The Illustrations, apart from The Heading, have been inserted by Zephyrinus.
September 19, 2014,
Friday — Remembering Michael
As Rome continues to buzz with:
(still unconfirmed) reports of
Cardinal Burke's possible transfer from his Vatican curial post to
one as ecclesiastical patron (not head) of the Knights of Malta (some suggesting
such a move would "free" Burke to become the "de facto leader" of
Catholic traditionalists worldwide link)
new reports of papal irritation over the upcoming publication of a book
containing five essays by cardinals, all stauchly defending traditional Church
teaching on marriage, on the eve of the October bishops' synod on marriage (link)
it seems clear that the papacy
of Pope Francis is entering a critical, decisive phase.
Everything up until now has
been, in a sense, prologue.
The true story of this
pontificate is now beginning to be written.
What happens at the Synod, and
during the upcoming year, leading to a second Synod to be held a year from now
-- when decisions will be taken -- will go far to defining the meaning and
significance of this pontificate.
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Today I came across an article
about the British Catholic writer, Michael Davies, who died precisely 10 years
ago, on the 25th of September, 2004.
knew Davies, and liked him. He was a cheerful, jovial man, filled with faith and
We had one very special
Davies, who lived near London,
England, had come to Rome with Eric de Saventhem, who lived in Switzerland.
De Saventhem was one of the
founders, and the first President, of Una Voce, a group which, from
shortly after the Second Vatican Council (1962-65) and the liturgical reform of
the late 1960s-early 1970s, lobbied in support of the traditional Latin liturgy
("una voce" means "with one voice" and refers to the desirability of
using a single language -- in this case, Latin -- in celebrations of Mass
worldwide, so that all who celebrate the Mass are praying "with one
met with them in the spring of 1994 in Rome, just before the Vatican's
Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments issued, on
April 13th, a lengthy document which in one, small phrase allowed having girls
as altar servers, something not permitted up to that time.
(Here is the phrase: "It is
altogether laudable to maintain the noble custom by which boys or youths,
customarily termed servers, provide service of the altar after the manner of
acolytes... Girls or women may also be admitted to this service of the altar,
at the discretion of the diocesan Bishop and in observance of the established
"Altar girls have been
approved," Davies told me. "It has been decided."
The two had just met with
Cardinals Angelo Sodano and Giovanni Battista Re, and had been told of the
By chance, I had a meeting the
next day with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, then Prefect of the Congregation for
the Doctrine of the Faith.
We talked of many things, and
then I said, "I've been told the decision has been taken to approve altar
The cardinal, with a look of
surprise, told me that wasn't true, that the matter had not yet come across his
desk for his approval, as was necessary, and that therefore the decision could
not yet be final.
But Davies and De Saventhem
The next day, the Instruction
Redemptionis Sacramentum ("The Sacrament of Redemption") was published,
and it included the passage cited above.
then understood that decisions could sometimes be taken in the Vatican without
following established procedures and protocols.
The years passed. I met Davies
on other occasions. In 2004, I lamented his
Today I read this account of
his life, on the Rorate Caeli website.
thought some readers might like to read about this layman, who spent his life
seeking to defend the traditional rite of the Catholic
Michael Davies: “A
Writer to Cherish”
By Leo Darroch (President
of the International Una Voce Federation -- a Catholic group in support of the
old Latin rite of the Mass -- from 2007 to 2013, based on a conference given in
Rome on November 3, 2012)
Michael Treharne Davies was
born on 13th March 1936. His father, a Welshman, was a Baptist and his mother,
who was English, was a member of the Church of England.
On leaving school in 1954 at
the age of eighteen he joined the British Army as a regular soldier and served
in Malaya, Egypt, and Cyprus.
There is one comment in his
army service records that is of particular interest. In August 1957 his
commanding officer stated that,
“He is a quiet, kind man with a very
Christian outlook on life. He is too kind-hearted and I have never heard him run
down anyone. For this reason he does not possess the disciplinary powers to make
a non-commissioned officer. He puts service, loyalty, and the welfare of others
before self. I recommend him unreservedly for any position requiring trust and
dedication to his fellow men.”
