If you do not like books, you are bound to be bored here. If you are indifferent to liturgical books, you are likely to yawn a little. If books and liturgical history fascinate you, even if presented in a fairly superficial and fleeting way—then read on Macduff.
A monastic friend has asked if we have copies of an old liturgical book. I endeavoured to track down our stash of them, seen years ago in a now-reformed part of the monastery. They must have been moved somewhere else, right?
As yet there is no sign of them. Perhaps they were moved without not within the monastery. However, along the way I discovered a small (St) Aladdin’s cave of liturgical and monastic incunabula (I use the term loosely of course 👨🏻🎓). Some of you may be interested to see some of the things that cupboard held.
I will start with the purely monastic rather than the liturgical.
First to hand is one of multiple copies of unbound, unused (ie the pages are uncut) monastic rituals for the use of the “Black Monks of St Benedict, English Congregation,” published in 1911 by Desclée. It contains such things no longer perceived useful, such as the form for a papal blessing and an appendix with music, inter alia, for receiving the clerical tonsure. With the pages uncut I cannot delve too deeply as yet.
Also in multiple unused copies, though this time nicely printed and bound at Stanbrook, are monastic rituals for the EBC from 1960. The appendices are rationalized compared to 1911, but you will overjoyed to know that the music for the receiving of the clerical tonsure survives.
Then, from 1933 and again at Stanbrook, are multiple and fine copies in softcover of Dom Basil Whelan’s Lists of Priors, Generals and Provincials etc (though it is his Annals of the EBC you really want to read—I believe it is no longer suppressed!)
More multiple and fine copies emerged, this time of a work unknown to me, Dom Justin McCann’s paperbound survey of the EBC missions that had been served by our monks up to 1940, published not by Stanbrook but by the Alden Press, Oxford.
Again from the Alden Press, 1936 this time, is the 1931 revision of the EBC Constitutions with an undated later insert detailing the changes since 1931.
From Stanbrook’s Press in 1931 comes a Latin paperbound edition of the Rule of St Benedict, containing also the Constitutions, Decrees and Formularies (all in Latin, naturally).
From the Cambridge University Press in 1910 there are multiple uncut paperbound copies of the seminal papal bulls governing the EBC, with parallel English translations.
From 1912 are several larger paperbound and (some) uncut copies of the Bullarium, which contains all the papal bulls and rescripts directed to the EBC up to that date, printed in Latin at Fort Augustus.
Lastly for today, and to whet your liturgical appetites, is this altar edition of Masses for the Dead, inscribed as being used at St Benedict’s altar (ie, the abbot’s altar), printed in Italy in 1954. Though thin, obviously, it is altar-sized, with tabs and ribbons, and its binding showed that for the decade until its supercession it was well used by Abbot Mooney.
If you are not too bored by books (which alliterative phrase I shuddered to type) then further a sample of what I uncovered would cover another post or two. They are not of merely antiquarian interest, but illustrate something of recent liturgical and monastic history, and for some (maybe many) they offer glimpses of what we have so recently left behind of our ancient tradition.
The next instalment will get more liturgical though still with the odd dose of the monastic. It was quite a cupboard or two. A teaser for next time…