The Holy Mass in the First World War: A Photo Collection

This article by Henri de Villiers was first published in 2014 on the blog of the Schola Sainte Cecile, to commemorate the centenary of the start of the Great War. It is translated and republished here and at New Liturgical Movement in honor of Armistice Day.

On 3 August 1914, Germany declared war on France, and Europe entered into a terrible four years of slaughter that would decimate believers on every side, wiping out the youth of thousands of towns and villages, and bringing about the loss of a great part of Europe’s Christian elite. In memory of this sorrowful centenary, we present a collection of photographs that testify to the faith of these men in the midst of the horrors of the front.

We shall remember them.

Requiem æternam dona eis Domine, & lux perpetua luceat eis.


“For the Lord will judge his people, and will be entreated in favour of his servants.” (Psalm 134,14)
Photo: Mass at the front in France during the First World War.


“The sorrows of hell encompassed me: and the snares of death prevented me.”
(Psalm 17,6)
Photo: Mass at the front for the French troops – New York Times, 14 February 1915


“I will love thee, O Lord, my strength. The Lord is my firmament, my refuge, and my deliverer.”
(Psalm 17,2-3)
Photo: 1915: A mass at the 43rd battery of the 29th artillery regiment between Oostduinkerke and Nieuport.


“My eyes have failed for thy word, saying: When wilt thou comfort me?”
(Psalm 118,82)
Photo: Holy Mass for the French troops on the front of Champagne in 1915 – Collection of Odette Carrez


“The Lord will give strength to his people: the Lord will bless his people with peace.”
(Psalm 28,10)
Photo: 1915- the sub-lieutenant Pape (sic!) says holy mass for the 262nd infantry regiment. Photograph by Henri Terrier (1887† 1918). Musee de l’Armee, Paris.


“With thee is my praise in a great church: I will pay my vows in the sight of them that fear him.”
(Psalm 21,26)
Photo: German troops assist at mass in the Belgian cathedral of Antwerp – New York Times, 21 March 1915.


“Salvation is of the Lord: and thy blessing is upon thy people.”
(Psalm 3,9)
Photo: Austrian soldiers receive benediction of the Blessed Sacrament in 1915 in Russian Galicia. New York Times, 23 May 1915.


“Praising I will call upon the Lord: and I shall be saved from my enemies.”
(Psalm 17,4)
Photo: a Russian priest celebrates the divine liturgy for Russian troops in 1915. The soldiers have formed a choir and are chanting the liturgy next to the altar. The War Illustrated Album DeLuxe, Vol. 1; Amalgamated Press, London, 1915.


“I have lifted up my eyes to the mountains, from whence help shall come to me.”
(Psalm 120,1)
Photo: a priest says mass for Italian troops on the Italo-Austrian front in the mountains of Tyrol – New York Times, 27 February 1916.


“And they shall call them, The holy people, the redeemed of the Lord. But thou shalt be called: A city sought after, and not forsaken.”
(Isaiah 62,12)
Photo: April 1916-Soldiers of the Russian expeditionary corps taking an oath and venerating the icon and cross at the monastery of Saint-Pantaleimon, Mount Athos, Greece. Photograph: Dubray.


“God is with us.”
(Isaiah 8,10)
Photo: April 1916-In the Mirabeau camp near Marseille, men of the first regiment of the first Russian brigade pose around their flag, decorated with the face of Christ and emblazoned with the motto taken from Isaiah and chanted at Byzantine Great Compline, in particular on Christmas Day: С нами Бог – God is with us.


“Behold, God is my saviour, I will deal confidently, and will not fear: O because the Lord is my strength, and my praise, and he is become my salvation.”
(Isaiah 12,2)
Photo: April 1916-gathered on the parade grounds of Camp Mirabeau near Marseille, the men of the first Russian brigade receive the blessing from Fr. Okouneff, chaplain of the regiment, before their departure for the front.


“And the Lord is become a refuge for the poor: a helper in due time in tribulation.”
(Psalm 9,10)
Photo: April 1916 – gathered on the parade grounds in Camp Mirabeau near Marseille, the troops of the second regiment of the first Russian infantry brigade celebrate Easter, with the divine liturgy celebrated by Fr. Okouneff, chaplain of the regiment. The soldiers have formed a choir and are chanting the liturgy next to the altar.


“The sacrifice of praise shall glorify me: and there is the way by which I will shew him the salvation of God.”
(Psalm 49,23)
Photo: 1916 – Renault car-chapel dedicated to St. Elizabeth, donated by a businessman from Anvers to serve the Belgian troops.


“In that day man shall bow down himself to his Maker, and his eyes shall look to the Holy One of Israel.” 
(Isaiah 17,7)
Photo: French soldiers assist at mass before going into battle – Source: Vive la France – William Heinemann, Londres, 1916.


“Have mercy on me, O Lord, for I am weak: heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.”
(Psalm 6,3)
Photo: Mass in an Austrian military hospital in 1916


“Thou shalt no more have the sun for thy light by day, neither shall the brightness of the moon enlighten thee: but the Lord shall be unto thee for an everlasting light, and thy God for thy glory.”
(Isaiah 60,19)
Photo: a priest, probably the famous Father Paul Doncoeur, S.J., celebrates mass at an altar – nicknamed the altar of Fr. Doncoeur  – carved into the 1st Zouave Quarry, in the quarries of Confrécourt in the Soissonais. Paul Doncoeur was a Jesuit who become a military chaplain in 1914. He participated in the battles of the Marne, Aisne, Champagne, and Verdun. He was seriously wounded at the Somme. Then he rejoined these regiments for the battles of Reims and Flandres. His bravery and dedication to assuring a Christian burial to soldiers who died on the battlefield earned him an immense renown: seven citations, the War Cross, the Legion of Honor. This altar was sculpted by the 35th and 298th infantry regiments in 1914. There is a patriotic inscription written below: “God save France.” On the right, a ladder gave direct access to the front lines.


