Wednesday, August 06, 2008

NLM Interview with Dr. Alcuin Reid on Fr. Adrian Fortescue and the Upcoming New Edition of the Ceremonies

The NLM recently undertook a discussion with Dr. Alcuin Reid on the subject of the new edition of the Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described which is due to be released in upcoming months. It was also an opportunity to speak about Fr. Adrian Fortescue himself. Here is that interview.

What can you tell us about Fr. Adrian Fortescue on a personal level?

Perhaps the best summation of Adrian Fortescue as a person was made by his brother priest, Dr John Vance, in the latter’s Adrian Fortescue: A Memoir, written shortly after Fortescue’s death. Vance describes him as “one of the most distinguished, chivalrous and lovable of men.” This, of course, followed his untimely death from cancer at the age of 49 when this true polyglot, the holder of a triple doctorate, master of numerous languages (ancient, modern, western and eastern), composer and artist and author of numerous books articles and pamphlets, left his many friends and admirers and above all his parishioners in the small parish of St Hugh, Letchworth, bereft of his gentil and somewhat eccentric personality. Fortescue was passionate in all his endeavours and seemed to relish any opportunity to teach or defend the Faith. That he never spared himself in meeting the many demands made upon him perhaps accounts for his early death.

How have you come to know all this about Fortescue?

I have been fascinated by him for years and have privately been researching archives and other relevant sources for his correspondence and other information on him for over a decade. It was a great joy to share this interest with the late Michael Davies. When Michael was diagnosed with cancer he asked if I would accept his own Fortescue archive – which included a number of Fortescue’s watercolours, sketches and musical compositions – as a bequest, a duty which I sadly had to accept about a year later. It is my hope – as a tribute to Michael and in order to share the riches of Fortescue’s character – one day to produce a substantial biography of him.

Can you tell us a little background about how Adrian Fortescue took on this project of The Ceremonies of the Roman rite?

Fortescue largely paid for the running of his parish through his own money. During the First World War he was asked by the publisher Burns & Oates to prepare a ceremonial manual that would take the place of Dale & Baldeschi’s Ceremonial According to the Roman Rite. They asked him because he had written The Mass which was an historical study. Fortescue accepted – as he later wrote “turpis lucri gratia” for the love of sordid money! – because it was wartime and he needed money to run his parish.

In your preface to the fourteenth edition Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, you relate a humorous quote by Fortescue which might not have been the sort you'd expect from an expert ceremonialist. Can you share with us that quote and tell us a little bit about what this says about Adrian Fortescue and his approach to the ceremonial of the Church?

There are a couple of things to say about this. Firstly, Fortescue never saw himself as a ceremonialist. A theologian, an historian, yes, but not a ceremonialist. This explains the indignation he expressed at the work involved in Ceremonies: “Conceive a man, said to be made in the image and likeness of God, spending his time over that kind of thing”! He also had little time for what we would call fanatical rubricism, and some of his private correspondence – which is always deliciously to the point – rails against the innumerable requests he gets from people asking him to do days of what he indignantly refers to as “free research” on matters of ceremonial trivia. But that isn’t to say Fortescue didn’t care about the Sacred Liturgy or indeed give its celebration the necessary care and attention. Quite the contrary! His church was resplendent with the best he could afford, the vestments and vessels emanated from the arts and crafts school, his choir was carefully trained and sang at Mass and Vespers weekly. A look at his parish accounts shows that the major expense of his parish year in and year out was the Sacred Liturgy. Fortescue was no ceremonialist, but he was a pioneer of the Liturgical Movement in a small English rural parish.

Why are you preparing a new edition of Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described?

In the first place, Summorum Pontificum has meant that the fourteenth edition is now or very soon will be out of print, and there is certainly a continuing demand for the book. Secondly, with a book like this there are always corrections to be made, parts that need to be expanded or re-written, and indeed elements that can be added. In the forthcoming edition, a short chapter on the music of solemn and sung Mass will be included.

With the promulgation of the motu proprio, Summorum Pontificum, Benedict XVI seems to have introduced the possibility for some minor developments within the 1962 Missale Romanum -- such as the option to have the Epistle and Gospel proclaimed directly in the vernacular -- which we are waiting to hear clarified by the Ecclesia Dei commission. Can we expect to see a new edition of the Ceremonies of the Roman Rite that will reflect these developments and clarifications?

The only alteration made by Summorum Pontificum to the rite is, as you say, the possibility of using vernacular readings. Certainly that will be mentioned. If possible the text of the much-awaited Instruction will be incorporated into the next edition, but I very much doubt that it will make any ceremonial alterations to the Usus Antiquior. I expect that it will principally deal with the interpretation of Summorum Pontificum as legislation: i.e. clarifying the power (or lack of it) of bishops to limit its celebration. But if there are ceremonial modifications, they will be included.

Would you welcome suggestions for the new edition?

Yes, corrections and suggestions are very welcome and I would be happy for anyone to forward them to me through the New Liturgical Movement. I must add, though, as anyone who has ever checked the sources of ceremonial will know, it takes an enormous amount of research (into the Ceremoniale Episcoporum, the Missale Romanum, the other liturgical books, the decisions of the Sacred Congregation for Rites, other ceremonial authors &c.) to ensure that you have covered ‘all bases’ as it were. I would ask that, if possible, people do this before they send what they think are corrections, as I must admit, with Fortescue, some correspondence one gets on these matters can be less than well informed and eat up enormous amounts of time because people have not done their own preliminary research. But certainly, serious suggestions and obvious corrections are very welcome and I will be happy to acknowledge the people whose assistance I use. Suggestions from priests who celebrate the more ancient rites would be particularly welcome.

When do you expect that the new edition will appear?

The publisher (Burns & Oates/Continuum) here in England currently says October. I think that is ambitious. I am hoping that it will be available by January 2009.

Fortescue wrote other books other than the Ceremonies of the Roman Rite, including many on the Eastern Churches, can you tell us a little bit about those aspects of Fortescue's work?

As I said, he was a great Catholic apologist and teacher, and indeed did much to promote knowledge of the Christian East amongst Western Catholics. Ignatius Press has recently published The Greek Fathers in which Fortescue provides delightful and insightful introductions to seven of the most important Greek Fathers of the third to eighth century. It is great reading and a real primer in Church history and theology. They’ve also just released my new edition of Fortescue’s The Early Papacy which was originally a series of articles debating the papacy with Anglicans in the columns of The Tablet. This latest edition preserves all of Fortescue’s scholarship and wit whilst seeking to render it useful for apologetics today – especially when there are still plenty of people who do not think the Pope is a fundamental tenet of the Christian faith. Fortescue’s other books are gradually being reprinted also – not bad for someone who died over eighty years ago. His works have much to offer us still.

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