Wednesday, September 04, 2019

Worship Aids from the 1960s

Our friend Fr Hugh Somerville-Knapman, a monk of Douai Abbey in England and author of the blog Dominus mihi adjutor, has been doing some research in the abbey’s archives, and has come across a series of interesting items which he very graciously agreed to share with us. Most of these are advertisements printed in liturgical publications from the 1960s, which give some ominous hints of where things are going; there are a couple from a little earlier than that, and some other items which will be explained below. Normally, I would post these in strictly chronological order, but this first one... just had to be first.

From the August-September 1963 issue of “Worship”, an advertisement for a chausble in the “more meaningful conical pattern.” It’s all those extra wrinkles, they’re like special pockets for meaningfulness.

An insert in “Liturgy: The Quarterly of the Society of St Gregory”, from January of 1962. Sixty years of propaganda to the contrary notwithstanding, the idea of the “active participation” of the faithful was not invented at Vatican II; the purpose of this recording, as explained on the reverse side of the flyer, was to show that it was perfectly possible to teach the ordinary faithful to sing the Mass in Gregorian chant. The corollary of this is, of course, that it would simply be unthinkable to lower the music of the Sacred Liturgy to the (presumed) level of the faithful.

By January of 1968, however, “Liturgy” is advertising “songs of our day, in the folk-music of our times.” Yes, it sounds exactly like you would expect a song called “Joy is like the Rain” to sound...

Speaking of the presumed level of the faithful ... by the later ’60s, we are also learning how to discuss the liturgy with Young People™. “Highly illustrated in the latest catechetical styles! Brings the thinking of Vatican II to young people’s level!” (From the July 1967 issue of “Liturgy”. Not condescending at all...)

An ad in the July 1960 issue of “Liturgy.” Fr Hugh righly notes that “Publishers must have thought the Liturgical Movement was the goose that had laid the golden egg;” ironic, considering how many of them foundered after the Council.
Douai Abbey itself offered a variety of publications of its own to “help the people’s participation” in a variety of services, including the Divine Liturgy of St John Chryostom. Note the soon-to-become-unfashionable terminology in “reconciliation of a convert.”
Back to October of 1964: two competing versions of the Breviary in English. At this point, Sacrosanctum Concilium is less than a year old, and the operative presumption throughout the Church is that the liturgy which we are now or soon will be doing in the vernacular, wholly or in part, will still be the historical Roman Rite. Many publishers of liturgical books therefore produced large runs of these vernacular editions, which within a few short years were made unusable, and hence unsellable, by the tsunami of new changes soon to follow, and never recovered from the financial blow. (I was once told that a whole warehouse worth of vernacular missals and breviaries printed by Benzinger in the mid-60s was burnt, because it was cheaper to destroy them than pulp them, but I have never been able to verify this story. Perhaps a reader who knows more can leave a note in the combox.)

Back cover ads from the July 1964 edition of “Liturgy”; the French printing house Alfred Mame still offers the Breviary with either the old (Vulgate) or new (Bea) Psalter.
Going much further back, to October of 1945, the now-defunct Burns, Oates and Washburn announces in “Liturgy” that with the end of World War II, they are “beginning once again to re-establish the supply of the most essential prayer books.” This was the publishing firm that published Cardinal Newman’s works, among many others.
Difficult as this may be to believe, there was a time when the letter of Sacrosanctum Concilium and the other documents of Vatican II was taken seriously in the Church; and indeed, it was generally assumed that the reform of the liturgy would be implemented in accordance with what it actually said. Paragraph 35, 4 states “Bible services should be encouraged, especially on the vigils of the more solemn feasts, on some weekdays in Advent and Lent, and on Sundays and feast days.” The monks of Douai therefore produced a formal text for such services, of which we have a sample here, published in 1965. (For the record, the very next words of Sacrosanctum Concilium are as follows: “Particular law remaining in force, the use of the Latin language is to be preserved in the Latin rites.”)
Finally, a rather monograph by Fr John O’Connor, parish priest of St Cuthbert’s in Bradford, ca. 1925-35, in which he expounds on “Why Revive the Liturgy, and How?”, including the rather bizarre idea that neither Benediction nor the Divine Office itself should be counted as “public worship.”

More recent articles:

For more articles, see the NLM archives: