The little book now presented to English readers is one of an excellent series of pamphlets dealing with questions related to science and religion which has been appearing in France for several years past.1 Owing to the large number of tracts and pamphlets which it contained, it was judged expedient to subdivide the publications into series dealing with the Liturgy (under the direction of the Right Reverend Dom Cabrol, Abbot of Farnborough), historical and social questions, etc. It is a noteworthy proof of the vitality and resource of French Catholics under the trying circumstances of the times that the issue of so many books, all of high excellence, dealing with so varied a list of subjects, has been continued with unabated energy. It is a sign, too, that the French laity are eager to study questions of all sorts bearing upon religion, and to welcome publications dealing with these questions not merely popularly but solidly and scientifically.
This short work on the Breviary, although, as Dom Baudot says, chiefly intended for the clergy, may be read with profit by the laity. It is true the opportunities afforded to the English Catholic of assisting at the performance of the Divine Office in its entirety are at present not numerous in England; still, there are few large towns where Vespers and Compline are not sung on Sundays, and Tenebræ in Holy Week; while those living within reach of Westminster Cathedral, or one of the abbeys or larger conventual houses scattered throughout the country, are able to join in the public liturgical prayers of the Church as fully as their forefathers before the devastation of the sixteenth century.
It is with the hope that English lay folk will learn to value more highly, and understand more clearly, the beauty, dignity, and antiquity of the Church’s public liturgical prayer that this little book has been translated into English. While there are so many books of private devotion—of various degrees of excellence and authority—the one devotional book to be used above all others, which has grown with the Church’s growth and nourished the devotion of her saints, which is intimately bound up with her history and full of her spirit, seems to be forgotten, to be set aside as dry and archaic, or to be regarded as the private property of clergy and religious. Yet there is no book richer in treasures of devotion, endowed with higher authority, or more capable of producing in the souls of those who use it digne, attente, ac devote, a devotional temper at once hearty and strong and truly Catholic.
As will easily be seen, this book closely follows the arrangement and conclusions of Dom Suitbert Bäumer in his monumental work on the Roman Breviary. It also supplements and, where the author thinks necessary, corrects the brilliant and interesting work of Mgr. Batiffol on the same subject.
After the translation was in type, Dom Baudot kindly supplied some additional matter which will be found at the end of the book under the heading of Addenda.
London, 25th February 1909.
1 Science et Religion: Études pour le temps present, Paris, Librairie Bloud et Cie., rue Madame, 4.