“Little Treatise on how to attend Mass” (1555)

Bartolomé Carranza (1503–1576) entered the Dominican Order in 1520, studied theology at Salamanca, participated in the Council of Trent (1545-1547), and became Archbishop of Toledo and Primate of Spain in 1557. Below is the abstract of a recent translation of his “Little Treatise on how to attend Mass,” originally preached at Whitehall, London, in the first week of Lent, 1555, before King Philip I and Queen Mary I of England.

“Bartolomé Carranza de Miranda’s ‘Little Treatise on how to attend Mass’ (1555): A Translation,” by John Edwards, University of Oxford, Reformation & Renaissance Review  11 (2009) 91-120.

Published Abstract: “Presented here is the first English and annotated translation of the Spanish sermon on congregational participation in the Mass delivered by the Dominican Friar, Bartolomé Carranza. It was originally preached at Whitehall, in the first week of Lent, 1555, before King Philip I and Queen Mary I of England. The text was subsequently written down by the preacher at the request of one of those present, the Duke of Medinaceli, and published in Salamanca and Antwerp. After a lengthy historical introduction, bolstered by quotations from Scripture, papal and conciliar documents, as well as from the writings of patristic and medieval theologians, the text is divided into three parts, which reflect the phases of the liturgy. The first covers the service from the entrance of the celebrating priest to the Preface of the Canon of the Mass; the second continues up to the recitation of the Lord’s Prayer, and the third discusses the conclusion of the Mass. Then follows a short guide to help worshippers unfamiliar with Latin to participate as fully as possible in the service. Carranza rejects the medieval practice of bringing private prayer books to church for use during Mass, and instead urges full participation, as far as the rubrics of the liturgy permit, in the activity of the priest and his assistants at the altar. He also expresses a preference for frequent communion by the laity, which some Catholic reformers were advocating in the mid-sixteenth century. Although first preached in England, the published text was evidently as much directed at the Spanish market, where the writer evidently hoped that a reform of Catholic practice would help stave off Protestantism as well.”

See also by John Edwards, “Experiencing the Mass anew in Mary I’s England: Bartolomé Carranza’s ‘Little treatise,” Reformation & Renaissance Review 9 (2007) 265-276.

John Edwards and Ronald Truman (eds). Reforming Catholicism in the England of Mary Tudor. The Achievement of Friar Bartolomé Carranza. Farnham, Surrey: Ashgate, 2005.

The treatise begins in this way:

INSTRUCTION AND TEACHING ON HOW EVERY CHRISTIAN MUST HEAR MASS AND ASSIST IN THE HOLY SACRIFICE WHICH IS MADE IN IT, ACCORDING TO WHAT MASTER FRIAR BARTOLOMÉ DE MIRANDA TAUGHT AND PREACHED TO THE KING’S MAJESTY OF ENGLAND AND PRINCE OF SPAIN DON FELIPE OUR LORD, IN LONDON IN THE YEAR 1555, WRITTEN BY THE SAME [FRIAR] AT THE PETITION OF THE MOST ILLUSTRIOUS DUKE OF MEDINACELI, DON JUAN DE LA CERDA, AND NOW REVISED AND CORRECTED BY THE SAME AUTHOR.

To the most illustrious lord Don Juan de la Cerda, duke of Medinaceli, marquis of Cogolludo, count of the Gran Puerto de Santa Maria, lord of the Towns of Deza and Enciso, [from] Fr[iar] B[artolomé], G[reeting].

Most Illustrious Lord,
    In all times past, since Our Lord Jesus Christ ascended to the heavens, the Sacrament of the Altar has been treated with very great respect, and Christians took great pains to know how to reverence the sacrifice which we make in the Mass. But those of us who live in this age have a much greater obligation to know this, and, knowing it, to treat it with greater respect, because of the irreverences with which many heretics are treating it now, which it is not appropriate to mention here. What we have seen with our own eyes, and heard from trustworthy people, is sufficient. And since the devil and his ministers have acted in contempt of this most holy Sacrament, more than in the times of our ancestors, we have an obligation to do more than they in reverence and veneration of it.
    For this [reason], preaching this Lent in the chapel of the King of England and Prince of Spain, our lord, I decided to inform and teach the Catholics who were gathered there with His Majesty about this sacrifice [and] how it is done in all Christian churches. And your Lordship, being one of these, after having listened, has asked and demanded many times that it should be published for his instruction, and for those in his household. And because I am obliged to obey such just commands, I set to work at once to put it into writing, and thus I send it with this [letter of dedication]. But I inform your Lordship that, knowing the manner and respect with which this sacrifice must be treated, you remain obliged to treat it from now on as you understand it, and if up to now you did it well, to do it better now. And if not, it will be a greater sin.