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Book Review: The Traditional Mass, by Michael Fiedrowicz

The Traditional Mass: History, Form, and Theology of the Classical Roman Rite
Michael Fiedrowicz
Angelico Press
350 pages
$32.00 Hardcover; $22.95 Paperback; $9.99 eBook

Angelico Press has recently published an excellent book entitled, The Traditional Mass: History, Form, and Theology of the Classical Roman Rite. Written in German by Michael Fiedrowicz and first published in 2011, an English edition now comes to edify anglophones.

You may ask why you should care about yet another liturgy book. While it’s true the number of books on the traditional liturgy has begun to grow considerably, Fiedrowicz’s work delves deeper than the “entry level” liturgy books on the market, and it strikes a balance between liturgical commentary and historical analysis, making it a unique new addition to the world of liturgical literature.

The Traditional Mass has a three-part structure with headings, History, Form, and Theology. It contains chapters and subchapters that may be easily read in any order. Although for my first read, I went straight through, I’m always happy when a book’s structure allows me to easily jump around for review or referencing later down the line.

In Part I, Fiedrowicz outlines the various phases of the traditional liturgy’s development, discusses relevant terminology, and presents a clear explanation of organic development and continuity.

Part II has the bulk of the detailed liturgical commentary. Those who have enjoyed books such as Nothing Superfluous or Reclaiming our Roman Catholic Birthright will find that Fiedrowicz digs a little deeper and unearths still more fascinating aspects of the liturgy.

Fiedrowicz saves the best for last in Part III where he beautifully explains the relationship between the traditional Mass and dogma; he argues that the traditional Mass is actually celebrated dogma, and he then goes on to prove his argument in chapters which cover orations, the Lectionary, the Offertory, and the Roman Canon. The analysis of the Roman Canon is, in my opinion, the book’s crown jewel and worth re-reading many times over.

Other books on the liturgy devote chapters to comparing and contrasting the New Order Mass with the Mass of the Ages. This is useful as it provides a point of contact for those who may only know the New Order Mass, but it tends to keep the discussion at an introductory level. Because he bypasses most of the “new versus old” debates, Fiedrowicz is able to explore his topics more extensively. He seems to write for the reader who already realizes the inherent superiority of the Mass of the Ages.

Although not the ideal book for someone brand new to the traditional rites [1], The Traditional Mass will make a superb gift for Catholics who have some familiarity with tradition and desire to learn more about the origins, form, and salvific power of the liturgy they have come to love.


[1] Fiedrowicz’s book is a “Liturgy 201” course. For “Liturgy 101,” I highly recommend Reclaiming Our Roman Catholic Birthright by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski.


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