“In my affliction I called upon the Lord, and I cried to my God: And he heard my voice from his holy temple: and my cry before him came into his ears.” 
(Psalm 17,7)
Photo: Mass celebrated for Austrian prisoners of war – Illustrated War News, Vol. 1, Illustrated London News and Sketch, London, 1916.


“But I, O Lord, have cried to thee: and in the morning my prayer shall prevent thee.”
(Psalm 87,14)
Photo: a chaplain preaching in a French church transformed into a hospital


“This hath comforted me in my humiliation: because thy word hath enlivened me.” 
(Psalm 118,50)
Photo: Mass for the troops in the region of Soissons


“By this I know, that thou hast had a good will for me: because my enemy shall not rejoice over me.”
(Psalm 40,12)
Photo: Mass at the front


“Offer up the sacrifice of justice, and trust in the Lord: many say, Who sheweth us good things?”
(Psalm 4,6)
Photo: French soldiers hear mass in a chapel in the trenches-New York Times, 25 February 1917


“Come and behold ye the works of the Lord: what wonders he hath done upon earth, Making wars to cease even to the end of the earth. He shall destroy the bow, and break the weapons: and the shield he shall burn in the fire.”
(Psalm 45,9)
Photo: March 1917 – M. l’Abbé Louis Lenoir (1882-1917), military chaplain to the 4th colonial infantry regiment, celebrating holy mass for the troops at Gravena (Greek Macedonia), shortly before his death in May 1917.


“Turn away from evil and do good: seek after peace and pursue it.” 
(Psalm 33,15).
Photo: Mass on the Italian front in 1917


“Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the just wait for me, until thou reward me.”
(Psalm 141,8)
Photo: Austro-Hungarian prisoners of war assist at holy mass in a prisoner-of-war camp in Italy in 1917. British Library.


“Be thou mindful of thy word to thy servant, in which thou hast given me hope.”
(Psalm 118,49).
Photo: Abbé Even, chaplain of the 51st division. Photograph taken 10 September 1917 by Paul Castelnau (1880 † 1944). Médiathèque de l’Architecture et du Patrimoine, Paris.


“All the flocks of Cedar shall be gathered together unto thee, the rams of Nabaioth shall minister to thee: they shall be offered upon my acceptable altar, and I will glorify the house of my majesty.”
(Isaiah 60,7)
Photo: field altar for Mass in the open air, installed in the back of a car in 1917. Photograph: Georges Pila.


“All ye inhabitants of the world, who dwell on the earth, when the sign shall be lifted up on the mountains, you shall see, and you shall hear the sound of the trumpet.”
(Isaiah 18,3).
Photo: 22 June 1918 – blessing of Polish flags in the woods of Beaulieu, Aube. Photograph: Auguste Goulden.


“You shall have a song as in the night of the sanctified solemnity, and joy of heart, as when one goeth with a pipe, to come into the mountain of the Lord, to the Mighty One of Israel.”
(Isaiah 30,29)
Photo: Mass celebrated in Amiens Cathedral, where the walls have been reinforced with sandbags to protect them from bombardments – 1918.


“In the year that King Ozias died, I saw the Lord sitting upon a throne high and elevated: and his train filled the temple.”
(Isaiah 6,1)
Photo: interior of Amiens cathedral, with sandbags to reinforce the building against shelling – 1918.

Introducing Gemma Animae, Book 3

After the Mass commentary of Book One, and his commentary on the Divine Office in Book Two, the third book of Honorius’ Gemma Animae comments on the feasts and practices of the liturgical year, beginning with Advent.

Ch. 1
On the Lord’s Advent

This is as much as we wanted to say about the Hours. It remains to offer a few observations about the solemnities.

We celebrate the Lord’s Advent for three reasons. First, to recall the time when he was foretold by the ancient saints. Second, we “come before his presence with thanksgiving” when he we know he will come to each of us at the end of our lives. Third, we commemorate the time when we hope that he will come as Judge. In the Lectionary and Evangeliarium, five Sundays are assigned to the Lord’s Advent because all the centuries have foretold his Advent throughout the five ages of the world. In the Antiphonary and Gradual books, it is given four weeks because Christ’s Advent was announced by the Law, the prophets, the psalms, and by the books of the Gentiles. In this season the Gloria in excelsis and Te Deum laudamus are not sung, because the just men before Christ’s Advent were trapped in the sadness of hell. In addition, the dalmatic and tunicle are not worn, because the garments of innocence and immortality were given to us by Christ. We also forego using these things so that we may receive them back with more joy at our Lord’s Nativity, and so that we may perceive how much the grace of the New Testament is more excellent than the Old.

On the Responsory Aspiciens.

The Responsory
Aspiciens a longe is sung in the person of John the Baptist, who “peering from afar,” i.e. from earth into heaven, announces that “God’s power,” i.e., divinity, is “coming” in the flesh, and “a cloud covering the whole earth,” i.e. the faithlessness that smothers all Judea. He said “Go out to meet him” when he prepared the way of the Lord. Three verses are sung in this responsory because all of this was foretold through the Law, prophecy, and psalmody. For there are three times understood, namely the time before the Law, under the Law, and under grace, in each of which Christ’s coming was declared. Therefore we sing in the third verse Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and the one who is to rule shall enter in. Again, three verses are sung in adoration of the Trinity, and for the same reason the Gloria Patri is added. The Responsory is repeated because Christians expect Christ’s Advent a second time. As in Aspiciens we honored Christ’s divinity, so in Aspiciebam we honor his humanity. Thus we sing: Behold on the clouds of heaven the Son of man is coming.” Just how the divinity became incarnate is shown by the third responsory Missus est Gabriel angelus who told the virgin, Ave, Maria, gratia plena.[?].  is confirmed by the prophecy that said: “Listen to the word of the Lord: Behold a virgin shall conceive (Isaiah 7:14). It is also proven by the Law, when Moses said “I beseech thee, Lord,” and then, because he is coming, said “Let the heavens rejoice, and let the earth be glad.”