It was during this army service that he
was drawn to the Catholic faith and he was received into the Church on 17th
April 1957. After leaving the army in 1957 he met a young Croatian girl Marija
Milosh at the French Church in Soho, London, and they married in July 1961.
Michael attended St. Mary’s Catholic Training College, in London, and qualified
as a teacher in 1964. During his time at this college he wrote a number of short
stories and poems for the college magazine. When he left college his Senior
Lecturer provided a reference in which he said:
“Mr Michael Davies is the
most hard-working student I have ever known in my seven years as a Lecturer. He
is open, reliable, co-operative, firm in his religious faith and tenacious in
pursuing his ideals without fuss or outward show.”
This was the formative
background that laid the foundations for his great work that followed. From
being a soldier in the service of his country and a teacher of young minds, he
became a soldier and teacher in the service of his Church.
first appearance in print was in May 1967. A magazine had printed an article on
the Vietnam War by a priest who had made various claims about Americans bombing
Catholic churches in North Vietnam and killing people on their way to Mass.
Michael did not believe the story and checked the information. He proved that
the entire article was groundless and based on Communist propaganda.
This theme of checking
information in the search for truth became the cornerstone, the constant thread,
of everything he produced subsequently. It became a continual source of
irritation, and more, to those ‘experts’ who wished to steamroller liturgical
change upon a disbelieving laity, that their spurious claims were put under the
microscope and found, in the most part, to be without foundation.
As a schoolteacher and also a
parent, Michael knew the importance of guiding young minds along the path of
truth; and especially so in matters of the faith.
It is well known that initially
he had a degree of enthusiasm for Vatican II but he quickly realised that things
were not as he, and many others expected.
He joined The Latin Mass
Society of England and Wales in February 1967 and very quickly became actively
involved, giving talks on ‘Mass and the under elevens,’ and ‘Children and the
He had been a Catholic for only
ten years, and a teacher for only four years, but he could see immediately the
damaging affect the changes would have on the faith of young people. He was to
be their champion and he threw himself entirely into the battle.
life’s work was spent meticulously researching these supposed new insights, this
new scholarship, and exposing it to public scrutiny as the shallow and
destructive movement it was. He had discovered in his late teens and early
twenties that the Truth existed in the Catholic Church and he was not prepared
to allow anyone to take it away from him or his children.
For Michael, the truth was
everything and he was appalled at the way the modernist pseudo-intellectuals and
their fellow travellers had infiltrated the Catholic media, the seminaries, and
the publishing houses, and were introducing a new religion to our churches and
schools to the detriment of the faith.
He was also equally appalled not only
that many of the hierarchies of the world had allowed these ‘experts’ to peddle
their destructive theories unchallenged, but even worse, that many actively
supported them, while condemning as divisive those Catholics who were not
prepared to abandon the faith of their parents and grandparents. [Editor: Fr Steven Fisher, who has been the new Parish Priest at Blackfen, Kent, England, for less than three weeks, has banned the Celebration of The Traditional Latin Mass (Usus Antiquior) on the grounds of "IT IS DIVISIVE".]
For those people who, when the
liturgical changes were introduced, were ploughing a very lonely ‘traditional’
path in their parishes, his books and encouragement were like manna from heaven.
In his research and exposition
of the real facts on the liturgy and architecture he shed a great deal of light
on matters that many liturgical ‘experts’ would have preferred to keep secret.
It was this information, exposing the shallowness and historical ignorance of
the ‘progressive modernists,’ that has allowed so many ordinary people in the
pew to present their priests and bishops with reasoned argument against
unwarranted change; something that they did not enjoy.
The fact that the cause of
tradition is now making a very effective return world-wide to our altars is due
in great part to Michael and his scholarship and leadership. This may well be
his lasting legacy to the Church; the provision of books and papers that rallied
the faithful and educated them in a period of time that will truly be called one
of the dark ages of the Church.
By the early 1970s, Michael had already
established a reputation for being a formidable defender of the faith and was
forming friendships with other wonderful defenders of Catholic tradition in the
English-speaking world – men such as Father Paul Crane S.J. in London with
Christian Order, Hamish Fraser in Scotland with Approaches, and Walter Matt in
the USA with The Remnant.
