Brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things. (Phil 4:8).
These words in Philippians bring to mind a statement in Saint Paul’s Epistle to the Romans:
Do not be conformed to this world but be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Rom 12:2)
|A comparison of the Campion Missal (Solemn Mass section)|
and a popular daily missal
My intention is to praise this book as a book that, to an unusual degree, embodies exactly what Saint Paul says to the Philippians and the Romans—to such an extent, indeed, that it should grace the shelf of every Catholic layman, deacon, priest, and bishop, and fill the pews of every church and chapel privileged with at least the Sunday celebration of the traditional Latin Mass. I would add that no Catholic bookstore or gift shop should fail to stock this book.
Why are the reviews gushing with superlatives, exclamations, and imperatives for acquisition? Why all this enthusiasm, this (as it were) sober inebriation? After all, a book is just a book, one might think, and there are several missals already in print for the usus antiquior. What makes the Campion Missal special?
|A comparison of the Campion Missal (Low Mass section)|
and the familiar red booklet
In a world of video games and movies, sexual utilitarianism, flashy advertising and journalistic manipulation, people have a hard time understanding beauty pure and simple—beauty as a gift from God, to be welcomed and rejoiced in as part of our prayer of praise and thanksgiving to Him. The traditional Mass and sacramental rites and Divine Office are full of a transcendent spiritual beauty that brings deep joy and peace to a receptive soul, but obviously not without the participation of the body at every stage. It is precisely the aesthetic dimension, the sensuous appeal, that first captivates the mind and stirs the heart, leading the worshiper from shadows and images to mystery and truth, and back again, in an upward spiral. The external beauty of the traditional liturgy serves an evangelistic and catechetical role even as it prepares the way for a more profound internal experience of the Lord. The external and the internal are in harmony, as body and soul are created to be.
|The Campion Missal layout for the Propers of the Mass:|
here, Palm Sunday
The care for beauty in the Campion Missal extends to the smallest detail, and, far from being old-fashioned, has an adventurous side as well: Corpus Christi Watershed commissioned Kevin Allen, one of our most gifted composers of sacred music, to contribute several new hymn tunes for the book. Exquisitely crafted and eminently singable, with noble lyrics truly worthy of the liturgy, these new hymns stand as worthy heirs of the English hymn tradition brought to its peak by the likes of Ralph Vaughan Williams and Gustav Holst almost a century ago.
(A digression on hymns: if any reader is wondering whether the Campion Missal has enough hymns in it, this would be my response. There are 151 hymns in the book—a generous number in the context of the Extraordinary Form, where hymn-singing, though it finds a legitimate place, does not have nearly the prominence it does in many Ordinary Form situations. Nevertheless, to focus on the quantity of hymns is to miss a crucially important point. Like the Campion Missal’s chief editor Jeffrey Ostrowski, I have in my personal library a large collection of traditional hymnals from the 19th century to the present, and I have found, in scanning their pages, that it is rare indeed to find a hymnal from which a discerning music director could make use of even 50% of the pieces included. The rest are just too painfully sentimental or musically inept or textually vapid or all of the above. The genius of Ostrowski is that, drawing upon his good taste as a musician and his sound theology as a traditional Catholic, he has brought together 151 of the choicest hymns—the most singable and beloved, as well as lesser known or new hymns with soaring melodies and profound texts. Whereas most hymnals are like a flea market of good, bad, and indifferent, an Ostrowski hymnal is like a satchel of precious and semiprecious stones: every item is beautiful and apt for its purpose. Hence, I would rather have the 151 choiceworthy hymns of the Campion Missal and sing every single one, than sift through 400 hymns of wildly variable musical and textual quality in hopes that I can find enough to satisfy.)
|from the Low Mass section|
To read more about the Campion Missal, for more photographs, and for information on placing orders, go here.
A postscript: the Campion Missal is now in its second edition. The first edition had a very colorful cover and florid graphics in the center section. The second edition, while mostly the same, has a more “classic” look to it: the cover is a subdued slate gray, the Solemn Mass section more restrained and easier to follow. A handy ribbon has been added and a few typos were corrected. However, the pagination and contents of both editions are IDENTICAL in all other respects, so they are entirely compatible.