Hardly anything gets me as excited as a practical book to boost the solemnity and accessibility of Catholic liturgy. Scholarship is great, dusty old manuscripts are wonderful, an extended history is always welcome, and a good polemic never fails to engage. But, in the end, it is all about the resources that we have on hand to make the liturgy more beautiful, more doable, less remote. And so this is why my eyes popped out when I looked this: Canticum Clericorum Romanum.
Has a book like this ever existed? I don’t know for sure, but I doubt. What we have here are the full notated Gospels, Orations, and Epistles for the extraordinary form of Mass. It is bound in leather, and comes in at 850 pages. The price is $275, which strikes me as a bargain. I would think that every parish that is even considering the extraordinary form needs this book.
Now, people from the old school might look at this and say: why is this book even necessary? Why write it all out? You just need to learn the tones, mark the text, and sing!
Well, that’s true enough but guess what? This skill is mostly vanished. We can sit around and regret the loss of the ability of point text and sing, and we can also sit around and regret the loss of the ability of cantors to sing text the same way or, for that matter, the ability of scholas to memorize the entire Graduale as they did for the first thousand years or Christianity. There are always things to wring out hands about and bemoan.
Or we can get to work and put together books that meet the current, practical things that move us further toward the idea. St. John Cantius is very much to be praised for having see the real – the crying – need for this wonderful book.
Congratulations to them for thinking creatively and progressively.