Sunday, November 03, 2013

Book Review: The Church Visible

"I will go in unto the Altar of God
To God, Who giveth joy to my youth"

Tridentine Community News (November 3, 2013):
Have you ever wondered how matters of protocol work in the Church? For example, at the Vatican, one often sees the Holy Father surrounded by Cardinals and Bishops, standing or seated in a U-shape. Is there a certain order to how these prelates are arranged? At the local level, when there are liturgical processions with visiting prelates, or when the Knights of Columbus assist at a Mass, are there guidelines to the ceremonies?

The answers are found in the book, The Church Visible: The Ceremonial Life and Protocol of the Roman Catholic Church, by James-Charles Noonan, Jr. One could consider this book a companion piece to rubrics books such as Fortescue-O’Connell-Reid’s Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described. Whereas “Fortescue” focuses on the ceremonies of the Mass and associated liturgies, The Church Visible is primarily a protocol volume, concerned with external visuals based on Roman custom.

The book is written both for those with an academic curiosity about protocol, as well as for those who are organizing events and ceremonies and need to know procedures. The majority of the book is devoted to explaining the structure and vesture of the Church, along with the roles, privileges, history, and customs of certain ranks. For example, the section on Cardinals covers subjects ranging from why it is customary to place the title “Cardinal” between the first and last names of the prelate, to the details of a Public Consistory, the ceremony at which a Pope installs new Cardinals.

The Papal Household and the Swiss Guard are described in detail. If you’ve ever wondered how Papal funerals are conducted, the answers are here.

Chapters are devoted to ecclesiastical attire, including some rather obscure pieces. Three pages, for example, are given to the ferraiolo, a shoulder-to-heel cape.

Examples of proper correspondence techniques are provided, even to the level of including sample invitations to formal events, place cards, and dinner menus. A few details are surprising: Did you know that the proper close for a letter to a priest or bishop from the laity is “Respectfully yours”? One should not use “Sincerely yours” or “Sincerely yours in Christ” unless one is a cleric oneself.

Like Fortescue, The Church Visible has been updated, the latest edition having been published in 2012. The author repeatedly emphasizes that his book is meant for “the post Vatican-II Church”, a somewhat puzzling statement as many of the protocols covered are not affected by the differences between the Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms. Strangely, for a work revised in 2012, there is a conspicuous absence of mention of the two forms of the Roman Rite. Yet there are occasional nods; for example, in the chapter containing the Ceremonial for Investiture for the Equestrian Order of the Holy Sepulchre of Jerusalem, both Ordinary and Extraordinary Forms of the ceremony are provided, though not named as such.

The book is not without error. It quotes pre-Vatican II rules on Indulgences, which no longer apply, even to those who follow the Extraordinary Form. Its statements about biretta and maniple use are deficient with regards to the Tridentine Mass.

A question for our readers: Is anyone aware of a comparable book, written before or after Vatican II, that concerns itself with similar subject matter, but with more of an orientation to the Extraordinary Form? A protocol book that embraces, rather than merely tolerates or ignores, the Traditional Liturgy would be a welcome resource.

Another Ad Oriéntem Sighting: St. Anthony Church, Temperance, Michigan

A third church in the southern portion of the Archdiocese of Detroit has adopted the practice of celebrating Holy Mass ad oriéntem: St. Anthony in Temperance, near the Ohio border. Like its brethren St. Stephen in New Boston and St. Mary of the Annunciation in Rockwood, this development has begun quietly, without publicity. However, the Archdiocese of Detroit recently sent out a Twitter post depicting a sanctuary without a freestanding altar, and the parish’s Facebook page shows Mass being celebrated at the High Altar, below:

Mass is thus far only offered in the Ordinary Form at St. Anthony, but we nevertheless commend the parish and its pastor Fr. Brian Hurley for taking this initiative.

Tridentine Masses This Coming Week
  • Mon. 11/04 7:00 PM: Low Mass at St. Josaphat (St. Charles Borromeo, Bishop & Confessor)
  • Tue. 11/05 7:00 PM: High Requiem Mass at Assumption-Windsor (Daily Mass for the Dead)
[Comments? Please e-mail Previous columns are available at This edition of Tridentine Community News, with minor editions, is from the St. Josaphat (Detroit) and Assumption (Windsor) bulletin inserts for November 3, 2013. Hat tip to A.B., author of the column.]

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