14 July 2017

O'Connell

I am glad that Alcuin Reid gave new life to The Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, and, moreover, that a new edition was called for. But that highly valuable book is not the only thing O'Connell did. I have before me the 1942 edition of his three volume The Celebration of Mass. (I believe the 1962 one-volume edition has been reproduced. But my own preference is for manuals antedating entirely the long process of fiddling which was inaugurated by Pius XII.)

TCOM contains a wealth of information about how traditional Western Liturgy was done. It brings back for me memories of Mass-practices in 1967 at S Stephen's House under Derek Allen ... the gentle way he checked whether we really had learned off by heart the texts (Suscipe ...) you need to do from memory. I recall one such occasion when I was doing my best not to trip over my new cassock, fresh from Wolverhampton ... what a great day it was when Noel Vasey brought our new cassocks ... invariably, in accordance with the Staggers tradition, with 39 buttons down the front in honour of the XXXIX Articles, so that one could sew the Canon of Scripture or the Royal Supremacy back on when it became loose ...

I said Oremus at the foot of the Altar and set off towards it saying the Aufer a nobis only to be stopped dead in my tracks with "No; you start off with your right foot".We learned arcane mysteries such as the need, when the rubrics say extensis manibus to hold the hands strictly facing each other so that the Sacerdotal Energies would bounce back and forth from palm to palm until, at the Hanc igitur, one brought them down in full force upon the elements. None of this modern rubbish about waving ones hands around in the vicinity of ones ears.

Little did we all know that, in 1967, we were the very last generation to be taught the old Mass as a matter of course at seminary ... until the happy days of Revival arrived.

TCOM has extensive sections on the role of custom in liturgical law. It is of some interest in as far as it rebuts the notion, entertained both by friends and enemies of the Old Rite, that it was a matter of rigid and inflexible rules. On the contrary; O'Connell explained how customs praeter and even contra legem could acquire by custom the force of law, and had indeed done so in SCR decisions.

By the generosity of a reader, I have a fair bit of JBO'C's library. Another friend has told me that, in old age, he would attend the Capitular Mass at Prinknash, kneeling in choir and saying his rosary.

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