On Lauds

The morning Lauds celebrate Christ’s two advents. The first advent is on that day when the “mountains” of the apostles preached “sweetness” and the hills of the doctors “flowed with the milk and honey” of doctrine.
Then the “daughter of Sion,” i.e., the Church of the Jews, “rejoiced greatly,” and the “daughter of Jerusalem,” i.e. the Church of the Gentiles, “shouted for joy”. The antiphon Ecce Dominus veniet celebrates his second advent; the antiphon Omnes sitientes, praises his first advent, when the faithful came to the water of Baptism. Ecce veniet propheta magnus praises his second advent, when Jerusalem will be made new. The antiphons Spiritus sanctus and Ne timeas, Maria praise his first advent. The ferial antiphons are the various prophecies.

CAP. I. – De Adventu Domini.

Haec utcunque de horis diximus, nunc restat de solemnitatibus pauca perstringamus.

Adventum itaque Domini ob tres causas celebramus: Primo, quia illud tempus recolimus, quo eum ab antiquis sanctis praenuntiatum cognovimus. Secundo, faciem eius laudibus praeoccupamus, quo eum unicuique nostrum in fine vitae adventurum non ignoramus. Tertio, illud commemoramus quo eum adhuc adfuturum iudicem speramus. In Lectionario et in Evangeliario quinque hebdomadae Adventui Domini adnotantur; quia per quinque aetates saeculi Adventus eius a saeculis praenuntiabatur. In Antiphonario et in Graduali libro, quatuor septimanae ei attitulantur; quia per legem, prophetas, psalmos et gentilium libros Christi Adventus praeconabatur. In hoc tempore, Gloria in excelsis, et: Te Deum laudamus non cantantur, quia iusti ante Christi Adventum in tristitia inferni tenebantur. In hoc etiam dalmatica et subtile non portantur, quia vestes innocentiae et immortalitatis nobis per Christum reddebantur. Haec cuncta ideo etiam intermittuntur, ut in Nativitate Domini festivius amplectantur, et ut gratia Novi Testamenti praestantior Veteri cognoscatur.

De Responsorio Aspiciens.

Responsorium, Aspiciens a longe, in persona Ioannis Baptistae cantatur, qui aspiciens a longe, scilicet a terra ad coelum, potentiam Dei, id est divinitatem in carne venientem praeconatur, et nebulam totam terram tegentem, scilicet infidelitatem totam Iudaeam operientem: Ite obviam ei dixit, quando viam Domini praeparavit. Tres versus ideo ad hoc responsorium canuntur, quia per legem, et prophetiam, et psalmodiam hoc totum praenuntiabatur. Tria enim tempora, scilicet ante legem, sub lege, sub gratia intelliguntur, in quibus singulis hoc futurum praedicabatur. Unde et in tertio versu, Tollite portas principes vestras, et introibit qui regnaturus est, cantatur. Tres enim versus ideo cantantur, quia Trinitas in hoc etiam adoratur. Ideo et Gloria Patri adiungitur. Responsorium denuo repetitur, quia adventus Christi denuo a fidelibus exspectatur. Sicut autem in aspiciens Christi divinitas, ita in aspiciebam honoratur eius humanitas. Unde cantatur: Ecce in nubibus coeli Filius hominis venit. Qualiter divinitas incarnata sit, tertium responsorium ostendit, Missus est Gabriel angelus qui ad virginem dixit, Ave, Maria, gratia plena, hoc per Apostolum confirmatum, Salvatorem exspectamus, per prophetam quoque roboratur qui dixit: Audite verbum Domini. Ecce virgoconcipiet (Isa. VII): per legem nihilominus comprobatur, ut Moyses ait: Obsecro, Domine, et quia iam venit, ideo laetentur coeli, et exsultet terra.

De laudibus.

Matutinae Laudes utrumque Christi adventum sonant, primum in illa die quando montes apostoli dulcedinem praedicabant, et colles doctores lac et mel doctrinae fluebant. Tunc iucundata est filia Sion, id est Ecclesia de Iudaeis, tunc exsultavit filia Hierusalem, id est Ecclesia de gentibus. Secundum eius adventum antiphona: Ecce Dominus veniet. Primum antiphona: Omnes sitientes, quando fideles ad aquam baptismatis veniebant. Secundum Ecce veniet propheta magnus, quando Hierusalem renovabitur. Primum adventum eius antiphonae sonant Spiritus sanctus. Ne timeas, Maria. Feriales antiphonae sunt diversae prophetiae.

Ch. 2
On the Second Sunday in Advent

On the second Sunday in Advent the preaching of the prophets concerning Christ’s advent in Jerusalem is signified, and we sing Hierusalem cito veniet, Civitas Hierusalem, and Hierusalem, surge.

CAP. II. – De secunda Dominica in Adventu.

Secunda Dominica praedicatio prophetarum de Christi adventu ad Hierusalem denotatur, ubi cantatur, Hierusalem cito veniet, et Civitas Hierusalem et Hierusalem, surge.

Ch. 3
On the Third Sunday in Advent

On the third Sunday Christ’s second advent is foretold, and we sing Ecce apparebit Dominus, et cum eo sanctorum millia.

CAP. III. – De tertia Dominica.

In Dominica tertia secundus Christi adventus praenuntiatur, ubi cantatur, Ecce apparebit Dominus, et cum eo sanctorum millia.

