Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961: Part 7.1 - The Breviary Reforms of St. Pius X

We now turn our attention in our series on the reforms to the Roman breviary to that section which will have no doubt been the most anticipated of the entire series. Namely, to the breviary reforms pursued in the early 20th century by Pope Pius X.

For terms and their definitions, please see the associated Glossary which accompanies this compendium.

Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961

by Gregory DiPippo
for publication on the New Liturgical Movement

Part 7.1 - The Breviary Reforms of St. Pius X

As has already been mentioned earlier in this series, the last of the neo-Gallican rites was abolished in the year 1875, due in no small measure to the persuasion and passion of Dom Prosper Guéranger, who died in the same year. Although he had achieved one of his principal goals, the return of France to liturgical unity with the Church of Rome, the Liturgical Movement founded by him still had a great deal of work before it. In 1903, the Cardinal Patriarch of Venice , Giuseppe Sarto, was elected to the throne of St. Peter, taking the name Pius X. The last Pope to be canonized thus far was also the first who may be said to have truly shared the ideas of the Liturgical Movement. Prior to his election to the Papacy, he worked as a parish priest, as the spiritual director of a seminary, as a canon and as a bishop, first in Mantua, then in Venice. In all these roles, he was known for his encouragement of lay participation in church singing, and of lay education about the Sacred Liturgy. As Pope, he issued the famous motu proprio on sacred music, Tra le sollicitudini, and entrusted to the Benedictine Congregation of Solemnes, founded by Dom Guéranger, a complete reform of the official text of Gregorian chant.

These things may make it all the more surprising, therefore, that he also introduced into the Roman Rite one of the most characteristic features of the neo-Gallican breviaries: the near-complete re-ordering of the Psalter, and the extension of its use to the majority of Saints’ days. To understand why this change was made, the first substantial change to the Roman Breviary in nearly three centuries, we must first consider certain developments of the post-Tridentine period.

From St. Pius V to Leo XIII

In the Middle Ages, there was no idea of a General Calendar of Saints’ days to be observed universally. To be sure, there were many feasts which were observed universally, such as the principal feasts of Our Lady and the Apostles, the four great doctors of the Latin Church, and several of the more famous early martyrs and confessors. However, there was an enormous amount of local variation to calendars, which were regulated by local bishops and cathedral chapters with almost no direction from Rome. For this reason, one also finds some interesting gaps in medieval liturgical calendars, especially in regard to “new” Saints. The first Saint ever formally canonized by the Apostolic See, Ulric of Augsburg, was never celebrated with a feast day in Rome itself. Pope Gregory IX, who reigned from 1227 to 1241, canonized both St. Francis of Assisi and St. Dominic. Despite the tremendous importance of these two religious founders to the life of the later medieval Church, neither appears in the 1556 edition of the Sarum Breviary, or the 1501 Breviary of Bamberg, (to give just two examples); in many other places, they were kept as mere commemorations. The same Pope once called the great preacher and miracle worker Saint Anthony of Padua “the Ark of the Covenant” while the Saint himself was still alive, yet his feast is missing from many late medieval calendars, and indeed, is not included in the 1568 Roman Breviary.

The Use of Rome had already been adopted by the Franciscans at time of their foundation, and was spread by them far beyond the confines of the Pope’s diocese. The new orders of the Counter-Reformation era such as the Jesuits and Oratorians also followed the Roman Use, and it soon became the standard liturgical form for all new religious orders and congregations. The Pian reform of the Roman Breviary was also taken on by innumerable dioceses throughout Europe and the newly-evangelized Americas, creating a liturgical uniformity much greater than had been known before Trent . The Catholic Church of the Tridentine era was particularly concerned, of course, to lay greater emphasis on the cult of the Saints, which had been so thoroughly rejected by the Protestant Reformers, and to add to the ranks of the heavenly intercessors its own great heroes. Therefore, when Saints like Ignatius of Loyola and Philip Neri were canonized, their feasts were more or less universally and immediately adopted, unlike those of their great medieval predecessors.

The system of arranging Saints’ offices as established by Pope Saint Pius V remained unchanged until the reform of 1911. What did change however was the number of Saints on the Calendar, which increased dramatically over the three and a half centuries following the publication of the Pian liturgical books. This is very much an expression of the traditional Catholic devotion to the Saints, as crucial to the piety of the Counter-Reformation as it was to that of the Middle Ages. It cannot be denied, however, that the brevity of the Offices of the Saints, compared with that of the ferial and Sunday office, also played a role in this very notable rise in the number of feast days.

