Thursday, November 13, 2008

Magnificat: The Monthly and An Interview

The publication Magnificat has been around the parish for some years and many people carry it to daily Mass, and friends have extolled its virtues, but I only recently decided to take a closer look.

I was suddenly overwhelmed at what a remarkable little publication this is. If there is anything so useful and aesthetically pleasing that brings into private life the Catholic sense of the passage of time and its integration with prayer, I'm not aware of it.

It is a pocket-size, perfectly bound volume that beautiful in every way we can possibly use that term. The cover art is gorgeous. The printing is classic, in two color. From an editorial point of view, it is expertly done. It contains no distractions like advertisements, promo hypes, and credits and the like. It is pure and clean and tidy, all of it designed as a aid to prayer.

So what is it? It is a guide to daily prayer for Catholics that follows the liturgical calendar of the year. It has the ordo for Mass in the ordinary form, plus all the readings for daily Mass, but the real value added are the morning and evening prayers for each day, modeled on the Liturgy of the Hours. The Liturgy of the Hours has played a huge role in Catholic history but for reasons that are a bit unclear to me, its presence has dramatically diminished for lay people.

This is the only book I know of that makes it convenient for regular Catholics in the course of their daily lives to make use of the Liturgy of the Hours, without having to acquire expensive books and take a tutorial.

The music that is printed here is deeply traditional in the right way we used that term. They are early medieval office hymns and Marian antiphons, and they are shown in neumes that the Church uses for the main line of its liturgical music books. This advantage here is that we are reminded that liturgical music is unlike every other kind of music.

From an editorial point of view, I especially appreciate their selections of meditations because they are chosen from Church Fathers and writings of the saints -- and they are short so that you can read them in just a few minutes.

We all know people who have fallen away from the faith but this can sometimes put us in an awkward position: one wants to help but one is not always clear how. This strikes me as a great idea: give a gift subscription to Magnificat. Maybe the first month or two, the person won't use it but there is no way this is going in the trash. After a while, the person might just pick it up and payer the morning prayer or the evening prayer or read a meditation. I can easily see how this publication could draw someone back to the Church, not through loud apologetics but through contemplative prayer.

I was curious about the organization that puts it out. I went to their site and watched last month's sponsored Mass celebrated by Cardinal Sean in Boston. There was the Benedictine altar arrangement, and real liturgical knowledge behind the music selections: chant English antiphon for entrance, for example.

The director of communications, Paul Snatzhko, was gracious enough to grant me an interview and during this I learned that Magnificat has a circulation beyond anything I had imagined: something approximating a quarter of a million. Try to imagine what this means for the future.

Here is the interview
, and I must apologize in advance for dropping some of Paul's words on the meditation--you will notice a skip here--and also for the mixed quality of the interview. I started playing with the sound more than I should have, rejecting my usual intuition that the less I do to audio files, the better they sound. Anyway, it lasts about 15 minutes.

You can subscribe here.

(P.S. I don't need to add this but in case this sounds like a paid promotion, it is not. Neither I nor anyone at NLM or CMAA etc. etc. has any fiduciary interest here. This is just about drawing your attention to excellent resources.)