Ch. 4
On the Fourth Sunday in Advent

On the fourth Sunday the call of the nations through Christ’s advent is proclaimed, when we sing in the person of the apostles Canite tuba in Sion, vocate gentes, and intuemini quantus sit qui ingreditur ad salvandas gentes and “Radix Jesse qui exsurget regere, in eum gentes sperabunt.”

On the Week before the Lord’s Nativity

The next week before the Lord’s Nativity is called the preparation, and in it the [history] Clama in fortitudine is sung along with six [matutinalibus = antiphons at Lauds] because a people was being prepared for his advent throughout the six ages of the world, and we are prepared for his [second?] advent through the six works of mercy.

CAP. IV. – De quarta Dominica.

In quarta Dominica vocatio gentium per Christi adventum declaratur; ubi in persona apostolorum cantatur, Canite tuba in Sion, vocate gentes, et intuemini quantus sit qui ingreditur ad salvandas gentes. Et radix Iesse qui exsurget regere: in eum gentes sperabunt.

De hebdomada ante nativitatem Domini.

Hebdomada proxima, quae ante Nativitatem Domini praeparatio nominatur, et in ea historia, Clama in fortitudine, cum sex matutinalibus laudibus cantatur, quia per sex aetates mundi populus ad adventum praeparabatur, et nos in adventu eius per sex opera misericordiae praeparamur.


Novæ Mutationes: St Pius X’s New Office of All Souls

In previous posts, we have examined the origins of the Office of the Dead and All Souls, and the reforms All Souls underwent in the Neo-Gallican liturgies. These latter reforms influenced the new Office of All Souls that emerged from the liturgical reforms carried out under the reign of the Lord Pope St Pius X.

Poor Souls.jpg
Saint Gregory delivers the Soul of a Monk, Giovanni Battista Crespi, S. Vittore, Parese

Fr Pasquale Brugnani, one of the members of Pius X’s Commission to revise the liturgy, attests that it was the Lord Pope’s wish that All Souls become a full liturgical day1, as in the Neo-Gallican offices, and this was formally announced by the Apostolic Constitution Divino afflatu of 1 November 1911.

In the original Rubricæ project discussed by the Commission on 18 September 1911, Vespers of the Dead would continue to follow Second Vespers of All Saints. On 2 November, the Office of the second day within the Octave of All Saints would be omitted, and Mattins and Lauds of the Dead would be said in the morning.

In later discussions it was agreed that the lessons of Mattins of the Dead would be altered to make them more similar to the usual model for Mattins of feasts. Only the first Nocturn would retain the readings from Job; the same pericopes were picked as in the Neo-Gallican Parisian breviary. The second Nocturn would feature extracts from St Augustine’s De cura pro mortuis gerenda, like in the Dominican and Carmelite uses. The lessons of the third Nocturn, finally, were extracts from chapter 15 of St Paul’s first Epistle to the Corinthians, identical to the selections of the Neo-Gallican Cluniac and Parisian breviaries. To bring Lauds into line with the new psalter, psalms 66, 148, and 149 were duly excised therefrom.

The Little Hours were originally to be supplied by saying the ferial psalms of the dead (from the reformed psalter) without antiphon, then the Lord’s Prayer, preces, and collect. As Brugnani explained, the intention was to imitate the Little Hours of the Holy Triduum to “underline the link between the death and resurrection of Christ and the fate of the deceased”. Comparisons between the Mass and Office of the Dead and those of the Triduum go back, in any case, at least as far as Amalarius2.

The commissioners soon realized, however, that if the ferial psalms were sung at the Little Hours, some psalms from Mattins might end up being repeated. Brugnani suggested following the Neo-Gallican rites and using the Sunday psalms, but another commissioner, Mgr Pierre La Fontaine, Secretary of the Sacred Congregation of Rites, proposed that the Friday psalms be used. He noted that none of them were present in the other Hours of the Dead and, moreover, he explained that they expressed sentiments particularly appropriate for All Souls:

  • Psalm 21, “David’s anguished soul”,
  • Psalm 79, “a sad note”,
  • Psalm 81, “God’s justice”,
  • Psalm 83, “the soul’s impassioned cry to heaven”,
  • Psalm 86, “a good tie with the previous”,
  • Psalm 88, “a reminder of mercy”3

La Fontaine recalls that his counter-proposal kindled Brugnani’s wrath: “Yesterday evening when I returned to San Giovanni I mentioned the question of the Office of the Dead to Pasquale [Brugnani], who suddenly, furor sicut serpentis, protested that he had always been under the impression that the psalms ought to be of Sunday, and called everyone else dishonest beasts”4.

The Commission’s ominously-named document Novæ mutationes of 25 September 1913, however, adopted neither La Fontaine’s nor Brugnani’s plan. Instead, it assigned psalms 27 and 37 split in half to Prime; 31, 55, and 69 to Tierce; 84, 85, and 87 to Sext; and 101 split into three to None. Yet the dispute over the psalms must have continued to rage, for the motu proprio Abhinc duos annos of 28 October 1913 ultimately assigned psalms 87, 27, and 31 to Prime; 37 split in two and 55 to Tierce; 69, 84, and 85 to Sext; and 101 split into three to None. Unfortunately, Honoré Vinck writes in his history of these reforms that he was not able to find any further documentation about the surely tempestuous discussions behind the ever-changing selection of psalms.

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The bizarre decision was also made to have Compline of All Souls on 1 November instead of Compline of All Saints. This had no precedent in the Neo-Gallican or mediæval rites. The idea was first suggested to the Commission by Fr Brugnani, who adduced three reasons:

  1. That since All Souls had become a full liturgical day, it ought to have its own Compline;
  2. That it would be inappropriate to sing the alleluia after Vespers of the Dead, as would happen in Compline of All Saints;
  3. It was a divine law that a liturgical day should have a full Office. A vespera ad vesperam celebrabitis solemnitates vestras, Brugnani wrote (cf. Leviticus 23:32).

