The 'Three Kings' of Catholic Spirituality: Mass, the Office and Sacred Scripture

This is a combined book notice and commentary that I've been meaning to write for some time. Originally I had thought about it for the Christmas season -- being a gift-giving season -- but in my experience times like those are already over-saturated with gift ideas and very little time exists for possible implementation of those ideas; as such they tend to get set aside and forgotten. The spring and summer by contrast  -- with the pilgrimages that take place, vacations and so forth -- can actually be a better, more practical time to bring up ideas such as this.

The idea which I wish to bring forward to our LAJ readership is related to the concept of the three-footed stool (or "three kings" if you prefer a more traditional religious imagery) -- remove any one of the three 'pegs' and the stability of the stool is compromised.  I want to draw on this concept to promote an idea that I have now promoted for many years, beginning in my NLM days back in 2005; that idea is the primacy of scripture and liturgical prayer as that which forms the basis of all Catholic spirituality.

Now this may strike some as controversial; after all the question may arise "but what about the Rosary?" and what about other devotions? My response is that these devotions are worthwhile and worthy in their own right, but the primacy of the Catholic life is founded upon the sacred liturgy (the Mass and the Divine Office) and Sacred Scripture. The Mass and the Divine Office, of course, are liturgical prayer, and the Sacred Scripture is Divine Revelation. In this regard then, whenever I am asked about my own recommendations for books and practices that should form the foundation of the Catholic spiritual life, I always point to the Missal, the Breviary (in which is also included the Roman Martyrology by extension) and the Bible.

One of the publishers that produce all three such volumes in good editions is Baronius Press, who publish not only a Latin-English edition of the Daily Missal, but also a Latin-English edition of the breviary and various editions of the Bible, including the Douay-Rheims in both English and Latin-English editions.

Recently Baronius Press came out with a new edition of their Latin-English Roman Breviary, which corrects certain errors found in previous editions, and I cannot emphasize enough the importance of editions such as these.

In the first instance I will say that Baronius has put great deal of care into publishing these in a traditional manner. Now, I will note that these are not full fledged leather covers, but they are nicely done all the same and in a way that attempts to balance cost with quality. What's more, they all utilize traditional onion skin paper to maximize page count without increasing the overall size of the books.

1962 Roman Breviary
Douay-Rheims Bible
Daily Missal, 1962 edition
Baronius has done a good job in taking its inspiration from the traditional publications of yesteryear -- publications that are often still sought out today for their particular quality and beauty.  Their missal and breviary includes an embossed IHS monograms on the cover, as well as a slip cover to protect the books.

They likewise include decorative endpapers.

Within both the missal and breviary you will also find the traditional Belgial missal art often associated with these sorts of publications:

Of course, in addition to all of this, the main point is that you are getting in each of these volumes the core aspects of the Catholic spiritual life and all from one publisher at that. In that regard, they form a very nice, and dare I even say an essential aspect of a Catholic library and life.

Now, I must take a moment to address a matter that often arises in modern times when it comes to these sorts of books. The missal and bible come in at around $60 USD each thereabouts, but the breviary, which comes in at $360 USD, often draws some complaints from prospective buyers about the price. However, for those who might be tempted to so complain, I would invite you to consider how much this costs as compared to say, a new laptop, smartphone or TV -- devices which will all typically run you much more than this, but all of which will last you only a few years at most. By contrast, the Baronius Roman Breviary, published in a way meant to last a lifetime, is a much more inexpensive investment by comparison -- with much greater value.  This sort of objection is ultimately rooted in our own time, one characterized by 'throw-away' paperbacks issued at discount prices by major online book retailers; this, however, doesn't consider the quality, nor the frequency of use such books.  The lesson here? Think comparatively, not only in terms of overall value in your life, but also in terms of how your investment pans out over years compared to other, shorter-term investments.

Commentary aside, I would encourage LAJ readers to consider taking advantage of these offerings from Baronius, all excellently produced. These are not only valuable assets to your libraries as reference materials of course, they are also practical tools in the spiritual life.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.