As has been noted earlier in this series, the Pian Breviary retained the medieval custom that on any feast day, the psalms of Sunday are said at Lauds in place of those of the feria. On feasts of double or semidouble rank (which includes all octaves), there are special psalms to be said at Matins and both Vespers, also in place of those of the feria. Consequently, the more Saints on the Calendar, the more of the Psalter is impeded; although the weekly recitation of the entire Psalter always remained the theoretical norm, in reality, it occurred only in the very rare week when there was no feast at all. The Breviary of 1568 also retained the common medieval custom by which the more important Saints’ feasts were allowed to take the place of common Sundays. This custom still exists to a very limited degree in the Roman Rite; this year, for example, the feast of All Saints will be celebrated on November 1 in place of the Office and Mass of Sunday in both forms of the Roman Rite.

On the general Calendar of 1568, there are only 137 double or semidouble Saint’s days, not including the movable feasts such as Easter and Corpus Christi. There are comparatively few double feasts; therefore, in the first full year of its use, 1569, only three of the common Sundays were impeded. All feasts of nine readings, double and semidouble, if they were impeded by a more important office, would be transferred to the next free day; in 1569, there were four such translations. However, it must always be born in mind that the general Calendar included only the basic feasts deemed important enough to be celebrated wherever the Roman Rite was in use; each diocese and religious order continued to supplement it with its own Saints, and to keep those of its particular patrons with octaves.

By the end of the 19th century, the number of Saints on both the general and local calendars had increased to such a point that ferial Offices and even common Sundays had become a rare exception. In the year 1900, when the number of doubles and semidoubles on the general Calendar had risen to 288, twenty-one of that year’s twenty-eight common Sundays were impeded by duplex feasts. The number of Saints was even greater on local Calendars. In a Franciscan Breviary published at Rome in 1829, the calendar has only eighteen free days; not a single one occurs between June 8th and October 29th. The translation of feasts had become so frequent and so complex that Pope Leo XIII decided in 1882 to impose a notable limitation on the practice; this was done, however, with the expressly stated purpose of keeping open places for the addition of even more feasts! (Batiffol, p. 300)

Some religious orders had also been granted the privilege of keeping all the feasts of their Patrons and formally canonized Saints with octaves; the Discalced Carmelites had fifteen proper octaves, in addition to the sixteen kept universally in the Roman Rite. The extreme example, the Dominicans, did not of course use the Pian Breviary; by 1900, they had added twenty-seven proper octaves, in varying degrees of solemnity, to the sixteen in general use, for a total of fourty-three. It must be noted, however, that the Dominican Calendar, like so many proper calendars, was filled with feasts to such a point that some of these octaves were themselves completely impeded by other feasts.

In addition, it had become a widespread custom to permanently assign certain major feasts to certain Sundays; thus, for example, the feast of the Holy Rosary was always kept on the first Sunday of the month of October. This was not (as is now the case in the Extraordinary Rite) an “external solemnity” for the benefit of the people; rather, the feast displaced the Sunday entirely in both the Office and the Mass. By 1911, there were eight feasts permanently assigned to Sundays on the general Calendar alone, but many more in various proper Calendars; a French missal printed right before the implementation of St. Pius X’s reform has, in the supplement “for certain places”, twenty different feasts assigned to particular Sundays.

Finally, there were also in many Breviaries votive offices of the Saints, corresponding to particular votive Masses. The Discalced Carmelites had votive offices for Our Lady and five major Carmelite Saints, with some restriction on how often they could be said. Among the Dominicans, certain votive offices were obligatory throughout the Order if a common feria occurred, and others were obligatory in various provinces or houses of study. In 1883, Pope Leo XIII granted to the entire Roman Rite a series of votive offices for each day of the week except Sunday. The rubrics specify that the ferial office must still be said on Ash Wednesday, Passiontide and the last seven days of Advent; that they needed to say this indicates how little importance was attached to the ferial office. By 1911, therefore, it was not merely possible, but probable that a priest might say a ferial office no more than handful of times during the year, and rarely if ever celebrate Mass in green vestments.

[In the second part of this section, we will continue with an analysis of the specific reforms of Pius X and a consideration of this reform.]

-- Copyright (c) Gregory DiPippo, 2009

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To read previous installments in this series, see: Compendium of the Reforms of the Roman Breviary, 1568-1961

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