His foremost argument, however, was that the poor souls would benefit from further prayers. “Above all else, O holy souls” he prayed, “inspire the Holy Father with what will be to your greatest benefit, and to the greater glory of God, the Church, and the Holy Father. Fiat, fiat5. His fervor ended up persuading the rest of the commissioners. Mgr Pietro Piacenza, who was initially opposed to the idea, claimed he was won over by the thought that, with this Compline, 120,000 priests would say an additional prayer for the souls in purgatory. He also agreed that singing the alleluia would be inappropriate after Vespers of All Souls, writing that, “In the Church’s solemnities, sad and doleful prayers are never mingled together with festal songs of exultation”6. The “sadness” of All Souls was also given as an explanation as to why this day, although of double rank, would end at None, unlike any other double feast but like fasting days.

The commissioners then forwarded the proposal to the Lord Pope, who wrote tersely on the margin, Vi sia la compieta. In imitation of Compline during the Triduum, this office would begin immediately with the Confiteor, followed by three psalms said without antiphon, originally from the feria, but then in the end 122, 141, and 142, and then the Nunc dimittis. As with the other hours, Compline would conclude with the Lord’s prayer, preces, and collect.

Thus the novel Office of All Souls was created, with little precedent in the Roman liturgical tradition. Piancenza reflected complacently on his commission’s handiwork, saying, “It is certain that parish priests and preachers will find in the Office of 2 November, thus well modified and enriched, new argument to confirm the people in the belief in purgatory”7. The conviction that the liturgy should be modified at will for didactic and pædagogical purposes would continue to heavily influence liturgical reform for the rest of the century, and was enshrined by the Lord Pius XII in his encyclical Mediator Dei.

The new Office did not find immediate welcome in the Benedictine use, which only definitely adopted it in 1963. Even then, it was decided to say the ferial psalms in the Little Hours and Compline, rather than those picked by the commission. The other religious orders eventually adopted the Piodecimal Office as well.

When First Vespers of all but first class feasts were unaccountably abolished by the Lord John XXIII, the venerable custom of having Second Vespers of All Saints followed by Vespers of the Dead on 1 November, which even the Neo-Gallican liturgies had generally preserved, was discarded, and it was decreed All Souls would begin with Mattins and end with Compline on 2 November. It was, however, permitted to continue saying Vespers of the Dead on 1 November as a pious devotion in those places where its removal might unduly vex the faithful8.



1. Annuente Sanctissimo Domino Nostro Pio Papa X […] in posteros annos sit Officium eorundem Defunctorum pro quotidiano etiam Divini Officii penso recitare (cited in Honoré Vinck, Pie X et les réformes liturgiques de 1911-1914, p. 256).

2. Cf. Liber officialis III, 44.

3. Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260

4. Ieri sera nel ritonare a S. Giovanni accenai l’affare dell’Officio dei morti a Pasquale, cui subito furor sicut serpentis protestando che gli fu sempre d’avviso che i Salmi delle ore dev’essere della Domenica, e dando della bestia e del disonesto a tutti gli altri (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260).

5. E più di ogni altra cosa, Anime sante, ispirate al Santo Padre quello che sia al maggior vostro vantaggio e alla gloria maggiore di Dio e della Chiesa e del S. Padre. Fiat, fiat (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 259).

6. Nelle sollenità della Chiesa, non si confondono mai insieme preci flebili e meste con canti festosi di esultanza (ibid.)

7. E certo che i parroci ed i predicatori, troveranno nell’Officio del 2 Novembre, cosè ben modificato e arricchito, nuovi argomenti per confermare il popolo nella credenza del purgatorio. (Qtd. in Vinck, op. cit., p. 260)

8. Celebratio tamen Vesperarum defunctorum post II Vesperas diei 1 novembris, quae pro pietate fidelium peragi consuevit, continuari potest, una cum aliis piis exercitiis forsitan consuetudine traditis, tamquam peculiare pietatis obsequium (Variationes in Breviario et Missali Romano, 1960).

The Liturgical Vicissitudes of All Souls in the Age of Enlightenment

As we saw on Sunday, the Office of the Dead had ancient origins. Early in the Middle Ages it became an obligatory supplement to the cursus of the Divine Office on ferial days, as well as on All Souls, until the the former obligation was suppressed in the wake of the Council of Trent.

All Souls stood, after the Tridentine reforms, as an oddity in the liturgical calendar,  the sole day retaining double Vespers, Mattins, and Lauds. It is hardly surprising that its peculiar nature, even despite its venerable antiquity, made it the target of liturgical reformers.

The 1779 edition of the breviary of Cluny, which claims to be based on the Benedictine breviary from which it manifestly diverges

By the 17th century the Abbey of Cluny, that erstwhile centre of liturgical excellence, had become the vanguard for a rationalist liturgical movement whose most practical result was the production of a genre of reformed liturgies that later came to be called Neo-Gallican. These have been rendered somewhat infamous by the exhaustive critique to which they were submitted in Dom Proper Guéranger’s Institutions liturgiques. Guéranger censures the reformers for holding an “anti-liturgical heresy,” that consisted, in keeping with the spirit of the Age of Enlightenment, to refashion the liturgy based on “rational” principles of their own devising without respect for inherited forms.

For example, amongst the more noteworthy characteristics of these Neo-Gallican liturgies were a rejection of the use of non-Biblical texts for Office antiphons and Mass propers (except hymns and sequences), the substitution of ancient hymns with new versions in a classicizing style, and a reduction in the number and rank of feasts to favour a re-arranged ferial psalter.

The earliest and most radical break with previous liturgical custom was the Neo-Gallican breviary adopted by Cluny in 1686. Dom Guéranger points out that it was not a reform, but the “complete and violent destruction of the entire corpus of the Gregorian offices”. In his own review of the material, Fr. Thiers wryly quips that it ought to have be called “The New Breviary” for all the connection it had with the old liturgy of Cluny.

