Category Archives: Books

Good Intentions and Bad: Thoughts after Reading Alcuin Reid

I'm trapped in front of my computer while it slowly copies high-resolution photos for a web redesign. 

Liturgical week photo And I just finished reading Alcuin Reid's "The Organic Development of the Liturgy."  This book traces the liturgical movement from its late 19th/early 20th century beginnings to the opening of the Second Vatican Council. And I cannot recommend the book highly enough to lovers of recent church history.  (An additional pleasure: footnotes, not end notes requiring a second bookmark.)

Reading these accounts of cautious optimism, longings for improving liturgical piety, and the rising demand for a "pastoral approach" was similar to watching the beginning of a horror movie.  You already know from the previews that something hideous is going to come out of the lake and spoil everyone's innocent amusements.  

In this case, the liturgical historians, the prelates and priests, the musicians (given rather short shrift here), and the activists all believe in their projects.  Some hope to reform the laity and clergy to an appreciation of the rites, allowing for some modification of repetitions and overlapping calendars.  Others begin to have bigger dreams of making the liturgy match the man of the modern secular age, at which point a new dawn would break. No one seems to have foreseen the chaos that followed.

Reid's judgments are careful and well-thought-out.  My only wish:  some photos of the main players.  And now my disc is done copying.

Ah, here is a great exhibit at St. Mary of the Lake in Chicago – good text and photos of most of the key American players in the 20th century movement.  With the saints…

Sing Like a Catholic

Sing like a catholic This delightful collection of essays by Jeffrey Tucker is an excellent (and painless) way to learn about the role of chant and polyphony in both the historical and contemporary Roman Catholic Church.  History, failures, triumphs, the ups and downs of textual translation, and the unintended consequences of copyright law weave in and out of these ruminations.  And Mr. Tucker never minces his words.

It's a wonderful book to keep nearby for odd moments when your will to work for better music and art in the Church flags.  Read an essay, flex your musical and spiritual muscles, and plunge back into the fray.

And proceeds from its sale help fund scholarships to the annual CMAA Sacred Music Colloquium in Chicago this June.  A week of musical heaven. 

Enough already!  Just buy the book.

Lady Flower – from the Benedictines of Holy Trinity Monastery, East Hendred, Oxfordshire

This splendid digital book of poems in honor of Our Lady is a gift from this tiny monastery of nuns. It's a bit tricky to navigate at first, but worth your time. Click on "open publication" and then you can take it to a full-page view to enjoy the text and typography.  And after Easter, you might want to thank the nuns with a donation.

Guardini on Thursday – the heart and the mind

  Guardini in rothenfels Bite-sized bits from The Spirit of the Liturgy, delivered once a weekfor your consideration.  Remember – this is the book that then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger named his Spirit of the Liturgy after.  Hmmmm.

"This [referring to previous emphasis on the role of thought] is not, of course, an attempt to deny that the heart and the emotions play an important art in the life of prayer.  Prayer is, without a doubt, 'a raising of the heart to God.' But the heart must be guided, supported, and purified by the mind." (From Chapter 1, "The Prayer of the Liturgy," emphasis added)

Guardini on Thursday (but posted on Friday)

Guardini2 From Romano Guardini's The Spirit of the Liturgy:

"The prayers of the liturgy are entirely governed by and interwoven with dogma.  Those who are unfamiliar with liturgical prayer often regard them as theological formulae, artistic and didactic, until on closer acquaintance they suddenly perceive and admit that the clear-cut, lucidly constructed phrases are full of interior enlightenment."  (From Chapter 1, "The Prayer of the Liturgy.")

Admittedly, this was more the case with the pre-Vatican II liturgy.  However, a trip to "What Does the Prayer Really Say" will help the thoughtful overcome the vicissitudes of translation and truncation.

Instructing the Ignorant – or it’s not about us, part 538

I believe this is one of the spiritual works of mercy.  And Heaven knows, spiritual ignorance seems to be abounding some days.

I made the mistake of reading a bulletin insert this morning.  (Yes, I know I have only myself to blame for that.)  The featurette was "What do you get out of Mass?"  The answers included the multiplier effect of praying in a group – "Jesus gives special attention to prayers that are shared."  Similar to early boarding for frequent fliers?

More importantly (it seemed to the writer): "A fresh start each week.  Before Mass, think about something in your life you'd like to change.  Then look for an idea in the Mass that will help – and there will always be at least one…." Yes, the Mass exists for my self-improvement.  That little "me time" we all need.

The wrap-up was "Take your rightful place with Jesus. As a baptized Catholic, you have the right and power to be part of the Body of Christ."  Yes, that's true; but, here again – it's all about me. 

Worship?  Adoration?  Thanksgiving?  Sacrifice?  If you know someone who needs help with these concepts, especially at Mass, get them one of  Michael Dubruiel's excellent books on the Mass. The How-To Book of the Mass or How To Get the Most Out of the Eucharist  will help folks who are there on Sundays without a clue as to what's going on. Just give it to them for Lenten reading or leave it on their coffee table when they're in the kitchen.  You will have performed a spiritual work of mercy.  And if you buy before the end of February, Michael's share of the proceeds will go into his children's college fund.  A great way to remember a man who was devoted to the real meaning and importance of our greatest treasure – the Mass.

Guardini on Thursday

Guardini2 This week's installment from The Spirit of the Liturgy by Romano Guardini is very short but worthy of extended contemplation. So I'll let it stand alone.   

"The first and most important lesson which the liturgy has to teach is that the prayer of a corporate body must be sustained by thought."  (From Chapter 1, "The Prayer of the Liturgy)

Aquinas and More

Shop for thousands of Catholic gifts at


Yes, I've added a sidebar link to this online seller.  And you may have noticed, or may not care, that I don't have lots of these links.  Of course, I sell my own recordings – that's a given.

Why Aquinas and More?  Well, for one thing, they asked and they noticed I'd linked to them.  I like people who market their services. 

Second point – I like their products.  They're the distributors of the most excellent Parish Book of Chant and some fine music, including the chant from St. Michael's Abbey.

Third, I wouldn't mind making a nickel or two along the way to pay for my hosting fees.

So shop from here – and we'll all be better off.