Thursday, August 24, 2006

DVD of Pontifical Mass at St. Eugene, Paris, France

DVD Review: Messe Pontificale de la Sainte Cecile (Pontifical Mass of St. Cecilia). A Tridentine Mass celebrated on the 22nd of November, 2003, in the Parish of St. Eugene - St. Cecilia by Cardinal Medina Estevez

It is not a great secret that I've seen quite a number of liturgy videos in my day. At times I have stated the merits of this or of that video. At times as well I have been asked, what video is the best one in which to show the beauty of the classical Roman liturgy? Of course, that is a tough question to answer because there are many forms and styles in which the classical Roman liturgy can be ornamented, whether it be orchestral like liturgies, monastic liturgy, or typical parish Mass.

When I recently became aware of the DVD in question, I was quite interested in it for a few reasons. One was for the reason that it was a part of the CIEL 2003 conference held in Paris, France. Opening the written form of the 2003 proceedings (only recently printed) and seeing a photograph of the glorious liturgy held in the stunning parish of St. Eugene in France was enough to capture my attention. When I learnt that a DVD of this liturgy had been made, I felt that it could not be passed up.

I wasn't disappointed.

It was hard for me to imagine a video which would replace as my favourite the one recorded in Britain in 1986, at St. Mary of the Virgin parish, with all of its qualities, its setting, the music, the vestments, and everything else. But I will have to say in all honesty, it has been done. I have seen many Tridentine Mass videos, many reform of the reform videos, but that English video was always, for me, above and beyond the others. However, this video for certain rivals it, and possibly surpasses it.

The setting is nothing short of glorious. The colour and the detail in this well preserved parish church of St. Eugene is something else and reminds me of a church designed by AWN Pugin for its detail and decorum. Indeed, a parish church like this rivals in its colour and iconography the churches of the Christian East which are often thought to have "cornered the market" when it comes to this level of colour and beauty. The liturgy, while needing some prompting from the Master of Ceremonies (as it usually the case!) is well executed all said. The music may not be a professional recording, but it is also quite edifying indeed, and includes a male-female choir split, who sing Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony quite well.

For those of us in North America and the English speaking world generally, this DVD gives us a wonderful glimpse of the glories of Catholic liturgy and culture as it may have been through a Catholic Europe.

The DVD does come from France and so it is in European PAL format (rather than North American NTSC), however, I had no trouble whatsoever playing the DVD on my computer system's DVD drive. I should also imagine that a number of the newer DVD units may also not have any trouble.

Whether or not you speak French will be of little consequence in terms of the Pontifical liturgy itself -- one of the beauties of the universality of Latin rite. However, if you do manage to speak from French, the DVD also includes a version of the liturgy which has a commentary if you so desire it, as well as a section with Cardinal Medina Estevez outside of the liturgy.

The DVD is quite reasonably priced at 20 Euros (around $26 USD) and can be ordered from:

As it is true that a picture can say much more than words, I took the liberty of capturing some screen shots from the DVD of the liturgy. You should know that the video quality is much higher, of course, than the screen capture quality of the pictures you see here. This was a professionally recorded DVD which includes multiple camera angles and some very well placed cameras which add to the sense of the liturgy you will experience if you purchase this DVD -- which I would heartily recommend.

For now, however, enjoy these few photos, put up in no particular order.

To order this DVD, visit

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