Monday, January 02, 2017

Book Review: Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Vol. I by Jeffrey Collins

This post is actually a few years late. Full disclosure: Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Volume I by Jeffrey Collins is a book I've had dealings with since its inception, throughout the writing of its and its five editions. Jeff Collins, a Jersey City resident, is an old friend, former student of ceremonial, and longtime advocate of making the traditional rites more accessible to those who have interest in its revival, but see this as a daunting task. Full disclosure II: I appear in the cover photo and am one of the two people to whom Collins dedicated the book.

Given this writer’s proximity to the book’s production, one is free to take what I am about to write and mark it up to friendship.
In short, Jeffrey Collins has made the daunting simple, the seemingly overwhelming easy.
For those trying to begin celebration of the Extraordinary Form, attempting to clear the hurdles of Fortescue’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described in any of its editions can be confusing. The same is true for any of the other commentators. Written during a time when the rites of Mass were still the norm, there is a sense of the reader being familiar with what is being described. It was what the readers of the era in which these books were published would have known.
In the intervening years since the indults of St John Paul II and Summorum Pontificum, many of those who are interested, be they cleric or layman, have neither a nodding acquaintance with the rites, nor their terms. Collins more than any other commentator has attempted to assume no knowledge, and make the descriptions and directions easy to read and, more importantly, easy to follow.
With a primary emphasis on the rubrics as they appeared in 1962, the book goes through the various rites of Mass and gives the reader an easy understanding of what to do and when to do it.  It does acknowledge some pre-1962 usages like the so-called “Second Confiteor” that are followed in some places, but focuses on the 1962 missal.
Where some commentators get bogged down in description, Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Volume I keeps the description simple.
Going through the ceremonies of Low Mass, Missa Cantata and Solemn Mass, as well as the ceremonies of Holy Week, the volume tells the celebrant and ministers what they must do and when, in simple terms, while keeping the integrity of the action.
Over the past year or so, I have been asked by those attempting to train servers or clergy, including at least one seminary, what is the simplest book out there for the novice. This book is the one. When NLM’s Peter Kwasniewski asked me what to use at Wyoming Catholic College, I recommended Collins’ book. Peter has told me he refers to the book often and finds it “easier to use than some of the others out there.”
Roman Catholic Ceremonial: Volume I is a must-have for the novice or the experienced Master of Ceremonies or cleric. It has an easy index, and directions for the altar chants used by the ministers during Mass.
A second volume on episcopal ceremonies is in the works, and if Volume I is any indication it will be a great book for any sacristy. 

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