritage, to preserve it from spoliation, from becoming buried out of sight, despised and therefore lost forever. It is our duty to keep it alive: by our own loving attachment, by our support for the priests who make it shine in our churches, by our apostolate at all levels of persuasion.1

All this has been fulfilled before our eyes, and there is not the slightest sign that the “new form of Liturgical Movement” will back down just because of new threats and intimidations and the premature swaggering of the anti-Ratzinger faction. Indeed, if history tells us any lesson, it is that unjust persecution makes the flame burn more intensely and then, as soon as opportunity arises, blaze out more vehemently.

And yet, so much more is waiting to be done; there is fire to be kindled on the earth, in every place, every community, every church—the fire of the Catholic Faith in its totality and integrity, its tradition and beauty. In this connection we might draw courage from the noble words of the Book of Nehemiah (2:17–18):

Then I said to them, “You see the trouble we are in, how Jerusalem lies in ruins with its gates burned. Come, let us build the wall of Jerusalem, that we may no longer suffer disgrace.” And I told them of the hand of my God which had been upon me for good, and also of the words which the king had spoken to me. And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work.


[1. The full text is available at the FIUV website: given-bydr.html]

Do I hear an “Amen!“?

Allow me to continue with Nehemiah through a verse which I have for a long while displayed on this blog’s side bar:

Aedificantium enim unusquisque gladio erat accinctus.

And each of the builders had his sword girded at his side while he built.

– Nehemiah 4:18

Peter’s new book is a sword for your side as you build in your own parishes. It is a new arrow for your quiver when you need to explain, defend and spread the vision we share of a Holy Church revitalized in her sacred liturgical worship.

Without a revitalization of our worship, no other undertaking we mount in the Church will succeed.

Hence, the stakes are high.

Do I need to say it?

Yes, I need to say it.

Buy a least two copies, one for you and one for your parish priest or a seminarian.

Noble Beauty, Transcendent Holiness: Why the Modern Age Needs the Mass of Ages


About Fr. John Zuhlsdorf

Fr. Z is the guy who runs this blog. o{]:¬)
This entry was posted in Liturgy Science Theatre 3000, SUMMORUM PONTIFICUM and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.


  1. The Masked Chicken says:

    Speaking of point number eight, superior participation, even Protestants who visit the Latin Mass sense this. I have seen a couple of videos on YouTube by a young Protestant woman who, sad to say, has a better understanding of Catholicism than some Catholics. She made a video about her impressions of the Latin Mass:

    The Chicken

  2. acardnal says:

    Professor Kwasniewski is a treasure in supporting tradition and the usus antiquior as he likes to refer to the TLM/EF Mass. I enjoy his writings very much and learn so much from them. He travels all over the world giving lectures on this subject including the Benedictine monks at Norcia.

    I also recommend his previous book on this subject Resurgent in the Midst of Crisis. In it, he has a chapter explaining why concelebration is not as valuable as priests saying Mass individually, i.e. there’s a loss of the application of grace for the salvation of souls including those in purgatory. On the cross Christ gained merit and satisfied for us, while in the Mass He applies to us the merits and satisfaction of His death on the cross. In other words, through the Mass the merits of the sacrifice on the cross are applied to our souls:

    “Each and every Mass pours forth the fruits of the sacrifice of Calvary into the Church for the inestimable benefit of all the faithful – for the release of souls in purgatory, for the honor of the saints in heaven, and for the perseverance of souls on earth – and ultimately for the salvation of the entire world. Therefore, objectively speaking, the more Masses celebrated, the better off the world is. . . .

    “[E]ach Mass – or to be more specific, each enactment of the mystical oblation on the altar – is a renewal and application of the saving event of the Cross, and as such, wins further pardon and actual graces for the human race. . . .[E]ach and every Mass advances the salvation of the world.”

    Now that’s pretty important! All seminarians and priests should read that book just for that one chapter alone.

    When not travelling Prof. K teaches at Wyoming Catholic College for which Fr. Z has given praise:
    no cell phones permitted on campus but guns are permitted with conditions. HERE

  3. Mike says:

    I go to a TLM about once or twice a month, otherwise it’s the local NO, which had improved a little w the new pastor. Nevertheless, it is as the professor says.

  4. Unwilling says:

    I am re-reading Daniel-Rops L’Eglise des Apotres et des Martyrs. He explains (p.157) how Christianity overwhelming the Graeco-Roman “world” was a kind of revolution. He says three elements are needed simultaneously for a revolution to happen: a revolutionary situation, a revolutionary doctrine, a revolutionary people. He points out that Christianity was almost invisibly replacing the ancient culture even while the latter seemed to be at its peak of power and brutal intolerance (as Modernism now seems to be). And then suddenly (<100 years) came a tipping point and the old was swept away and the Christian Weltanschaung became nearly universal. Perhaps we revolutionary people are approaching the end of a dark time.

  5. I thought Peter Kwasniewski was a lay Dominican.

  6. acardnal says:

    No. He states clearly in his writings and speeches that he is a lay Oblate Benedictine.

  7. acardnal says:

    See third paragraph from bottom of this interview:

  8. Pingback: THURSDAY CATHOLICA EDITION | Big Pulpit

  9. Geoffrey says:

    I think the term “Usus Antiquior” is very off-putting to the average Catholic in the pew. “Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite” is enough of a tongue-twister.

  10. TheCivilCatholic says:

    @Geoffrey “Usus Antiquior” is only off-putting to those who are spooked by Latin or think that the Church came to be after V2. I prefer this way of speaking – it connects the Extraordinary Form to its deep and rich history in a way EF or even Tridentine don’t.

  11. jaykay says:

    Just bought it for my Kindle – via the Z-link. From what was available on the Amazon “look inside” preview alone I was immensely impressed – and Lord knows, it isn’t expensive! It’ll join my copy of his earlier book “Resurgent…”, which I also found tremendously inspiring. I do recommend it, and am looking forward to getting into this latest one.

  12. lmgilbert says:

    Regarding the possible suppression of the Usus Antiquor. Stuff happens. Yet everything that happens is either willed or permitted by God. That being the case, IF it were suppressed, the best possible thing we could do would be to give ourselves over to fervent praise and thanksgiving. THEN you would see Divine intervention in a very big way. That is the mysterious Divine dynamic, seen in the life of Job, in the Crucifixion and Resurrection. What an opportunity that would be for the Church!

    Yet, I am afraid the likely response would be complaining, moaning, derision of the papacy, rebellion, flight to the Orthodox or SSPX, various traditionalist writers in high dudgeon. . . all very predictable and tragic. Read the book of Exodus. Complaining is utterly obnoxious to the Lord. There is NO blessing in it.

    If we are obedient to (and respectful of the Pope) as unto the Lord, that is where we will see the Lord intervene in a big way. Otherwise, no. Like it or not, we are the people of God and he is the Moses of our time.

  13. av8er says:

    Mr. Kwasniewski had a good interview on EWTN live w/Fr. Mitch.

    If you really want to see a good place to send your kids to college, where he teaches has an awesome video of the school. Wyoming Catholic College.

Comments are closed.