These three publishers formed a
mighty triumvirate in defence of Catholic doctrine and tradition, and in Michael
they immediately recognised a writer to cherish.
For nearly 35 years he wrote
incessantly and prodigiously for these magazines, and his articles were always
the first to be read before all others. In his writing Michael Davies
encapsulated the theological virtues of faith, hope and charity. He was
possessed of a wonderful faith that even in the darkest moments never wavered;
he never lost hope that tradition would be restored to our altars, and, though
he criticised endlessly the disastrous reforms inflicted upon the Church, he
never resorted to personal abuse of those who were responsible for
By the mid-1970s, the crisis within the Church was deepening. In
his general research on the various novelties that were being introduced he had
amassed a huge amount of data on the Council and how the great majority of the
Fathers had been deceived by a well-orchestrated plan of a clique of European
bishops and their liturgical advisors.
Thus was born his great trilogy
His first volume Cranmer’s
Godly Order (1976) examined the Protestant Reformation, what happened and
His second work Pope John’s
Council (1977) was written to provide an objective and documented
explanation of the fact that the Church in the West is disintegrating and that
the responsibility for this disintegration must be laid at the door of those who
manipulated the Second Vatican Council for their own ends.
His third volume Pope
Paul’s New Mass (1980) provided a detailed examination of the development
of the Roman rite, the liturgical legislation pouring out from Rome during and
after the Council, the prayers and rubrics of the new form of Mass, and the
devastating impact of the changes on the Church throughout the world.
Michael had submitted his first
book Cranmer’s Godly Order to the Censor of his diocese for an
imprimatur but it was refused, despite the Censor finding no doctrinal
fault with it. An appeal to his archbishop proved fruitless. Such was the
prevailing hostile attitude of the authorities to anyone who dared question
Vatican II or its ‘fruits.’
Following this unjust rebuff he
decided there was no point in submitting any more of his work for an imprimatur
but everything he produced was examined by theologians for inspection and
amendment where necessary.
Michael’s books were published
originally by the Augustine Publishing Company but he told me in 1984 that it
had dropped all his books “because of complaints that they were extreme.”
Michael’s kindness was
unlimited and he sent me free copies of all his books as soon as they were
published. He made an interesting comment in 1986 when he said that he never
even glances at his ‘efforts’ once they are in print, and had not even read Pope
Paul’s New Mass. Once a book was finished he moved immediately on to the next.
At one point he was writing three books at the same time.
In the midst of
working on this trilogy, Liturgical Revolution, a taxing enough project
in itself, Michael became engaged in a spirited defence of Archbishop Marcel
In 1976 the Catholic Truth
Society of England and Wales published a pamphlet that seriously misrepresented
the archbishop. Michael wrote to the author and suggested he either substantiate
or withdraw his allegations, but he refused. This led to a pamphlet entitled
Archbishop Lefebvre – The Truth and this was so successful it ran to
However, he decided that the
only way to fully present the truth about the archbishop would be to write an
apologia and this was published by the Angelus Press in June 1979 as
Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre. In the event, this became Volume One and
was later followed by Volume Two (August 1983) and Volume Three (April 1988).
His output then became prolific
with works on such great figures as John Cardinal Newman (1978), St. Pius X
(1983), and St. John Fisher (1998).
Such a prodigious feat of writing
would have been immense for a full-time author but Michael was first and
foremost at this time a schoolteacher with a young family. He was teaching by
day and writing by night and at weekends. In all of this it must not be
forgotten that his wife Maria played a vital role in supporting all his
activities, a fact that he readily acknowledged.
At home he would be so immersed
in his writing that Maria did everything else. His meals had to wait until he
finished some important paper, and his daily routine seemed to revolve around
the times of postal collections. “I must catch the post” was a daily cry as he
dashed out of the house. His home in Bromley, South East London, became the
centre of the lay traditional movement and he and Maria entertained visitors
from all over the world, including many priests and seminarians.
surprising, given the problems encountered by many other Catholic teachers who
were deeply unhappy about the ‘new’ faith being imposed on the Church and in our
schools, that he suffered no problems personally in his own schools. Maria
Davies said that Michael was an excellent teacher and he had a compulsion to
teach about the knowledge he had acquired. That is why his books are so
He took great pride in the fact
that he was a primary school teacher and had an endless stream of stories about
his pupils. He deeply resented that he was teaching his pupils the Catholic
faith he had learned as a convert, and which had been reinforced at his teacher
training college, and then they were going on to senior schools and beyond and
being exposed to a version of the Catholic faith that he did not recognise.
faith that had been adapted to the secular spirit of the age and was watered
down to be acceptable to everyone, but in fact was rejected by most.
