Propers done properly

In the Hall of Merton College hangs a portrait of a clean shaven man staring intently at a book on a stand to his right. It is the Franciscan theologian John Duns Scotus, reputed to have been a Fellow – or at any rate a member – of the college in the thirteenth century. I remember Jasper Griffin remarking during a seminar at Merton, as the sounds of first year lawyers celebrating the end of examinations wafted up into the room, that such things had been happening "since the days of Duns Scotus". Not that he intended any approbation  of the practice of "trashing". Being a Balliol man I think he was amused by Merton's claims to seniority and was using Scotus' name as a facetious authority to a widespread but officially disapproved practice.

On (presumably) 8th November 1997 I was walking with a friend to college for breakfast when we fell into step with the Chaplain. He remarked that it was the Feast of Blessed John Duns Scotus (hence my guess of the date). The Chaplain was CofE of course, and both of us were Catholics, but we had to confess we knew nothing about him. "Well he did believe in the Immaculate Conception," said the Chaplain. "So on the side of the angels?" I ventured. "Yes, but not on the side of God," was the testy reply.

Scotus died in Cologne in 1308. On 20th March 1993 Pope John Paul II confirmed that he was beatified. Strictly speaking, since this was based on a cultus immemorabilis, he was not in fact beatified on that date. The cult is limited to the Diocese of Cologne and the Franciscan order. The city of Oxford is at the southern end of the Diocese of Birmingham which has Blessed Agnello of Pisa, an early Franciscan who worked there, in its calendar. Presumably it is thought two early Franciscans would be a bit much.

You can see a screen grab from  the virtual tour of Merton College  on the left. A clearer black and white image is on the right.

You can see a screen grab from the virtual tour of Merton College on the left. A clearer black and white image is on the right.

A few years ago I went looking for propers for Scotus' feast day. I found my way to the website of the Diocese of Cologne, to this page. Once upon a time all dioceses did something similar. I have a Breviary printed at Tours in 1954 with the "Officia propria Archidiœcesis Birminghamiensis", all in Latin, bound in as a supplement at the back. This is not some shonky "tipping in". The whole thing is a robust construction which I foresee will survive for many years. I also have a Supplementum ad Breviarium et Missale Romanum Adjectis Officiis Sanctorum Angliae. This was printed by Messrs Keating & Brown, printers to the Vicar Apostolic, in 1823 – six years before the Catholic Relief Act.

Nowadays when official repression is nothing like that in the first quarter of the nineteenth century, and when what repression which exists is often gleefully cheered on – if not initiated – by well placed gangs of soi-disant Catholics, nothing like the same effort is put into preparing native liturgical books. You are expected to cull the the propers from the Common of Saints. Birmingham produces a staple bound A4 book with propers for Mass – in English mind – but that is about it.

So this production by the Diocese of Cologne is remarkable. It is in Latin. It is laid out for printing. Look rubrics! In red! The volumes correspond to the four volumes of Liturgia horarum not to the three volume Divine Office used in most English speaking Commonwealth countries. The latter is not without fault, mostly that you spend more than half the year with the (brown) volume iii in your hands which therefore deteriorates much more quickly. With Liturgia horarum after Epiphany and the end of volume i, you usually have a few weeks using volume iii before moving back to volume ii for Lent and Easter. Only after Pentecost is it a straight run through volumes iii and iv.

Cologne Supplement to the Office for Advent and Christmas [pdf]

Cologne Supplement to the Office for Lent and Easter [pdf]

Cologne Supplement to the Office for Weeks 1-17 [pdf]

Cologne Supplement to the Office for Weeks 18-34 [pdf]

The office for Blessed John Duns Scotus is in volume iv pages 53-55 of the pdf.

This is probably something all dioceses should be doing but so far as I know Cologne is the only one.