Thursday, August 27, 2015

The Effort to Publish the Pre-1955 Missale Romanum.

It was not so long ago that the availability of the old liturgical books (those prior to the editions of 1970) was fairly scarce, limited to second hand copies and the occasional facsimile editions of varying quality.

Fifteen years ago, this was very much the state of things.

Things have changed. Recent history has seen a number of newly typeset editions of the 1960/1962 books hit the market. There are undoubtedly many factors to this, among them being the presence of a need in the market waiting to be filled - both the SSPX and the FSSP are carrying on with their work after all. Yet, it was only in recent history that prospects for such publication efforts were closer to fantasy than reality.

The will to perpetuate a liturgical observance that, for all of the legitimate scholarly critiques which can be made, for the most part continues with the traditional Latin observance (within the Roman Church) was the ultimate impetus behind the eventual publication of new editions of pre-Vatican II books. Which is why I hope that the same Will may eventually lead the efforts to republish the Missale Romanum of 1955 to success.

You can find more details about the project at the webpage of the publisher. There are several images of a proof of concept copy they have completed. Now, the long effort to shore up a minimum number of orders before sending this mammoth volume off to the printers.

It looks like it will be an amazing volume when completed.

This will be a long haul project - no doubt about it.

The publisher has the courage of their convictions, but my suggestion would be to tone down some of the rhetoric, maybe temper the message just a bit. Again, there are legitimate scholarly critiques one can make regarding the 1962 books. The publisher unfortunately sidesteps that discussion in favor of boasting of the "purity" of the pre-1955 Missal and not-so subtle allegations regarding the Holy Week reform and subsequent reforms put in place - vintage polemics here. When the two largest bodies using the old liturgy have found little to object about the books of 1962, well, practically speaking, you're immediately alienating the bulk of your target audience there. The percentage that will militantly adhere to the pre-1955 Missal is relatively inconsequential - if this publisher is ever going to get the project off the ground, it needs to change its messaging.

Practically speaking, we are not at the moment where the conversation can be broadened to examine the potential application of the books in use prior to the Holy Week reforms of Pius XII. The larger issue of preserving the Western liturgical tradition has not been settled. As such, there is little room for the finer points of the debate.

There are, however, legitimate reasons to reexamine the liturgical changes of the early to mid twentieth century and investigate the possibility of re-instituting the earlier editions of the Missale Romanum for actual use. The insertion of polemics and veiled references to a conspiracy do nothing to bolster the case. In point of fact, they marginalize the older editions further into the fringe.

We'll see how this project goes.


  1. I am such a lucky man. Back in the sixties, my parish church was changing over from latin to english. Having a classical bent, I asked our old pastor what he was going to do with all of his old latin materials. He said he was going to throw them out, and I could have them if I wanted.

    I ended up with 2 altar Missalia Romana (one bound in red and one in black), from 1942 and 1949. Also, special altar missals for the Missa Defunctorum, for the Masses of Holy Week, and for the Mass of Holy Saturday. He even gave me his full set of breviaries, from Benziger Bros. in 1945. They all have pride of place now in my living room bookcase.

    He couldn't get rid of them fast enough.

    1. "I ended up with 2 altar Missalia Romana (one bound in red and one in black), from 1942 and 1949. Also, special altar missals for the Missa Defunctorum, for the Masses of Holy Week, and for the Mass of Holy Saturday. He even gave me his full set of breviaries, from Benziger Bros. in 1945."

      This is almost enough to make me audibly quote Ezra Pound's words to T.S. Elliot upon the publication of the Wasteland - "I am wracked with the seven envies"....almost...

  2. Could some American please explain to me what the fuss is about the so-called Roman Missal of 1954? WRT the proposed re-print in question I have serious difficulties with promoting it. I asked the publisher why they were not trying to get a 'purer' edition free say of Pacelli's 'Si diligis me' nonsense and was told that it would give the traditional propers of popes (some of those propers being ancient) along with the hot off the papal press edition. Why not simply re-publish the 1920 juxta typicam edition as an interim measure?

    1. Why not go back to the 1474 and not bother with the repressive Tridentine rubrics? Unless of course you prefer the 1570 rubrics.

    2. The publisher's effort is a noble one.

      I suspect his decision is largely driven by the market. Truth be told, the majority of interest in the pre-Novus Ordo liturgy is either SSPX or FSSP affiliated. The paradigm for the Latin liturgy bounces between 1962 and 1970. To expand the purview of interested parties beyond these two points is an uphill task. One has a better chance of cultivating interest with, say, 1954, than 1920. At the moment, it appears the people who would have an interest in the 1920 edition (and would have the cash to shell out) are an extremely limited subset of an already limited subset - those interested in the so-called pre-Vatican II liturgy. The FSSP isn't going to be sold on anything that implicitly rejects Signum magnum and Si diligis me. The SSPX has members who will occasionally use an older version with little reservation, however, by and large 1962 is the norm. Pre-1955 is an olive branch to the two largest groups that would be interested in the project, and, frankly, you have to start at a financially viable (relatively speaking) place if you're actually going to produce a physical book.

      This said, one can ask how far back is far enough. 1920 may well attest to more of the ancient tradition, however, there are those who would argue that the Roman liturgy was in a state of decomposition since Trent - meaning the 1920 edition isn't especially better. There are those who would go further and argue that any liturgy influenced by the abbreviations of the papal court (and spread by the Franciscans in the 13th century) is a degeneration of the Western liturgical tradition - again 1920 doesn't help us.

      I note all of this to provide some perspective. There is no consensus or authoritative proposition on how far back one should go. IF this project can get of the ground, THEN there might be enough practical interest to pursue the issue further and look at republishing a still older edition for actual liturgical use. I hate to sound cold, but it is all about demand generation.

    3. I find it disappointing that the largest of the "canonical" W R Orthodox Vicariates, Antiochian Archdiocese, celebrate the Tridentine Mass sans filioque and with the addition of an ascending epiklecis. They bungled their chance of reviving a truly Western Orthodox liturgy. I guess it could be worse, to my knowledge they have not, as yet, introduced "altar girls". Where the Greeks lead others will follow.

  3. Good Prior,

    The advantage of 1568/70 is that Libreria Editrice Vaticana re-published all the liturgical books in their 'MLCT' series. There are additional factors too such as the conformity of Missal and Office books and that the Kalendar in the Tridentine books has been balanced between the temporal and sanctoral cycles rather well. Of course the disadvantage is that 1474 has a better Holy Week relatively free of the seeds of its own destruction that the 1570MR contained. 1474 retains far more typographical similarities with Sarum etc and I would strongly agree that we should not forget that the rite of the Roman curia was a reformed version of the older Roman rite of the parish churches of Rome of which Sarum et al are descendants. Further to your comments on a previous post about your experience of celebrating pre-Pacelli and post-Pacelli Holy Week I would suggest you would note the same distinction of having the Laudate psalms at Tenebrae etc.


    Well yes, of course, there are 'market forces' at work but does that make an issue right or wrong? My experience is that the vast majority of 'traditionalists' are not really interested in Liturgy per se at all and that it is merely a convenient hook to hang other things upon. I certainly do not wish this particular project ill but feel they could be a tad more radical and try and consider that Pacelli was not necessarily one of the 'good' guys.