O Rito Bracarense – book review

I recently managed to read a book mentioned some time ago on this blog, O Rito Bracarense, by Diniz Serrano. The book dates from 1906, before the last edition of the Bragan books.

I was expecting a book which might either explain the rite or give some insight into its history. It was not what I was expecting. It is fair to say that roughly two-thirds of the book are a diatribe against “enemies” of the Bragan rite, with a certain Bragan cleric at the receiving end. This diatribe gives us very little (if any) insight into the rite. Mention is made of how only 100 out of the archidiocese’s 1900 priests celebrate the rite and how the rite is belittled in seminary. Most of the oposition seems to come from the hierarchy; most of the arguments mentioned can still be heard today in matters concerning the vetus ordo of the Roman rite.

All throughout the author insists on the need to reform both the missal and the breviary lest the rite die out completely. In the final third of the book we get a proposal for a reform of the kalendar. The reform proposed is one of returning, for the most part, to the kalendar before the Breviary editions of 1634 and 1724, when a number of saints of dubious existence was introduced; this introduction was in no small part due to the work of a spanish Jesuit, Father Jeronymo Roman de la Higuera (1549), called Fragmentos or Chronicões. Fr. Higuera attributed these works to certain ancient hispanic bishops; the works apparently told the tales of numerable Iberian saints which, Serrano says, historians have shown to be of very dubious origin, as no mention of them is made in any of the liturgical books prior to Fr. Higuera’s works. The proposed kalendar reform would then be to remove these fictional saints and relocate other saints’ feast day back to their original day, as in previous kalendars.

Conclusion: if you’re looking for a book on the Bragan rite, don’t let yourself be fooled by the title. While there may be a rare snipet of historical information amidst the verbosity, its not worth the time.

PS: I hope to provide in the future a review of the report presented by a Bragan liturgical commity in the 1970’s on the matter of the revision of the Bragan books in the wake of the liturgical changes after Vatican Council II.

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