THE MASS AND THE SAINTS
by Thomas Crean OP
(Ignatius Press, 2008, 208pp, $30.00. Available from Freedom Publishing)
Father Thomas Crean's new book, The Mass and the Saints, is a collection of carefully selected passages from saints and other great spiritual writers from throughout the ages, about the Mass, the Eucharist, and the liturgical worship of the Church.
Father Crean is a young, prominent English Dominican friar who is currently ministering in Nottingham.
Most of the authors are canonised saints, and many of them are doctors of the Church, including Church Fathers such as St Augustine, St Jerome, and St Gregory the Great, and great scholars of the Middle Ages such as St Anselm, St Albert the Great and St Thomas Aquinas, while the more modern figures include Prosper Gueranger and Pope John XXIII.
The Mass and the Saints lends itself to quiet, meditative reading, with each part of the liturgy considered separately, including the use of Latin and Gregorian chant. As such, the book resonates with many of Benedict XVI's recent actions, such as the motu proprio freeing up use of the Latin Mass.
Father Crean explains his objective as follows: 'My aim in writing this book was to go behind the sometimes angry discussions about the Sacred Liturgy, and let those who have understood it best - the saints - speak for themselves. I envisaged the book as a kind of symphony in words, in which many different voices would make a whole, some giving literal, historical or mystical explanations of the liturgy, others moral reflections.
'I think that Pope Benedict desires very much that 'the people should pray in beauty', as his predecessor St Pius X said about a hundred years ago. It's perhaps worth pointing out, though, that this is a perennial concern of the papacy. Thus, in the sections on Latin and Gregorian chant, I present some powerful words of both John XXIII and Paul VI.'
As well as the fundamental and awe-inspiring nature of the Mass and the Eucharist, two of the overriding elements conveyed by The Mass and the Saints are the importance of tradition and the priesthood. Fortunately, both are currently going through a much needed process of rehabilitation.
In my view, priests will benefit from the so-called 'Benedictine reforms', namely the example that Benedict XVI is setting in the celebration of the Sacred Liturgy.