Saint Vincent’s Reading List: LXXIII Vincent and the Tridentine Liturgy

Le Tableau de la Croix Representé dans les ceremonies de la Ste. Messe ensemble le tresor de la devotion aux soufrances de Ntre S.I.C. le tout enrichi de belles figures. A Paris, F. Mazot , ruë St. Denis pres St. SaveurAvec Privilege et Approbation, 1651.  SpC. 232.96 T113m1651

title page with illustration of priest praying.
Title page of Le Tableau de la Croix, 1651.

It must never be forgotten that Vincent de Paul’s primary identity was that of a Roman Catholic priest.  All that he did during his lifetime emerged from that identity. As a Roman Catholic priest Vincent de Paul would have celebrated Mass daily, and the Eucharist was the summit of his spirituality and all his actions.  The great respect and devotion which characterized his personal celebration of the Eucharist was noted with admiration by his contemporaries. He made sure that the priests and brothers of the Congregation of the Mission shared this devotion to the Eucharist.  He put this devotion at the core of his many works to support the reformation of the clergy from Ordination retreats, to the famous “Tuesday Conferences,” and finally in the newly-founded seminaries he supported.

One of the central reforms of the Council of Trent had been to standardize the form and rubrics for the celebration of the Eucharist.  The reformed Roman rite was to be used throughout the Catholic world as it appeared in the new Roman missal mandated by the Council and issued under papal authority.  Throughout the medieval period the Eucharistic liturgy had retained its essential theological core, but had taken on countless variations according to local traditions and customs.  This was as true for France as it was anywhere else in the Catholic world. Trent mandated in all things a new reformed spirit of uniformity and identity under papal authority. 

This value of Roman or “ultramontane” uniformity was applied over time and at different speeds throughout the Roman Church. It was largely accepted and valued as the Catholic Reformation, which effectively refashioned Catholicism according to the Tridentine model.

Priest at altar performing part of the Liturgy.
Page featuring a priest performing part of the Liturgy.

Vincent was a strong supporter of this Tridentine liturgical uniformity with respect to the celebration of the Eucharist.  This support echoed Vincent’s appreciation of “uniformity” per se  as the “state which, uniting all the individuals, forms of several members one living body with its own functions.”[1] He also noted: “Oh, if you had only seen, I don’t want to say the ugliness, but the diversity, of the ceremonies of the Mass forty years ago, it would have made you ashamed! I don’t think there was anything uglier in the world than the different ways people were celebrating it…God be blessed that His Divine Goodness has been pleased to gradually remedy this great disorder…All of it hasn’t been set right, for, alas, how much variation in the celebration of the Holy Mysteries is still apparent!”[2]

Prayer in both French and Latin. Images show two women figures with halos holding swords.
One of the prayers in both Latin and French.

The present volume presents the ideal of the Tridentine Eucharistic liturgy, and its rubrics as normative for authentic Catholic worship.  This beautifully illustrated volume presents thirty-five two-page illustrations which demonstrate the flow of the liturgy from beginning to end drawing direct and simultaneous parallels with the passion of Christ. The facing page features a prayer in both Latin and French which focuses attention on the meaning of that particular moment of the Liturgy.  The volume concludes with a variety of litanies, prayers, and the penitential psalms.

François Mazot was a French engraver and printer active in the mid-17th century.  The first edition of this volume appeared in 1651, and was self-published.  The volume is dedicated to Charles de Laubespine, (1580-1653) the Marquis de Châteauneuf-sur Cher.  Châteauneuf at the time was serving as the Garde des Sceaux (1651-1652). The Marquis fell afoul of Cardinal Mazarin and retired to his country estates. There is one surviving letter from Vincent de Paul to the Marquis written at the end of 1652[3]

[1]Pierre Coste, C.M. Pierre Coste, C.M., Vincent de Paul, Correspondence, Conferences, Documents, ed. and trans. Jacqueline Kilar, D.C., Marie Poole, D.C., et al., vols. 1–14 (New York: New City Press, 1985–2014). Hereafter cited as CCD, 2:201

[2] Conference #206, “Uniformity” (Common Rules, Chap. II, Art. 11) May 23, 2659, Ibid., 12:212

[3] Ibid., 4:512

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