Monday, March 31, 2014

March 31: Obit of V.B. Michael Browne, 81st Master General of the Order

Today, at Pretiosa, we make an obit of Michael Browne, deceased Master General of the Order, and Cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church.  He died on March 31, 1971.

Cardinal Browne was born in Grangemockler, County Tipperaryin the year 1887.  He joined the Order of Preachers in in 1903.  He studied at Rockwell College, the Dominican convent at the Basilica of San Clemente in Rome, and the University of Fribourg.  He was ordained to the priesthood in 1910.

In his distinguished career, he served as professor at the Angelicum, was appointed Master of the Sacred Palace (1951 – 1955) and was elected 81st Master General of the Order of Preachers on April 11, 1955.  He served as Master of the Order until 1962.  He was elevated to the cardinalate in 1962.

His name is forever linked with the history Dominican Breviary, since he authorized the last official edition of the Breviarium juxta ritum sacri ordinis praedicatorum; the 1962 edition which bears his name on the title sheet.  The English translation of the Breviarium, issued in 1967 and approved by then Master General of the Order Aniceto Fernandez, O.P., is not an official edition issued for use by the entire Order, but merely an authorized English translation

The 1962 edition of the Breviarium bears the effects of the powerful forces that were bearing down on the Order to "Romanize" it's liturgical books, particularly its calendar.  These forces were palpable enough in 1945 to cause Fr. William Bonniwell, O.P. to end his "History of the Dominican Liturgy" with a spirited defense of the unique Mass and Office that the Dominicans had preserved for nearly 7 centuries.  He notes that at that time, there were forces within and without of the Order, that "resent an active Order having a special rite; they seem to think that it is a sign of singularity and ostentation."  He concludes this defense with a call for the Order to retain it, insisting that
"Dominic and his followers selected certain liturgical forms chiefly indeed because of their Roman antiquity and their matchless beauty.  But there was another purpose in view.  Being men of extraordinary sanctity and intellectuality, they deliberately chose from among the riches of the Roman liturgy whatever was most suited for the goal they had in mind.  As a result of their wise selection, the form of the Roman Rite they adopted not only became a potent factor in the moulding of the spirit of the Order, but it became part of that spirit....Rooted as it is in the remote past, it speaks to us of the spirit of Dominic, Albert the Great, and Thomas Aquinas; it enables the modern friars to avail themselves of the identical forms for sanctification which those great men employed; and, in so doing, it imparts to all who make reverent use of it something of the incomparable spirit of those men, something of their rare zeal for Truth.
 The "Romanization" process began shortly thereafter, at the General Chapter held in Washington, D.C., in 1947, a scant two years after the publication of Fr. Bonniwell's book.  The calendar of the 1962 edition of the Breviarium and the 1965 Missale bear witness to that process.  Though many of the Dominican Blessed's are still on the calendar, as are some of the old Roman calendar saints, it is truly remarkable to see how much was lost.  The ultimate abandonment of the Dominican Rite of Mass and Office, for Novus ordo and Liturgy of the Hours, was the culmination of that process.  In future posts, I hope to be making some comparison of the 1952 and 1962 calendars.

I like to think that in putting aside their unique rites, the Order, in a sense, preserved them intact for future generations of Dominicans to discover.  They have been spared the relentless, almost neurotic, manipulations and meddling that the Novus ordo and the LotH have endured.  My hope and prayer is that future generations of Dominicans discover them, and lovingly and respectfully restore them to their proper place.