18 November 2023

Barberini (1)

Sensitive readers will have noticed a recent interest, on my part, in the distinctive liturgical culture of the period a century and more before the reforms of S Pius X. My interest has been stimulated not a little by the thought that this is how S John Henry daily said his Mass and Office, not to mention the Mannings, the Fabers and the Wisemans and the rest of that great number of bishops and priests and lay benefactors of all classes who (in Newman's lapidary phrase) 'set up the Church again in England' (and built all those churches which were so enthusiastically vandalised in the period after 1960).

My studies, if that is not too grand a word, have been encouraged by a Breviary which I owe to my inheritance of books from Fr Michael Melrose, Vicar of S Giles, Reading. It is Mame, 1874. I wonder if other publishing houses also contained the prayer which I propose to discuss here. 


Mafeo Barberini was pope 1623-1644; he was both praised and condemned for the classical elegance of his Latin. On November 18, 1626, he consecrated S Peter's.

This prayer is incorporated on the Breviary page before the prayer Aperi and the other preliminaries of the Divine Office. I have tried to translate it literally; given the sophistication of Barberini's Latinity, I am awkwardly aware that I may have misunderstood him!

"Most Merciful Lord, may the meditation devoutly uttered by us implore opportune help for our needs, by which S John Chrysostom, buried in this basilica, once represented thee speaking thus with the most blessed Apostles Peter and Paul: Surround this new Sion, and build fortifications round her: that is, guard, fortify, strengthen her with prayers; that when I am wrathful for a time, and strike the round world, beholding your sepulchre destined never to end, and the wounds you willingly bear on my account, I may conquer wrath with mercy, and for this purpose (ob hanc) I perceive your intercession. And when I see the Priesthood and the Kingdom the object of tears, I immediately feel compassion and am moved to mercy, and remember those words of mine: I will protect this city on account of David, my Servant, and Aaron, my Holy One. Lord, may it be, may it be, Amen, Amen."

Tomorrow, I hope to offer a few observations, and to provide the Latin original.


Chris said...

I do not have an extensive collection, but my single volume of a Breviarium Romanum by H. Dessain of Mechlin, 1894 has it, with the best part of a page of other material between the heading and the prayer you have supplied.

Prayerful said...

Papa Barberini also removed the last bronze ornamentation from the portico of the Pantheon, and his classicising is noted, but I will say that that prayer is beautifully phrased. The contrast of that level of Papal culture with the present is painful.