Monday, January 25


Everything I Needed to Know I Learned from Adrian Fortescue

An old hand at serving once told me that in the bad old days before the Council, they were always told, when they didn’t know what to do next, go to the center of the altar, genuflect, and go back to your place, and by the time you got back, the problem would in all likelihood have fixed itself already. This seems a good bit of advice for life, at least of the Blackadderish, “When the going gets tough, the tough hide under the table” variety. In that spirit, I have combed Adrian Fortescue’s* monumentally nerdy (this is a good thing) but extremely useful compendium Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described for similarly useful bits of life lessons—especially if you find some way to willfully misinterpret them.

*(Adrian Fortescue, the most reluctant of liturgical wonks--he wrote the original because he needed the cash-- should not be confused with the martyr of the same name--a beatified knight of Malta martyr, which is about as awesome as a pirate robot ninja--nor “Dangerscue” as Bubbs would put it.)

Fortescue on Modesty and Dating:
“Two points occur on which one might hope the authorities would simplify. One is the constant kissing.” --Introduction, xix (1920 edition, very much out of context)

Fortescue on Dieting:
“No blessing is given, no indulgence announced.” -- Solemn Mass in the Presence of a Greater Prelate, p. 196 (this and all below from the 2009 edition)

Fortescue on Talk Radio:
“Ditto.” --Pontifical Solemn Mass at the Throne, p. 213, fn 57.

Fortescue on Avoiding Sitcom Plots Involving the Loss of Wedding Rings Down the Kitchen Sink:
“No rubric prescribes the removal of the ring for this washing.” --Pontifical Solemn Mass at the Throne, p. 219, fn. 81

Fortescue on Using Adult Beverages on the Job:
“The deacon pours a little of the wine and water into the vessel prepared and gives it to the sacristan to drink.” --p. 218

Fortescue on Mom Checking Up on the Mess in Your Bedroom:
“The Ordinary may, however, visit more often and at any time that he sees fit.” --Canonical Visitation and Confirmation, p. 403

Fortescue on Hawaiian Luaus:
“Torches, at least four, and not more than eight, are ready.” --Pontifical Solemn Mass at the Throne, p. 200

Fortescue on Anger Management:
“At solemn Mass (of the living) and Vespers distinguished laymen are incensed.” --The Faithful at Mass, p. 247

Fortescue on Forcing Timmy to Sit in Time Out:
“…and then conducts him to his special place.” --ibid., p. 246

Fortescue on the Spanish Inquisition and its Comfy Chair:
“…the prie-dieu is to be undraped, but may have cushions (not silk.)” --p. 247

Fortescue on sports color commentators:
“The commentary should be prepared in writing, be brief, and temperate, and spoken in a moderate voice at appropriate moments.” --p. 245

Fortescue on Swine Flu:
“For a good reason—for cleanliness’s sake, or if there is a danger of contracting or spreading disease—this use of saliva is omitted.” --Baptism, p. 425 fn. 11

Fortescue on Not giving Aunt Marge a Heart Attack:
“It is advisable to warn the godmother or nurse about this before the ceremony begins.” --Baptism, p. 424 fn. 12

Fortescue on In-Flight Meal Service, or possibly MacGyver’s Methodology:
“…with the addition of the bread, lemon, and a fresh hand-towel…” --Confirmation, p. 427, fn. 21

Fortescue on the board game Clue:
“Or preferably, in the mortuary chapel.” --Funerals, p. 478, fn. 79

Fortescue on the Coriolis Effect*:
“With the exceptions noted, the celebrant at Mass always turns clockwise from the altar and anticlockwise back to it.” --Low Mass Said by a Priest, p. 66, fn. 23

*Do Australian priests turn round the other way?

Fortescue on Things Thomas Aquinas Thought About When Really, Really Bored:
“The position of the stole at the back is a disputed question.” --Low Mass Said by a Priest, p. 65

Fortescue on the Amazing X-Men:
“…applying mutatis mutandis to non-pontifical Mass…” --The Choir and Assistants at Ceremonies, p. 59

Fortescue on Barbecues:
“…should be put on well lit charcoal to make smoke that will last for some time. It is absurd to see a person swinging a thurible from which no fumes are issuing.” -- Common Ceremonial Actions, p. 49

Fortescue on Getting Rid of Bad Variety Show Performers, the beginning of J. Arthur Rank films, or Possibly Inculturation:
“The use of an Indian (hanging) gong is not permitted.” --Liturgical Vessels, Instruments and Books, p. 40

Fortescue on Semiotics:
“In English, the meaning of violet as a color is not clear.” --The Vestments of the Roman Rite, p. 37

Fortescue on High Explosive Bomb Disposal:
“It is better not to rush.” --Common Ceremonial Actions, p. 46

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