Rorate Caeli

Review of New Edition of Dom Gaspar Lefebvre's "Catholic Liturgy: Its Fundamental Principles"

Review of the new and expanded edition of Dom Gaspar Lefebvre, OSB's "Catholic Liturgy: Its Fundamental Principles" (Romanitas Press, 2022).

Romanitas Press is to be commended for a painstaking and handsome new edition of an old classic from the healthy phase of the Liturgical Movement. Surely, the author, Dom Lefebvre (a cousin of the great archbishop), should be foreign to no one. He was responsible for some of the best hand missals available in many languages. Trads today will be familiar with the St. Andrew's Daily Missal (the 1948 edition of which is still in print!), in which the excellent commentaries are Lefebvre's work. This has always been my missal of choice, not least because it's pre-55.

Dom Lefebvre's goal is rather ambitious: he wants to write a pithy introduction to the entirety of the Liturgy. As a Benedictine, he knows how to do pithy. The Table of Contents shows us his plan, which is very theological: he starts with what the Liturgy is "in se," namely, the Church's adoration of the Holy Trinity: to the Father, in the Son, through the Holy Ghost (as the priest prays at the end of the Roman Canon). Central then is the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass; its concomitant and consequence, Holy Communion; the other Sacraments; then the Sacramentals, and the Divine Office. Then the author turns to the place of Christ, Mary, the Angels, and the Saints in the Liturgy: these are very beautiful chapters. Relevant to recent discussions is a chapter entitled "Mental Prayer and the Liturgy" where Dom Lefebvre offers a balanced and insightful perspective. Other topics are taken up, as you will see from the photo.

The book features the immediately recognizable artwork of one of the Liturgical Movement's best graphic artists, René De Cramer (1876-1951), and a new Introduction by Fr. Thomas Kocik, who wrote the famous NLM 2014 article "Reforming the Irreformable?" in which the ROTR was pronounced dead. (Looking back now, that article seems almost tame; but it was a necessary breakthrough and breakaway from the Sisyphean labors of Adoremus, Fessio, et al. They keep on rolling up the beastly old boulder, without seeming to notice they have been abandoned by nearly everyone.)

The book has been newly typeset with great care and is pleasing not only in content but also in appearance, which, as a booklover, I appreciate. This work would serve as a perfect "textbook" on the Liturgy for advanced homeschool students, for university students seeking to get an education they will never find in a modern classroom, for seminarians, clergy, religious, and interested laymen.

In his preface and in occasional bracketed notes, the editor of this new edition makes sure that we know his personal preference for the 1962 missal and the various reforms of Pius XII; but this minor distraction does not mar the conspicuous quality of the work.

I give "Catholic Liturgy: Its Fundamental Principles" my highest recommendation.

***Please note that Romanitas Press does not use Amazon for distribution. If you are interested in picking up a copy of the book, go directly to the publisher's website: