Wednesday 31 August 2022

Praying in Latin : Book Review

We are pleased to present this review of a recently-published book by Dr David Birch of Melbourne (Australia).

Dr Birch is retired from a University career in Linguistics and Communication Studies. Initially educated in the United Kingdom as a Medievalist, he completed an Honours dissertation on the language of the 14th Century English Mystics, and a DPhil on the polemical writings of St Thomas More.  He has spent a lifetime - both in public worship and in private - with Latin prayer and lectio divina.  He resides in Victoria (Australia), and is an aspirant to the eremitical life.

Now to a few words about this admirable and scholarly work.  Offering a prayer in the Latin language has been part of Catholic life in the West for almost 2,000 years. Each Latin prayer, whether prayed in public worship, or in private contemplation, is saturated with the very rich history of the Roman Catholic Church. The place of Latin prayer thus forms an intrinsic part of the deep and extensive patrimony that is Catholic Tradition. 

This study Latin Prayer : Aspects of Language and Catholic Spirituality explores a way of prayer within that patrimony and Tradition.  Its approach is linguistic, but expressed through a Catholic heart which is steeped in this Latin Tradition.  Over thirteen chapters Dr Birch, freely taking extracts from the Missale Romanum, Breviarium Romanum, the Scripture itself and devotional prayers, explores a wide range of grammatical, linguistic and stylistic features of Latin prayer.  By including a very comprehensive bibliography of Liturgical Latin, this book helps to offer a linguistic means to a spiritual end, through a vocabulary of language, grammar and prayer, aiming at exploring and articulating some of the spiritual depths, Catholic sensibilities, and modern day opportunities, that lie at the heart of the Latin prayer of the Catholic Church. 

It might be observed that this volume is neither primarily a "how to learn Latin" primer, nor is it a compendium of Latin prayers, but rather it is a structured meditation on the nature of prayer.  It is also a spiritual response to many of the developments in Catholicism since the Second Vatican Council - not least so recently - which have attempted to sweep aside the Latin prayer of almost 2,000 years of Catholic worship and assign it to an obscure and scorned footnote in history.  

Much has been written about these various developments elsewhere, but this book does not actively seek to engage in the varied politics surrounding the many decades of contemporary change and commentary in the Church.  Neither does it seek overtly to politicise these issues or to direct its readers to a form of Latin isolationism.  

Rather, it seeks to invest Catholic prayer with a much greater sense of what it has been, may be, and indeed still is, to many Catholics worldwide.  To that end, Dr Birch attempts to engage with what it is to be a praying Catholic, imbued with the sort of sensibilities, the sense of the sacred, the awe and the separateness from everyday things that praying in a hieratic language (which is no longer anyone’s mother tongue) can bring. 

The central message of the book is not complicated : God is extraordinary, and praying in an extraordinary language like Latin, helps to bring to our consciousness that extraordinariness.  It is among the attractive features of this book that it is not interested in seeking to make God ordinary just like one of us, as much contemporary theology and liturgy seeks to do.  Reading this book presents challenges to the reader, just as the Christian life presents to all who follow it.

For those who know Latin there can be found in Latin Prayer : Aspects of Language and Catholic Spirituality many prayers both familiar and unfamiliar.  And perhaps those who have no Latin will be inspired by this book to learn it.  This reviewer hopes that everyone, by reading Dr Birch's study and regardless of linguistic skills, will discover and marvel at the depth, power and potency of the Catholic patrimony and Tradition in Latin prayer; and value it as an ever-relevant, ever-new and rewarding spiritual path.  

One last and important note :  All royalties from the sale of this book will be donated in full to the Benedictine monks of the Notre Dame Priory Colebrook, in Tasmania (Australia).

Images from the pages of this book have been reproduced with the cooperation of Dr Birch.

This volume may be purchased from your local bookshop by ordering it with 

ISBN 978-0-6454193-0-6

It is also available in paperback and as an e-book at and major online bookstores. 

Contacting Dr Birch :

Monday 29 August 2022

Vestments in the Gothic Revival Style

For a Parish in the Archdiocese of Oklahoma City, the Studio recently completed as set of Festal vestments in the Gothic Revival Style.