In the novel breviary, the Office of the Dead itself was untouched except for the replacement of all non-Scriptural antiphons and responsories with new ones composed from Biblical texts. All Souls, however, became a proper liturgical day ending with None, but not following the precedent of uses like the Dominican; rather, the office was crafted almost entirely anew. All the antiphons and responsories were rewritten from Scripture. The readings from Job were excised from Mattins: thenceforth the first Nocturn had the readings of the occurring feria, the second Nocturn an excerpt from St Augustine’s sermon 127, and the third Nocturn a pericope from chapter 15 of St Paul’s First Letter to the Corinthians.

This responsory, derived entirely from Biblical texts, replaced the traditional Libera me as the last responsory of Mattins of the Dead in the Neo-Gallican Cluniac Office, and was later taken up by the Parisian and other Neo-Gallican uses. The version here is from a Parisian antiphonary and gradual published in 1827.

Hymns were composed to conform Mattins and Lauds to the normal scheme for feasts. They were composed by Jean-Baptiste Santeul, a Canon Regular of St Victor, whom Dom Guéranger accuses of having Jansenist sympathies and who, the Abbot of Solesmes superciliously notes, was better known for being a bon vivant than for his piety.

Canon Jean-Baptiste Santeul, composer of many hymns used in the Neo-Gallican liturgies, described by a contemporary as “most excellent company, a good dinner-guest above all, fond of wine and good cheer, but without debauchery.”

None of the other Neo-Gallican rites strayed as far from tradition as did Cluny. Most were modeled after the Parisian use, whose breviary underwent its final and definitive reform in 1736. In it, Second Vespers of All Saints is followed by Vespers of the Dead, reformed only by the removal of non-Scriptural elements. All Souls itself was a full liturgical day ending with None. Mattins and Lauds were again altered to replace texts not coming from Scripture, losing some of their most beautiful responsories, which were replaced by new compositions of dubious musical quality. The readings of the first Nocturn come from Job, and those of the second and third follow the arrangement in the Cluniac breviary. At the Little Hours, the psalms begin immediately after the silent prayers, and are taken from Sunday in the new Parisian psalter. They are followed by one of the new Scriptural responsories and finish with the Lord’s prayer, the usual preces, and collect.

The memorable propers of the Mass of the Dead were also doomed to revision, since none them derive from Biblical texts. New propers were duly composed, and in most Neo-Gallican rites they are the following:

Introit (from Ps. 73). Respice, Domine, in testamentum tuum; ne tradas bestiis animas confitentes tibi, et animas pauperum tuorum ne obliviscaris in finem. Ps. Ut quid, Deus, repulisti in finem; * iratus est furor tuus super oves pascuæ tuæ. ℣. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine, * et lux perpetua luceat eis. Respice, &c.
Have regard, O Lord, to thy convenant; deliver not up to beasts the souls that confess to thee: and forget not to the end the souls of thy poor. Ps. O God, why hast thou cast us off unto the end: why is thy wrath enkindled against the sheep of thy pasture? ℣. Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord, and let perpetual life shine upon them. Have regard, &c.

Gradual (from Ps. 141). Clamavi ad te, Domine; dixi, Tu es spes mea, portio mea in terra viventium. ℣. Educ de custodia animam meam ad confitendum nomini tuo: me expectant justi, donec retribuas mihi.
I cried to thee, O Lord: I said: Thou art my hope, my portion in the land of the living. ℣. Bring my soul out of prison, that I may praise thy name: the just wait for me, until thou reward me.

Tract (from Baruch 3). Domine omnipotens, anima in angustiis, et spiritus anxius clamat at te. Audi, Domine, et miserere, quia Deus es miséricors; et miserere nostri, quia peccavimus ante te. Domine omnipotens, Deus Israel, audi nunc orationem mortuorum Israel.
O Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, the soul in anguish, and the troubled spirit crieth to thee. Hear, O Lord, and have mercy, for thou art a merciful God, and have pity on us: for we have sinned before thee. O Lord Almighty, the God of Israel, hear now the prayer of the dead of Israel.

Offertory (from Micheas 7). Ad Dominum aspiciam, expectabo Deum salvatorem meum; audiet me Deus meus: consurgam cum sedero in tenebris, Dominus lux mea est: iram Domini portabo, quoniam peccavi ei: educet me in lucem, videbo justitiam ejus.
I will look towards the Lord, I will wait for God my Saviour: my God will hear me, I shall arise, when I sit in darkness, the Lord is my light. I will bear the wrath of the Lord, because I have sinned against him: he will bring me forth into the light, I shall behold his justice.

Communion (from John 6). Qui manducat meam carnem, et bibit meum sanguinem, habet vitam aeternam, et ego resuscitabo eum in novissimo die.
He that eateth my flesh, and drinketh my blood, hath everlasting life: and I will raise him up in the last day.

The sequence Dies iræ was preserved, but its first stanza was amended to suppress mention of the Sibyl, and the thirteenth to remove the suggestion that the sinful woman Our Lord absolved was St Mary Magdalene.

The Neo-Gallican introit for Masses of the Dead. The melody follows that of the traditional Introit.

This was the state of the Office of All Souls throughout most of France—even whilom conservative Lyons eventually chose to forsake its traditions and ape the Parisian use—until Dom Guéranger began his efforts to replace the Neo-Gallican rites with the Roman, imagining that Rome—surely Rome!—would prove a bulwark of tradition. It is intensely ironic, then, that St Pius X’s reform of the Roman breviary broke with the very tradition Dom Guéranger cherished, and did so considerably influenced by the Neo-Gallican experiments. We will discuss this final chapter in the saga of All Souls on Friday.

