By the Right Reverend Dom Fernand Cabrol
Abbot of Farnborough Abbey



The rite of Lyon.--The Carthusians.--Benedictine liturgy.--Cistercians,-- Carmelites.--Dominicans.--Franciscans.-- Praemonstratensians.--The Roman liturgy in England.

If a special place has been given in these chapters to the Roman Mass, it is not only because this liturgy is that of the whole Latin church with the few exceptions mentioned; it is also because it is the most ancient of all, or at least that about which exist the most ancient and numerous documents. Again, it appears incontestable that the Roman liturgy excels all others in its dogmatic authority, and even in its literary beauty.

If the Mozarabic, Gallican, and Eastern liturgies show a trace of lyrical inspiration; if they are more dramatic in character, more fervent in piety than that of Rome; if this latter has perhaps less originality and brilliance, it makes up for it by the possession of qualities which are those of the Roman genius; those which strike us in the architectural monuments of Rome: solidity, grandeur, strength, and a simplicity which excludes neither nobility nor elegance.

This remark is especially deserved by the ancient Roman liturgy of the fifth-seventh centuries, for this was its Golden Age. Two hundred years after the time of St. Gregory, in the ninth century, the scepter had passed to other lands: to France, England, Switzerland, Germany, and Spain. It was in those countries that liturgical initiative was found, that new Feasts and fresh rites were created, new formulas composed, a more rational system instituted for the distribution of liturgical books, as well as fresh technical methods of decorating and illuminating them. In consequence of political circumstances Rome was about to lose all she had gained as to the liturgy; and it was not for two or three hundred years that she would recover her scepter.

But by a rather curious stroke of fortune all the new customs originated in the countries just mentioned came back to Rome. They returned there under the covers of the Missal, the Pontifical, Ritual, Breviary, and those other books called Roman, but which are really and more justly Gallicano or Germano-Roman. And, from the eleventh century onwards, Rome got back all her advantages. The reawakening of her liturgical activity was manifested by the efforts of Pope Alexander II (1061-1073), and later by those of St. Gregory VII (1073-1085) to establish the Roman liturgy in Spain instead of the Mozarabic. This episode is instructive; the latter Pope in his letters on this subject to the Kings of Aragon, Castile, and Navarre reminds them energetically of the Papal right to the charge of Divine worship, and also to that of establishing the Roman liturgy in all Catholic countries, especially in Spain.

Another indication of the supremacy of the Roman liturgy is that it was adopted by the new Orders, Carthusians, Praemonstratensians, Dominicans, Franciscans, and even by the Carmelites, who had an ancient liturgy of their own; and very soon all these Orders were to become active agents for its spread through all the countries of the West; not, however, without having occasionally modified it. In this great work the Franciscans played the most important part.

The Roman Curia, which until then had celebrated the same Offices as those of the Roman Basilicas, notably of that of the Lateran, which was the cathedral church of Rome, and considered the mother and mistress of all churches, separated itself from these at the beginning of the twelfth century, and fixed its own Office for the Breviary. The substance of this Breviary was actually that of the Lateran, but it differed on several points, and, above all, it was very much abridged. The same thing happened in the case of the Missal. The subsequent history of these books is rather curious. Innocent III (1198-1206) revised them. In 1223 St. Francis of Assisi ordained that the Franciscans should henceforth adopt the Roman Office; for hitherto they had simply followed the Office of whatever province they had chanced to find themselves in. This was a means of establishing amongst the Friars Minor that liturgical unity which had previously suffered a great deal. But the liturgy they adopted both for Mass and Office was neither that of the Lateran nor of the Roman Basilicas, but actually that of the Roman Curia, established at the beginning of the twelfth century. This fact was big with consequences for the future. The activity of the Franciscans at that time was prodigious; and in all the countries through which they passed as missionaries they established this use of the Missal and Breviary which they themselves followed; though they slightly modified it, especially in the case of the Franciscan Feasts. In 1277 Nicolas III ordered it to be used by the Roman Basilicas; Gregory IX, from the year 1240, had thought of imposing it on the Universal Church; but that important duty devolved on St. Pius V (1566-1572). In the sixteenth century the Council of Trent, having declared that the liturgical books required revision, confided the task to the Pope, who undertook a work at once difficult and complicated. In 1568 the correction of the Breviary was completed; in 1570, that of the Missal. Every church which could not prove a local use of at least two hundred years was obliged to adopt the Breviary and the Roman Missal.

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FRANCISCANS.--It has been already explained how the Franciscans adopted the liturgy which was that of the Roman Curia at the opening of the thirteenth century. To this they added certain special uses, beginning with the Feasts of the Saints of their Order: St. Francis first; then St. Clare; St. Anthony of Padua; St. Louis, King of France; the Stigmata of St. Francis; St. Elizabeth of Hungary; St. Paschal Baylon; St. Bonaventure. Some of the Feasts of Our Lord and of Our Lady owe, if not their actual institution, at least their speedy popularity to the Franciscans. Such are the Holy Name of Jesus, the Immaculate Conception, the Visitation, and the Presentation. Each Religious Order, each diocese has its own Feasts, its own Patrons, which they celebrate with great solemnity; they are the "Proper," as it is called, of the diocese or Order.

What should be particularly noted about the Franciscans is that, having adopted the liturgy of the Roman Curia, they made a "second edition of it," as Mgr. Batiffol remarks; and this was almost the same as that imposed upon the whole Church for Breviary and Missal by St. Pius V.