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Book Review: Peter Kwasniewski on Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright

Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass
Peter Kwasniewski
Angelico Press
388 pages
$30 Hardcover; $19.95 Paperback; $8.99 Kindle

Dr. Peter Kwasniewski’s newest book, Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright: The Genius and Timeliness of the Traditional Latin Mass, contains his trademark liturgical commentary, but in addition, it also tackles the most complex social and political questions that surround the traditional movement today. This really sets it apart from existing books on the liturgy and makes it a true tour de force. After turning the final page, I promptly got online and ordered three more copies to give to friends. Here are five reasons Kwasniewski’s newest book is a must-read:

It addresses hard questions

Whether you’ve held fast since the indult days or whether you’re just beginning to dabble in the “Trad life,” you’ve probably heard many variations of the following questions: “Well, aren’t you being a little snobbish? The Mass is the Mass as long as Jesus is present!” or “If the Church says the new liturgy is the way to go, then it must be fine,” or “Shouldn’t you try to stay in the mainstream Church where you can influence more people for the good?”

Kwasniewski doesn’t shy away from tricky questions like these, and he discusses the reality of interpersonal conflicts that often touch the lives of those who find themselves drawn to a world the majority of the Church does not understand. By leveraging extensive research and a keen understanding of the current ecclesiastical landscape, Kwasniewski not only provides constructive answers to these questions but poses some counter questions of his own.

It will increase your love for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass

Peter Kwasniewski is one of the finest scholars in the Church today, but first and foremost, he is a man who loves the Catholic Faith. The body of his book is the fruit of careful study, while the soul of his book, the thing that brings it to life, is a contagious love of Catholicism, particularly the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, that saturates every page. Never lapsing into bland theories or depressing social commentary, Kwasniewski writes like one whose zeal consumes him. With holy urgency, he explains that the liturgy is the supreme offering of worship to God, which means that we should give it our all, even as the Lord gives us Himself.

It will deepen your understanding of Catholic Tradition

From this basis of love and awe for the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, Kwasniewski provides commentary on the classical Roman Rite and analysis of why it succeeds so well in drawing souls to union with Christ. This is what makes the book an invaluable resource for those who aren’t necessarily sold on tradition yet or for those who simply desire to deepen their understanding of liturgical worship. By engaging the heart with solid theological truths and the mind with calm, meticulous scholarship, the book mounts a convincing case for tradition.

It gives a historical perspective that makes the present day more clear

For most Catholics the history of the “Liturgical Movement” in the 19th and 20th centuries is either a complete blank or a jumble of disjointed terms and facts. A person may hear names like Parsch, Bugnini, and Paul VI, and hear of documents like Mediator Dei and Sacrosanctum Concilium, but without investing a lot of research, it’s hard to come up with a map of the historical landscape the Church has most recently traversed. Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright gives the reader a kind of “fly over” historical view of the rugged terrain of the past several decades which then helps clarify the situation in the Church today.

It will motivate you to reclaim your Roman Catholic birthright

This book will benefit any Catholic seeking to grow in the Faith regardless of his or her state in life. For parents, Kwasniewski dedicates four chapters (17–20) to explaining the importance of immersing their children in truly sacred liturgy, with its rich spiritual content, manifest reverence, and high artistic value. These chapters sparkle with practical advice that parents are sure to appreciate. I must add that although I have no children of my own, I enjoyed these chapters immensely and gleaned many nuggets of wisdom applicable to my own spiritual life.

Readers will find the text accessible but not at all dumbed down. For those who enjoy digging deeper, there are footnotes, an extensive (and entertaining!) glossary, and a Select Bibliography in which Kwasniewski lists his favorite works in various categories, writing short descriptions of many of them: General; Missals or Guides; For Younger Readers; Liturgical Theology; History; Fiction; Online Resources. The extensive Index of Names & Subjects can help the reader find or recall a key passage.

Those who already embrace the classical Roman Rite will find Kwasniewski’s book a helpful resource for explaining their love of tradition to friends and relatives. For those who still have reservations about becoming fellow travelers with the “Trads,” it answers questions, dispels myths, and addresses challenges.

Some Catholics may see the title, “Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright,” shake their heads sadly, and say, “The very title is saying I’ve lost my birthright. That’s depressing. That’s too doom and gloom for me.”

But when push comes to shove, the truth is never really depressing; it may be hard, even bloody like the Crucifixion, but it’s always beautiful, and it always leads to God. What’s depressing and gloomy is the malaise of denial from which the mainstream Church seems unwilling to rouse herself.

To the comment above, I would reply, “Well, you have lost your birthright, and that is sad, but there’s a lot more to the story, and the ending may still be a happy one—that’s where this book comes in.”

The Church, in each of her individual members, must now light her lamp, sweep her house, and seek diligently until she finds what she has lost. And when she has found it, there will be cause for great rejoicing (Luke 15:8-10).

1 thought on “Book Review: Peter Kwasniewski on Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright”

  1. Thank you so much for your reviews. I was in grade school when we switched over from the Usus Antiquor to the Novus Ordo & have only fairly recently come back. It is a treasure, but I most certainly want to delve deeper into the Holy Mysteries. Your reviews of this book & “The Traditional Mass”, by Michael Fiedrowicz have whetted my appetite to do so and have given me guidance on where to start.

    Interestingly, I’m from the St. Louis region as well, out in St. Charles.


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