Although he loved teaching,
when his writing became the focus of his life, he wanted to retire. He wrote to
me in July 1994 to say he had ‘overcome the problem of the day job interfering
in what really interested him’ and had taken early retirement. He said he was
now poor but happier.
As Michael’s reputation grew so did the demands
on his time. Everyone wanted a quote, an article, a lecture, a foreign visit, or
simply a reply to a letter or an email – of which he received thousands each
year. In 1980 he appeared on television in America where he debated the state
of the Church with a Father Joseph Champlin from the Chancery of Syracuse, New
York, who served on the bishops’ commission on the liturgy.
From then onwards Michael
became probably the foremost lay speaker in the USA; the Americans took him to
their hearts and he was invited back time and time again. With his reputation
growing worldwide his tours took in many European countries, and further afield
in India, Australia, New Zealand, and even Nigeria where he helped with the
foundation of a traditional parish.
St Matthew recounts how Jesus said
that we must not lay up our treasures on this earth but to lay them up in
heaven. Where your treasure house is, there your heart is too. It was abundantly
clear where Michael’s heart was. In 1998 a friend complained to Michael about a
magazine using some photos without permission. He wrote in reply,
will not be surprised to learn that I do not in the least share your
indignation. I believe that we are in a war about the most important issues in
the world, that our enemies are the [he named a bishop] of this world and that
if anything that we have written or photographed can be useful to our allies we
should be delighted. I have not only had extensive passages from my books quoted
without permission, I have had entire books and pamphlets reprinted or
translated into other languages on numerous occasions without being informed. I
discovered quite by accident that in one country five of my full length books
and about ten of my pamphlets had been published. In every case I have been
pleased that my writing has been found useful in fighting the good fight.”
Michael truly appreciated that we as individuals were not important, it
was the restoration of the traditional liturgy that was paramount and that
anything that we could do should be focused totally on this cause. I think it is
worth mentioning that Michael made very little money from his writing.
Unfortunately, he was too trusting and some publishers simply did not pay him
anything, even though they were selling thousands of his books. In February 1997
he said that one particular publisher declared itself bankrupt but carried on
trading. Over 70,000 copies of Liturgical Shipwreck were sold and he never
received a cent. An honourable exception to this is the Angelus Press which has
always been scrupulous and regular in paying the agreed
Michael Davies’ books were read by many priests and prelates.
One bishop commented to me that he had found Michael to be a man of the highest
integrity, vision, and commitment. He said he had ploughed a lonely furrow for
many years and, specifically, in his writings on the Mass, he had kept an
awareness of Pope St Pius V to the fore in all our minds. He ended by saying
that his writings will, in time, reveal his real greatness.
Another prelate said to me that
he had hoped and prayed that he would meet him but was disappointed that it
never happened. It was Michael, he said, who had led him to a true appreciation
of the sacred liturgy.
In 1995 Michael Davies was elected President of
the International Federation Una Voce, a position that gave him greater
international status and a much higher ‘official’ profile which allowed him
access to the major Vatican departments. It also increased greatly an already
taxing workload as for most of his term of office he acted as president,
secretary and treasurer.
