Externals of the Catholic Church – Preface

Our Catholic Liturgy is a grand and harmonious manifestation of man’s homage to God. Its words and ceremonies and devotions are the growth of centuries. The essentials of our Church’s worship have been embellished with a wealth of ritual observance, of which each detail is symbolic of the purpose for which that worship is offered. The explanation of these manifold practices is the object of this work.

How little is known, even by fairly well-informed Catholics, concerning the history and meaning of the practices which have been embodied in our Church’s majestic ritual! They kneel before the altar of God; they listen to the cadence of psalm and hymn and Preface and prayer; they see the ministers of the Church perform various sacred actions – and in many cases they know little of the origin of what they hear and see, or of the reasons for the ceremonial which adds so much to the beauty of Catholic worship. They receive the Sacraments of the Church, devoutly, indeed, but without ever trying to learn why these are administered with certain ceremonies. They use the sacramentals, and profit by so doing; but how few have had an opportunity of learning the history of these things which our Church sanctifies for us! And when a non-Catholic, interested in these ancient practices of the “Mother Church,” asks why and wherefore – how seldom we, the children of that Church, are able to give an accurate and satisfactory answer!

This book is an attempt to put into clear, convenient and readable form an explanation of many practices of our Church. While it covers a wider scope than any one-volume work hitherto issued on the subject in English (or, possibly, in any other language), it has no pretensions to be considered an authoritative or even a complete summary of the matter treated in its pages. The wealth of subjects which might be included in “The Externals of the Catholic Church” is so great that no book of this size could contain even a fragmentary account of each; and so a selection had to be made – the results of which the reader will find in the Table of Contents.

It has not been deemed advisable to cumber its pages with references to authorities, or with footnotes. The facts stated, however, have been carefully gleaned from the most approved sources. First of all, the author wishes to pay a tribute of gratitude to that monumental, marvelous and long-desired work which is the literary glory of the Church in America – the “Catholic Encyclopedia.” Extensive use has been made of its many volumes; in fact, without its aid a book like this would have been well-nigh impossible.

He is deeply indebted, too, to that valuable little book, “The Sacramentals,” by Father Lambing, and parts of this work will be found to be reminiscent of much that was lucidly treated by that learned and painstaking author. The “Catholic Dictionary” has furnished much from its concise and accurate pages; and the following works have been of more than occasional usefulness in gathering the matter which this book contains: “The Roman Court,” by Rev. P. A. Baart; “Roman Documents and Decrees”; “The Law of the Church,” by Rev. Ethelred Taunton; the “Acta Apostolicae Sedis”; the “Bibliotheca” of Ferraris; “The New Matrimonial Legislation,” by Rev. C. J. Cronin, S.J.; “The Mass; a Study of the Roman Rite,” by Father Fortescue; the “Ecclesiastical Dictionary” of Father Them; “The Holy Sacrifice of the Mass,” by Rev. Dr. Gihr; the “Handbook of the Divine Liturgy,” by Rev. C. C. Clarke; “Ritual in Catholic Worship,” by Father Procter, O.P.; “Christian Symbols,” by C. E. Clement; “Lent and Holy Week,” by Rev. Herbert Thurston; “The Costumes of Prelates,” by Father Nainfa, S.S. – and various other standard works and reference-books on the Church’s law and liturgy.

If this book shall be occasionally a help to some of his fellow-priests for purposes of instruction, or if through it some knowledge of the beautiful ceremonial of our Church is imparted to our Catholic laity, it will fulfill the intention and the hopes of

– The Author