The Missal and The Mass

With only two weeks until the new translation of the Roman Missal is released, the world is once again considering the state of the Roman Catholic Church and its place in today’s world. One man who would now be waiting with baited breath for this publication is the late Adrian Fortescue; renounded theolgoan and author of The Mass: A Study of the Roman Liturgy he is also the subject of Aidan Nichol’s forthcoming book The Latin Clerk.

This new biography of the renowned, Roman Catholic theologian Adrian Fortescue reconsiders the man, perceived by contemporaries to be a very symbol of Roman Catholic traditionalism. Although remaining throughout his life what he called: ‘The Latin Clerk’ Nicols discovers that Fortescue was far from the pillar of continuity he appeared to be, and that in fact, ‘Don Adrian was a mass of inconsistencies, and the greatest of all was that between the arrogant being he often appeared to be and the humble priest he really was’ [from Conclusion].

Faced with a severe crisis of faith during the course of his eclectic career, Fortescue moved away from the intellectual and spiritual traditionalism of the Papacy towards Liberal Catholicism. Combined with an admiration of the Christian East, this struggle lead him so far as to consider transferring his liturgical allegiance to the Byzantine Rite but in the end only gave him the benefit of insight as seen in his 1912 work The Mass.

Through Fortescue’s personal concerns The Latin Clerk reveals the often hidden internal discords within the Church as a whole; for example the tensions between attempts at reformed liberalisation as against the forces of reaction and traditionalism, which are still relevant today. In this way the reader understands how the internal conflicts faced by Fortescue on matters of faith are as relevant today as a century ago

The main purpose of this book is to examine multifaceted dimensions of Fortescue’s extensive works as an Orientalist and Liturgist, set against a backdrop of the exotic riches of the ancient Eastern Churches, the Greek Fathers and the history of the liturgy. In his lust for life and multifaceted character, Fortescue set an example of a priestly life inspiring to his flock. A cornerstone of Fortescue’s life was his pastoral work in Letchworth Garden City, demonstrating his determination to break the dichotomy between high culture and culture of the demos. To the great mass of the people; to show people, both in theory and in practice, the best of the Roman Catholic Church’s liturgical patrimony. Despite his enduring influence on litergy, the early triumphs of a successful scholarly career belied the tragedies that would make his life a difficult one: early bereavement, uncongenial postings, self-questioning as a pastoral priest and serious criticism at the perceived entrenched caution of the Church authority.

Informative and educational far beyond the narrow confines of traditional biography, this book will be of interest to both theologians and historians concerned with the Eastern Rite, English cultural developments and Anglo-Catholicism.

About the Author: Aidan Nichols O.P is the author of forty books, including the recent G.K. Chesterton:,Theologian (2009), and From Hermes to Benedict XVI: Faith and Reason in Modern Catholic Thought (2009). A member of the Dominican Order, he now resides in Blackfriars,Cambridge.

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