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  • Eglise et nation: La question liturgique en France au XIXe siècle
  • Richard F. Costigan S.J.
Eglise et nation: La question liturgique en France au XIXe siècle. By Vincent Petit. [Collection « Histoire»] (Rennes: Presses Universitaires de Rennes. 2010. Pp. 199. €18,00 paperback. ISBN 978-2-753-51014-2.)

Vincent Petit offers this study of the Romanization of the liturgy in France in the middle decades of the nineteenth century. The Ultramontane movement in the Catholic Church was a great ecclesio-political and ecclesiological movement away from older, largely national, forms and modes of Catholicism and toward a universal, international Catholicism centered on the papacy and the Church of Rome. In liturgy, this entailed the replacement of older national and local forms of worship in various countries by those favored and practiced in Rome.

In relating how this came about, Petit, a professor of history at Université Paris-I and Fribourg, really does not do justice to the great idealism of the first generation of Ultramontanes inspired especially by Félicité de Lamennais in the 1820s. They were reacting to centuries of Gallican state control of religion, to the Revolution's attempt to regiment religion in renewed and largely unfriendly ways, and to the continuation of Gallicanism by Napoleon and the Bourbon Restoration. They turned their eyes beyond the Alps to the distant Holy Father down in Rome, revering him rather uncritically as embodying the lofty Christian values they found lacking in the French state system. In pressing for the adoption in France of the Roman liturgy, they thought of themselves as reviving the earliest forms of liturgy that had been preserved in Rome and largely lost in other countries, especially in France. Thus, it is not really correct historically to keep calling their ideas, as Petit does, reactionary, integralist, and foreign.

But Petit does very scholarly work on an abundance of primary sources in tracing the rapid growth in acceptance of Roman modes in France. The most prominent figure is, of course, Prosper Guéranger, O.S.B., in his youth an admirer of Lamennais. Like other Mennaisians offended by the Gallican state system, he turned to what he considered earlier and more authentic Catholic history and tradition, and in the spirit of Romanticism, wrote numerous works promoting the acceptance of the Roman liturgy. The number of French clergy and some laity impressed by this grew steadily and rather rapidly. There had been regional and local missals, breviaries, and hymnbooks across France, and the process of replacing these with Roman books is Petit's main subject. He has gone through a large number of books, articles, and ecclesiastical documents and shows clearly and succinctly how the process of replacing French with Roman modes took place. By the 1860s, before the First Vatican Council, the adoption of Roman forms of liturgy in France was largely complete.

The book is rather brief. The main text is 106 pages, followed by fifty-eight pages of annexes that offer charts, maps, and key texts of French bishops. He gives a listing of sources in chronological order in seven double-columned pages. There is no other bibliography, but there are abundant references in [End Page 833] footnotes to primary and secondary sources. The book includes a useful glossary of terms that appear in the text. Thus, Petit offers a historical study that is quite scholarly and informative.

Richard F. Costigan S.J.
Saint Louis University


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