Our Angelic Defenders

I’ve sometimes said that I’m the youngest person you will meet who has strong memories of something that the tidal wave of social, educational, and ecclesiological change in the 1960s was going to leave in sticks and rubble. In part, that’s because I taught myself to read when I was three, so I could, for example, puzzle out the Latin on the left page of the handsome missal that my mother always took to daily Mass. I was too small to see the priest, so I thought his voice was coming from high up on the wall by the ceiling, not that I paid any mind to him. The book was more interesting.

Yet now I see that many things were already lost before I arrived. I suppose my fellow Christians in other communions can name some: congregations that sang in four-part harmony, without a choirmaster; weekly evening lectures on the Christian life—who can name them all?

The book I am holding can give us a few: Paroissien Romain [Roman Parishioner], printed in Belgium in 1956. It contains prayers, readings, and chants for the Mass and the Divine Office for every Sunday through the year and all feast days. Its inside cover is marked “Paroisse Notre Dame de l’Assomption, Arichat, 1958.” That’s the main church on the island in Nova Scotia where we live in the summer.

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Anthony Esolen is the author of over thirty books, including Real Music: A Guide to the Timeless Hymns of the Church (Tan, with a CD), Out of the Ashes: Rebuilding American Culture (Regnery), and The Hundredfold: Songs for the Lord (Ignatius). He has also translated Dante’s Divine Comedy (Random House). He and his wife Debra publish a web magazine, Word and Song (anthonyesolen.substack.com), on poetry, hymnody, language, classic films, and music. He is a senior editor of Touchstone.

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