The vestments were made from a brocade in a lovely shade of cream and were lined in a golden silk taffeta.  The ornament was formed from one of the Studio's unique braids, named Saint Chad.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries at this page

The Saint Bede Studio

Gothic Revival vestments

The Saint Bede Studio

Sunday 28 August 2022

Saint Andrew's Abbey-Church Brugges (Belgium)

Photograph: Dirk Vde 2007
Please note: The above copyrighted image may not be reproduced in any circumstances.
The magnificent Benedictine Abbey-Church of Saint Andrew in Bruges, Belgium is completely intact and truly glorious.

The altar rests beneath a magnificent civory or ciborium, the vault of which is covered with golden mosaic tiles. The apse walls are treated with inlaid marblework and murals painted in the Beuronese school of sacred art. Equally magnificent is the Cosmatesque floor of the sanctuary.

The altar of Saint Joseph in the Abbey-Church.
Here is seen a further example of the Beuronese school of sacred art.
The altar itself, together with its bronze Crucifix and candlesticks, is a work of art,
beautifully detailed and admirably proportionate.

The charming photograph adjacent was taken in the Abbey Church of Saint Andrew in Bruges, Belgium around 1958.  A Benedictine monk is pictured at the beginning of a Low Mass, attended by two servers.

Re-posted from our other Blog Where Heaven and Earth Meet.

Click on the images for an enlarged view. 

Thursday 25 August 2022

For Zealous Shepherds

Some years ago, we found this beautiful prayer of Saint John Fisher, dating from the year 1508, which he uttered during a Sermon. It is a prayer for the appointment to the Church of good bishops. Unfortunately the prayer was not answered as fully as he might have hoped. John Fisher, Bishop of Rochester since 1504, was the only Bishop in Catholic England to refuse to assent to the Act of Supremacy, the supreme arrogation of the vile despot Henry VIII (Tudor), severing England from Communion with the Roman Church. For such a refusal, Fisher was put to death by the tyrant in June 1535.  Pope Paul III had made him a Cardinal shortly before his death. Pope Pius XI canonised him four hundred years later (together with Sir Thomas More).

The portrait accompanying this post is described here . Based on Holbein's famous drawing, this portrait might easily be a photograph taken yesterday, so lifelike is it.

Lord, according to your promise that the Gospel should be preached throughout the whole world, raise up men fit for such work. The Apostles were but soft and yielding clay till they were baked hard by the fire of the Holy Ghost.

So, good Lord, do now in like manner again with your Church militant; change and make the soft and slippery earth into hard stone; set in your Church strong and mighty pillars that may suffer and endure great labours, watching, poverty, thirst, hunger, cold and heat; which also shall not fear the threatening of princes, persecution, neither death but always persuade and think with themselves to suffer with a good will, slanders, shame, and all kinds of torments, for the glory and laud of your Holy Name.  By this manner, good Lord, the truth of your Gospel shall be preached throughout all the world.

Therefore, merciful Lord, exercise your mercy, show it indeed upon your Church.  Amen.

Monday 15 August 2022

On the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin

Maria Regina
To honour the Blessed Virgin on this Feast of her Assumption, we are pleased to prepare this post about one of the Studio's most commonly made vestments.  We call it Maria Regina

These vestments are made in the Gothic Revival style from a beautiful English brocade in a shade of ivory.  The vestments are lined in Royal Blue coloured taffeta and ornamented with one of the Studio's unique Marian braids.

Please click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : This page.

Marian vestments

Tuesday 2 August 2022

Priestly Ordinations 2021 : 7

The Saint Bede Studio
In this post, we are pleased to describe a set of vestments in the Saint Bede Studio's Saint Benet style, which was commissioned by an ordinand from Australia.

These Gothic Revival vestments were made from an ecclesiastical brocade in a lovely shade of ivory, and ornamented with the Studio's unique braids.  The wider braid illustrated is called Welby and is a replica of an orphrey designed by the famed English Gothic Revivalist A.W.N. Pugin.  The orphrey braid was enhanced with a quatrefoil galloon in red and gold.  The lining of these vestments was formed from a golden shade of taffeta.

Please pray for all newly-ordained priests.

Click on the images for an enlarged view.

Enquiries : This page.

Gothic Revival vestments

Gothic Revival vestments