On the Monastic Cursus (GA 2.65-68)

The Monastic Distribution of the Psalms

Ch. 65
On the Monastic Cursus

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Stowe Breviary, 1322-1325

One may ask why St. Benedict ordered the hours for monks in a way that differs from the custom of the Church, and why the eminent pope Gregory approved this order with his authority. In my opinion, what is intended in this most wise distribution of the Psalms made by that man “full of the spirit of all the saints,” is that the contemplative life should be distinguished from the active life by office just as by habit, and by this privilege the observance of monastic discipline is to be commended. So St. Gregory, endowed with all wisdom, seeing that that “man full of God” had ordered all these things by this principle, duly confirmed them by his own authority. Though he altered the psalms, he ordered the office with the same meaning in mind. For because we work for six days in this life, just as mankind has worked for six ages in the vineyard, and just as we rest on the Lord’s day, so in the seventh age we will receive the denarius of eternal life. For this reason he is thought to have instituted the psalms of Prime for the six days of the week which tell of the just men], who worked in the Lord’s vineyard throughout six ages of the world, as if for various hours of the day (Matthew 20).

CAP. LXV. – De cursu monachorum.

Quaeritur cur sanctus Benedictus aliter monachis horas ordinaverit quam mos Ecclesiae habuerit, vel cur praecipuus apostolicorum Gregorius hoc sua auctoritate probaverit. Sed sciendum est hoc sapientissima dispositione provisum, ut puto, a viro pleno spiritu omnium iustorum, scilicet ut contemplativa vita, sicut habitu, ita etiam officio ab activa discerneretur, et monasticae disciplinae religio hoc privilegio commendaretur. Unde beatus Gregorius omni sapientia praeditus, perpendens virum Deo plenum cuncta sub praedicta significatione ordinasse, iure legitur ea sua auctoritate roborasse. Licet enim psalmos permutaverit, cuncta tamen sub eadem significatione posuit. Nempe quia sex diebus in hac vita, quasi sex aetatibus in vinea laboratur, ut sicut in Dominica requies, ita in septima aetate denarius vitae recipiatur. Ideo sex diebus psalmos de illis iustis ad primam instituisse consideratur, qui sex aetatibus quasi diversis horis in vinea Domini laborasse memorantur (Matth. XX).

Ch. 66

Sunday Prime

For instance, on the first day he assigned Beatus vir (Psalm 1) along with the others, because it signifies Abel and the other just men who entered the Lord’s vineyard in the first age, as if in the morning.

Monday Prime

On the second day, he chose Domine, Deus meus (Psalm 7) to be sung along with the others, because it tells of Noah and the other saints who worked in the Lord’s vineyard in the second age, as if at the third hour of the day.

Tuesday Prime

On the third day, Exsurge, Domine, non confortetur homo (Psalm 9 II) is sung, in which Nimrod, who was the first to introduce idolatry, is understood. He also expresses the Antichrist who is praised above all the false gods. In Domino confido (Psalm 10) is also sung, which portrays Terah, and Salvum me fac (Psalm 11), which portrays Abraham, who toiled in the vineyard in the third age.

Wednesday Prime

He assigned Usquequo, Domine (Psalm 12) along with the rest to Wednesday, for they signify Joseph and the sons of Israel wayfaring in Egypt, who bore the weight of the day and heat in the fourth age, as if at the sixth hour.

Thursday Prime

He wanted Conserva me, Domine (Psalm 15) and the others to be sung on Thursday, because they express the priests, judges, and kings who in the fifth age, as at the ninth hour, began to work in this vineyard under the Law.

Friday Prime

On the sixth day, Cum sancto sanctus eris (Psalm 17) is sung, in which John the Baptist is understood, and Coeli ennarant (Psalm 18), which signifies the apostles, and Exaudiat (Psalm 19), which signifies the martyrs, who in the sixth age, as at the ninth hour, cultivated this vineyard.

On the Hours

The same St. Benedict decided to have some of the fifteen gradual psalms sung at three hours, namely Terce, Sext, and None, because he wanted to teach that we approach the Trinity through the fifteen grades of charity. He wanted Vespers to be celebrated with four psalms, teaching to obtain the denarius through the four Gospels. He gave Compline three psalms because all things reach their consummation in faith, hope, and charity. He is said to have received this order of psalms from St. Ambrose. Moreover, on Sunday he designed the hours based on the psalm that signifies God’s Law, i.e. charity, because in the resurrection God, who is charity, will be the rest and reward to all those who labor in this world, being obedient to his law through charity.

CAP. LXVI. – Prima Dominica.

Prima quippe die Beatus vir (Psal. I) cum reliquis instituit, quia Abel et alios iustos designant, qui prima aetate quasi mane vineam Domini intrabant.

Feria secunda.

Secunda die Domine, Deus meus (Psal. VII) cum aliis censuit cantari, qui Noe et illos sanctos praeferunt, qui secunda aetate in vinea Domini laboraverunt.

Feria tertia.

Tertia die Exsurge, Domine, non confortetur homo (Psal. IX) canitur, in quo Nemrod, qui primus idololatriam instituit, intelligitur: per quem Antichristus exprimitur, qui supra omne, quod dicitur Deus, extollitur. Canitur etiam In Domino confido (Psal. X), qui Thare, et Salvum me fac (Psal. XI), qui Abraham demonstrat, quia tertia aetate in hac vinea desudabant.

Feria quarta.

Quarta die, Usquequo, Domine (Psal. XII), cum reliquis instituit, qui Ioseph et filios Israel in Aegypto peregrinantes insinuat, qui quarta aetate velut sexta hora pondus diei et aestus portabant.

Feria quinta.

Quinta die Conserva me, Domine (Psal. XV), cum aliis decantari voluit, qui sacerdotes, iudices, reges exprimunt, qui quinta aetate, quasi nona hora, sub lege huius vineae operari instituerunt.

