Skip to comments.Story of the Little Prayer Book That Could (George Weigel on the Magnificat)
Posted on 03/03/2003 5:34:51 PM PST by Pyro7480
Go to any Catholic venue in the United States - parish church, retreat center, convent, high school, college chaplaincy, retirement community - and you'll find it. You can also see it being used on planes and trains, buses and subways. On at least one occasion I saw it in the front seat of a cab. What is "it?" It's Magnificat, the monthly missal/prayer book that's an astonishing success story - and, just perhaps, a sign of real progress in the reform of the reform of the liturgy.
Magnificat was the inspiration of a French layman and father of 12, Pierre-Marie Dumont. M. Dumont believed, with the Church, that the Eucharist is the source and summit of our lives; it gives us food for the journey of faith even as it gives us a foretaste of where that journey is destined to end. Believing that, he thought Catholics would welcome a resource that reflected that truth and helped them integrate the Church's eucharistic life more completely into their daily lives - even if they were unable to attend daily Mass.
Let's avoid awful neologism, "worship aid," and call M. Dumont's deam a special kind of prayer book. What kind of book would do what M. Dumont wanted this book to do - help daily life eucharistically centered? First, it had to be beautiful, and thus irresistable. Second, it had to be thoroughly practical and easy to use - meaning it had to be small and portable. Finally, it had to contain everything necessary for a rich and complete daily life of prayer and worship.
Sounds like a tall order. Yet that is precisely what M. Dumont created when he designed Magnificat. Because Magnificat is published monthly (with special editions for Advent and Lent), a lot of material can be packed into a relatively small space. Because it's so portable - it fits easily into purse or suit jacket pocket - it can be (and seems to be) used anywhere and everywhere, as well in church. Because it is beautifully designed, with splendid covers, elegant typography and art, and what we used to call "bible paper," it's something people want to have, and don't mind paying to subscribe to. Moreover, the beauty of Magnificat as a publication does justice to the majesty of its material - unlike so many other "worship aids" (that phrase again!), which are, to be gentle, ugly as sin.
What does Magnificat offer its subscribers? Each monthly edition includes all the liturgical and scriptural texts for daily Mass for every day of the month, as well as shortened forms of daily Morning, Evening, and Night Prayer, texts for eucharistic adoration, engaging lives-of-the-saints, hymns, and meditations on the day's Scripture texts and saints. Without being in any way vulgar, it's one-stop-shopping for busy moderns who nonetheless want to live a full and rich life of daily prayer and praise. (Many admirers find its tales of obscure saints one of Magnificat's most endearing features: where else would you find out about such spiritual heroes as Blessed Raphael Chylinski, Saint Attala, Saint Anno, Blessed Niels Stensen, Saint Asella, and Scalopian martyrs of the Spanish civil war - all in one week in December?)
M. Dumont has realized his deam in the conception and layout of Magnificat - and its extraordinary success. The original French edition now has some 150,000 subsribers. The German edition has 30,000. The U.S. edition, launched four years ago in December 1998, had 85,000 subscribers by 2000 and 150,000 by 2002. In addition, another 25,000 copies of the English Magnificat are distributed free-of-charge every month for promotional purposes through individual mailings, parish mailings, conference centers, and so forth. And, in the best sense of the term, Magnificat is addictive - its American editor, Dominican Father Peter John Cameron, tell me that readers get anxious, and let him know about it, if an issue doesn't arrive on time. It's as if a friend had gotten lost.
Magnificat is a reminder that beauty and regularity are intrinsic to worship and can attract people to a life of more intense prayer. The vulgarization of liturgical life is waning. Magnificat's magnificent success shows us the next stage of reform.
(To subscribe to Magnifcat, go to www.magnificat.net or call (800) 317-6689.)
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, DC.
Last summer, I discovered the Divine Mercy Devotion and as a result, my prayer life, which is something which I had always struggled with, is a lot better. I got into the "habit" of making my day prayerful. The Magnificat magazine has also helped me establish this way of life in my own life. I also found out that the local Catholic gift shop sells the Magnificat, so I can get copies of it there, so before I make the commitment to subscribe to it (which I eventually plan to do), I can at least get copies there. The publishers of Magnificat will also send you a complimentary copy if you call them or go to their site (unfortunately, some of their links seem to be down on their page at the moment, so you'll have to call them).
I know Mr. Weigel's article seems like a free advertisement for the publication, but I think it represents a true and heartfelt viewpoint about Magnificat. I'll vouch for it myself! Get a hold of a copy today! You won't be disappointed. :-)
Oh, if you're a lapsed Catholic, or didn't get a great Catholic education when you were younger, the name "Magnificat" comes from the first word in the Latin text of the prayer which is known as the Canticle of Mary (or simply, the Magnificat), which is found in the Gospel of Luke, chapter 1, verses 46-55. This is the text of the Magnificat from the New American Bible:
46 And Mary said: "My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
47 my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
48 For he has looked upon his handmaid's lowliness; behold, from now on will all ages call me blessed.
49 The Mighty One has done great things for me, and holy is his name.
50 His mercy is from age to age to those who fear him.
51 He has shown might with his arm, dispersed the arrogant of mind and heart.
52 He has thrown down the rulers from their thrones but lifted up the lowly.
53 The hungry he has filled with good things; the rich he has sent away empty.
54 He has helped Israel his servant, remembering his mercy,
55 according to his promise to our fathers, to Abraham and to his descendants forever."
To read more about the Canticle of Mary, go to New Advent.
I'll keep checking because this sounds like exactly what I have been looking for. I subscribe to NCRegister, First Things and Crisis and have enough to read, but I'd like a beautiful little book once a month just for prayer. Plus, I love leaving these type of things for the priests in my parish. Ya never know what might move them out of the "spirit of the 1970s."
Anyhow, thanks for a great post. I love just about anything by George Weigel. He da man!
That is my favorite part. Has anyone else noticed that the pages are now infused with wonderfully fragrant incense?
Awesome, concerning the poster! I like this month's featured icon, the icon of St. Cyril of Jerusalem. I have admired Eastern iconography for some time now. I liked how they explained the pose of his hand that is raised in blessing. There is symbolism in EVERY DETAIL of icons.
I'm not completely sure, but the smell of the pages is vaguely fragrant. Maybe the incense your copy for people who have been devoted to their publication for so long! ;-)