Books: August 2007 Archives

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When I was a lad in New Haven, Connecticut, I had the privilege of knowing Father Philip T. Weller. He spent a year or two in residence at Saint Francis Parish. For a boy who spent his free time reading The Church's Year of Grace by Pius Parsch, meeting Father Weller and serving his Mass was a dream come true. Father Weller was gifted with a melodious voice and loved Gregorian Chant. He sang Mass with a quiet reverence, with loving attention to the rubrics, and with manly devotion. His preaching was outstanding. Father Weller was a shining example of priestly liturgical piety. For all of that, he was never stuffy or distant. I remember him once interrupting the distribution of Holy Communion to say to Mrs. Zullo, "Madame, you have a lovely voice!" I have never forgotten him.

Preserving Christian Publications has made Father Weller's classic Latin-English three volume version of The Roman Ritual for the traditional Roman Rite available once again. Published originally between 1946 and 1950, the folks at PCP have faithfully and handsomely reprinted all three volumes in simulated leather hardbound with gold-embossing, sewn binding, a marking ribbon, and as in the originals: red and black text throughout with plainchant notation! All three volumes are also completely indexed in both Latin and English!

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In his introduction to the books, Father Weller presents a mystagogical catechesis that is itself worth the price of the set. "Christ has sacramentalized the world," he writes, "and Christian man, therefore, is destined to live, and grow, and mature into Christian perfection chiefly by means of sacramental action. This is the ordinary way unto sanctification. . . . The true Christian spirit demands that man accepts the fact that supernatural life is concurrent with physical life, that spiritual contents are wed to material or external forms."

What treasures will you find in Father Weller's Roman Ritual apart from the rites of Sacraments and the Processions of the Liturgical Year? Here are just some of them:

— The Blessing of Holy Water
— The Blessings of an Infant, of a Child, and of Children
— The Blessing of Wine for Saint John's Day
— The Blessing of Chalk for the Epiphany
— The Great Blessing of Epiphany Water
— The Blessing of Homes
— The Blessings of Lamb, Eggs, Bread, New Produce, and Oil
— The Blessing of a Bonfire for the Nativity of Saint John the Baptist
— The Blessing of Herbs on the Assumption
— The Blessings of Pilgrims, of Sick Pilgrims, of a Sick Adult, of Sick Children
— The Blessing of an Expectant Mother
— The Blessing of a Mother After Childbirth
— The Blessings of a Cross, of Sacred Images, of a Cincture, of a Votive Habit,
of Lilies in Honour of Saint Anthony of Padua, of an Organ, of a Church Bell, of Sick Animals, of Cattle and Herds, of Bees, of Silkworms, of Salt or Oats for Animals, of a Stable, of Linens for the Sick, of a Wheelchair, of Wine for the Sick, of Medicine, of Bread and Cakes, of Ale, of Cheese and Butter, of Fowl Meat, of Grapes, of a Fishing Boat, and of a Fire Engine.

There is so much more, including the blessings of devotional scapulars and other items at one time reserved to priests of particular Orders. I know of no other set of books containing so complete a collection of the sacramental rites of the Church.

Writing of the use of sacramentals (little sacraments), Father Weller says:

As he leaves the Eucharistic altar and banquet-table of the new Jerusalem, the Christian goes out, oftentimes into the atmosphere of a veritable Babylon. Fortified with Christ's kiss of peace, he launches the attack against Satan, using the auxiliary weapons which the Church, the worthy Spouse of Christ and our holy Mother dispenses with a lavish hand to her children. May the little sacraments treated of in this volume become powerful allies to the Holy Seven, to hasten our sacramental sanctification unto the full stature of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ!

In their presentation of the The Roman Ritual, our friends at Preserving Christian Publications, affirm that Father Weller "prepared it for the clergy 'as a manual and reference' and for the laity's 'interest and enthusiasm for the rites and prayers of so important a part of the liturgical books of the Church.'"

Twentieth Century Martyrs

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One of the books on my summer reading list was The Catholic Martyrs of the Twentieth Century, A Comprehensive World History, by Robert Royal. George Weigel calls it, “essential reading for anyone who cares about the Church in the modern world.” More Catholics were persecuted, tortured, and put to death for their faith in the twentieth century than in any previous century. Naively, and sometimes blithely, we appraise the last century in terms of scientific and technological progress. We forget that a mighty river of blood courses through the twentieth century during which more than one million believers were killed for their faith. The passion and death of Saint John the Baptist was but the beginning of two thousand and more years of bloody persecution for the Friends of the Bridegroom and Witnesses of the Lamb. How many of these can you identify?

About Dom Mark

Dom Mark Daniel Kirby is Conventual Prior of Silverstream Priory in Stamullen, County Meath, Ireland. The ecclesial mandate of his Benedictine community is the adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament of the Altar in a spirit of reparation, and in intercession for the sanctification of priests.

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