Feria sexta.

Sexto die, Cum sancto sanctus eris (Psal. XVII), canitur, in quo Ioannes Baptista intelligitur, et Coeli enarrant (Psal. XVIII) , qui apostolos, atque Exaudiat (Psal. XIX) , qui martyres designant, qui sexta aetate quasi hora nona hanc vineam excolebant.

De horis.

Ad tres horas, scilicet Tertia, Sexta, Nona, psalmos de quindecim gradibus cantari statuit, quia per quidecim gradus charitatis Trinitatem adiri docuit. Vesperas quaternis psalmis celebrari decrevit, quia per quatuor Evangelia denarium adipisci monuit. Completorium tribus psalmis terminari censuit, quia cuncta in fide, spe, charitate compleri voluit. Hunc autem ordinem psalmorum traditur a beato Ambrosio accepisse. Porro in Dominica die de illo psalmo horas instituit, qui legem Dei, scilicet charitatem innuit, quia in resurrectione Deus, qui est charitas, omnibus hic pie in lege per charitatem laborantibus praemium et requies erit. Ad Primam autem quaterna, ad reliquas vero horas novena capitula psalluntur, quia per quatuor virtutes ad novena angelorum agmina hic in Christo laborantes perducuntur.

Ch. 68
The Benedictine Office

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Psalter of Henry VI


We find the same in the office of St. Benedict. On Sunday we commemorate the Conception, where we say “Lift up your gates, O ye princes, and the King of Glory shall enter in” (Psalm 23); at Vespers: “who maketh a barren woman to dwell in a house, the joyful mother of children” (Psalm 112).


Monday is the baptism, and we say “By the word of the Lord the heavens were established” (Psalm 32), and “the waters of the sea as in a vessel”; at Vespers: “the Jordan was turned back” (Psalm 113).


On Tuesday it is the Nativity, and we say “the Lord of armies is with us” (Psalm 45), and  “As we have heard, so have we seen, in the city of the Lord of hosts” (Psalm 46), and “We have received thy mercy, O God” (Psalm 47); at Vespers: “of the fruit of thy womb” (Psalm 131).


On Wednesday is the betrayal: “They have thought to cast away my price” (Psalm 61), and “They that sat in the gate spoke against me” (Psalm 68); at Vespers: “O daughter of Babylon, miserable: blessed shall he be who shall repay thee” (Psalm 136), and “the Lord will repay for me” (Psalm 137).


On Thursday, we recall the eating of his body, as in: “He gave them the bread of heaven” (Psalm 77); at Vespers, as in: “Let my prayer be directed as incense” (Psalm 140).


Friday is his Passion, as in: “O God, the wicked are risen up against me, and they have not set thee before their eyes” (Psalm 85) and “thou hast not assisted him in battle” (Psalm 85); at Vespers, as in: “I looked on my right hand, and beheld, and there was no one that would know me” (Psalm 141).


Saturday is his burial, as in: “The sun knoweth his going down” (Psalm 103); at Vespers, as in: “His spirit shall go forth” (Psalm 145).


Sunday is the day of his resurrection, as in: “To him my soul shall live” (Psalm 21); at Vespers, as in: “A light is risen up” (Psalm 111). The fact that he interposed a Gloria Patri in certain psalms comes from the Hebrews, who put a diapsalma in certain psalms where they perceive a deeper meaning.

CAP. LXVIII. – Dominica.

Eadem in officio sancti Benedicti notantur. In Dominica Conceptio, ut ibi: Tollite portas, principes, et introibit rex gloriae (Psal. XXIII). In Vespera: Habitare facit sterilem in domo matrem filiorum laetantem (Psal. CXII).

Feria secunda.

In feria secunda baptismus, ut ibi: Verbo Domini coeli firmati (Psal. XXXII), et sicut in utre aquas maris (ibid.). In Vesperis, ut ibi: Iordanis conversus est retrorsum (Psal. CXIII).

Feria tertia.

In feria tertia Nativitas, ut ibi: Dominus virtutum nobiscum (Psal. XLV) ; et ibi: Sicut audivimus, sic vidimus in civitate Domini (Psal. XLVII). Et iterum Suscepimus, Deus, misericordiam tuam (ibid.). In Vespera, ut ibi: De fructu ventris tui (Psal. CXXXI).

Feria quarta.

In feria quarta traditio ibi: Pretium meum cogitaverunt repellere (Psal. LXI). Et ibi: Adversum me loquebantur qui sedebant in porta (Psal. LXVIII). In Vespera, ut ibi: Filia Babylonis misera, beatus qui retribuet (Psal. CXXXVI) ; et ibi: Dominus retribuet pro me (Psal. CXXXVII).

Feria quinta.

In feria quinta, corporis eius comestio, ut ibi: Panem coeli dedit eis (Psal. LXXVII). In Vespera, ut ibi: Dirigatur oratio mea sicut incensum (Psal. CXL).

Feria sexta.

In feria sexta Passio, ut ibi: Deus iniqui insurrexerunt super me, et non proposuerunt te in conspectu suo (Psal. LXXXV); et ibi Non ei auxiliatus es in bello (Psal. LXXXVIII). In Vespera, ut ibi: Considerabam ad dexteram, et videbam, et non erat qui cognosceret me (Psal. CXLI).


In Sabbato sepultura, ut ibi: Sol cognovit occasum suum (Psal. CIII). In Vespera, ut ibi: Exibit spiritus eius (Psal. CXLV).


In Dominica resurrectio, ut ibi: Anima mea illi vivet (Psal. XXI). In Vespera, ut ibi: Exortum est lumen (Psal. CXI). Quod quibusdam psalmis Gloria Patri interposuit, hoc secundum Hebraeos fecit, qui quibusdam Psalmis diapsalma interponunt, ubi altiorem sensum intelligunt.