He became a respected visitor
to the Congregations for the Doctrine of the Faith, of Divine Worship, and the
Ecclesia Dei Commission. In addition to his great work with the
Una Voce movement he received, and accepted, many invitations to
functions in small parishes and these were seen as equally important as his
He was kindness and patience
personified to everyone who wished to speak to him but was deeply uncomfortable
when compliments were being paid to him. He would become embarrassed and change
the subject to something entirely different, such as Welsh rugby (his second
But every compliment was
thoroughly deserved – he was the master who came forth from the liturgical chaos
and restored clarity of Catholic teaching on liturgy, on doctrine, and on the
re-ordering of churches. This is why the liturgical establishment disliked
(hated?) him so much. He embarrassed their experts, and he angered those bishops
who were in thrall of the weird and (not so) wonderful theories of their experts
and who had implemented wholesale liturgical and architectural changes on their
I think it is true to say that Michael Davies, while
being a man hugely admired and respected within the world of traditional
Catholicism, and known – and feared? – in the corridors of power in Rome, was
perhaps relatively unknown to the great majority of Catholic faithful who still
attend Sunday Mass in their own parishes.
The immensity of the man will
only be fully appreciated in the years and decades to come when his writings
will be recognised as the foundation and springboard of the resurrection and
resurgence of the traditional liturgy and faith of the Church.
The greatest tribute we could
pay him for his service to us and the Church is to make his work more widely
known. For those members who do not have any of his books I would recommend his
trilogy Liturgical Revolution. Those who have one or more of his books
could perhaps try and persuade their local clergy to read something of his
He was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in late 2002 but he
saw this as more an irritation than something to be feared.
He cheerfully commented to me
that should the pain become too much he would simply drink more whisky: a drink
he often enjoyed to excess.
Although his illness seriously
affected his energy, it did not diminish his determination but it took such a
toll on his health that he could only concentrate for about two hours each day.
Not to be defeated, he had a small bed placed in his office where he could rest.
He wanted desperately to update
his great trilogy on the liturgy and was working on Pope John’s Council until
the day he died.
In the event, he died,
suddenly, of a heart attack on 25th September 2004.
Michael’s legacy, and
what an immense legacy he has left us -- seventeen full length books and several
dozen booklets and pamphlets -- provides a body of work of truly Catholic genius
which will enlighten, educate and sustain Catholics in future generations.
timely antidote to the self-interested, self-serving, shallow delusions of men
whose ideas were condemned by Pope St Pius X in Pascendi Gregis over
100 years ago.
Since the promulgation of
Summorum Pontificum the debate concerning the liturgy has been
re-ignited and more and more senior figures in the Church are raising their
voices in support of a new analysis of the failed policies of the 1960s and
1970s. The recent re-publication by the Angelus Press of Michael’s great trilogy
Liturgical Revolution (Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council,
and Pope Paul’s New Mass) [ Editor: "The Davies Liturgical Revolution Set of Books" can be ordered from The Angelus Press Web-Site at ANGELUS PRESS] is a timely and valuable contribution to
this debate and will surely bring his work to a new audience; an audience that
has no first-hand knowledge of the years surrounding the Second Vatican Council,
and who will appreciate his clinical assessment of the changes that were
imposed, and his exposé of the flawed and false scholarship that drove the
He said to his family that if
he were to be remembered for anything he hoped it would be for this trilogy.
These three books deserve pride
of place in the libraries of all Catholic seminaries. Perhaps the greatest
tribute we could pay him for his service to the Church, and to the faithful, is
for each of us who has one or more of his books, to make his name known to those
who have no knowledge of him or his work. If we are indeed serious in our
desire to restore the ancient liturgy to our altars we must make it our
apostolate to persuade our parish priests to read his trilogy on the liturgical
revolution – it could produce remarkable fruit.
Perhaps the publication
in July 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI of the motu proprioSummorum
Pontificum was the greatest vindication of Michael’s unceasing public
support for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger in the face of much opposition.
It was a relationship based on
mutual trust and on the occasion of Michael’s death in September 2004 His
Eminence sent this tribute to the Latin Mass Society:
‘I have been
profoundly touched by the news of the death of Michael Davies. I had the good
fortune to meet him several times and I found him as a man of deep faith and
ready to embrace suffering. Ever since the Council he put all his energy into
the service of the Faith and left us important publications especially about the
Sacred Liturgy. Even though he suffered from the Church in many ways in his
time, he always truly remained a man of the Church. He knew that the Lord
founded His Church on the rock of St Peter and that the Faith can find its
fullness and maturity only in union with the successor of St Peter. Therefore we
can be confident that the Lord opened wide for him the gates of heaven. We
commend his soul to the Lord’s mercy.’