Sophia Institute Press Publishes Monthly Liturgical Companion to Traditional Latin Mass
‘Benedictus’ was developed in 2020, before the Vatican published ‘Traditionis Custodes.’
One of the newest offerings of Catholic publishing house Sophia Institute Press, Benedictus: The Traditional Catholic Companion, is a monthly liturgical supplement for those who attend the Mass celebrated according to the Missal of 1962.
With the full text of the traditional Latin Mass and a generous selection of devotionals, catechetics and meditations, each volume is designed to deepen an encounter with Christ in the liturgy.
According to Aaron Seng, Benedictus editor and director of Sophia Press’ Latin Mass Programs, the new publication is the fruit of a yearlong effort to produce a portable, readable and beautiful vade mecum for the traditional liturgical calendar.
By early August, the slim, compact inaugural 392-page issue, replete with full-cover color art, was in the hands of thousands of subscribers across the United States — and the timing couldn’t have been more perfect, Seng said.
On July 16, around the time that Sophia Press began mailing out Benedictus Vol. 1, No. 1, Pope Francis issued his motu proprio Traditionis Custodes (Guardians of the Tradition), which forbids the formation of new communities devoted to the traditional Latin Mass and requires diocesan priests to gain permission from their bishops, who in turn must seek guidance from Rome, to celebrate it.
Seng told the Register that Benedictus was developed in 2020, Sophia couldn’t have predicted the publication of Traditionis Custodes, which has generated a lot of criticism.
Benedictus’ arrival seems providential from both a marketing and spiritual standpoint, Seng said, because the recent motu proprio may very well exert an unintended effect not only on sales of the new monthly subscription but also on increasing awareness of the traditional Latin Mass among all of the Catholic faithful, not solely traditionalist Catholics. For many, too, Seng added, Benedictus may be their only access to the traditional Latin Mass, depending on how their bishops respond to the motu proprio.
“‘There has never a better time, and never has something like Benedictus been more necessary’: That’s the kind of feedback we’re already getting from subscribers,” Seng told the Register.
The rollout of Benedictus is also perfectly timed as a response to what Seng sees as a growing worldwide interest in the extraordinary form of the Mass. (More than 500 foreign subscribers receive the same English-translation issue as those in English-speaking countries, Seng said, adding, “Translations are under discussion.”)
“It has been 60 years since there has been this level of interest in the liturgical patrimony of the Church,” he said, “and such interest gives the lie to the idea that the TLM is a matter of nostalgia.”
According to a study on the worldwide demographics of the traditional Latin Mass conducted by Joseph Shaw, chairman of the Latin Mass Society of England and Wales, and published this past January in Homiletic and Pastoral Review, “the association between the [extraordinary form] and young people and families is neither a myth nor something limited to certain countries. Most Catholics have never encountered the [traditional Latin Mass], but of those who do, mostly by chance, the ones who make it their preferred form of Mass are disproportionately young and include a disproportionate number of families with small children.”
Seng said that Sophia Press’ marketing department also tested interest in the extraordinary form by sending out, this past Lent, a free “mini issue” that covered the Fourth (Laetare) Sunday of Lent to potential customers prior to committing to the monthly format. The strategy not only proved there was a market for the publication — but also revealed that the demand was greater than Sophia Press had initially thought.
“We had a sustainability goal of 5,000 subscribers in six months; that was the target,” Seng said. “If we could make that number, we could keep the ship going. We passed 5,000 subscribers in the first nine weeks. It was huge.”
As of the end of July, the Benedictus subscriber list had ballooned past 8,000 subscribers in several countries — which doesn’t take into account individual units, Seng noted, explaining, “Some of these subscribers are receiving individual issues, some are receiving several for their household, and still others are taking advantage of our bulk rate to offer boxes of them at church entrances for the faithful.”
Sophia Press also consulted liturgical scholar Peter Kwasniewski on the feasibility of a financially successful traditional Latin Mass companion publication; once the decision was made to publish Benedictus, he also served as a liturgical consultant.
“I was enthusiastic about it from the first, seeing the real need for a ‘traditional Magnificat,’” he told the Register.
Like Seng, Kwasniewski sees Benedictus showing up at the right time and in the right hands — serving as a reminder that the traditional Latin Mass is here to stay.
“It looks like the TLM will not disappear after all from many of the places where it has been customary, and in that way Benedictus now becomes a beacon of hope, a palpable reminder of what we stand for, an incentive to persevere in prayer through the crisis,” he said. “It was always meant to help Catholics pray the Mass with actual participation every day, but in places where daily Mass [in the extraordinary form] is or may become unavailable, it will prove to be an ideal companion for private prayer.”
Treasure of Prayer
Seng acknowledges that Benedictus owes a debt of gratitude to Magnificat for providing a user-friendly model to Benedictus’ readers.
“Insofar as it’s a daily companion model, Benedictus is very similar to Magnificat, and we liked the size of Magnificat,” he said, adding that, like Magnificat, Benedictus follows the lunar calendar to make the sacred liturgy accessible to those not as familiar with the Missal of 1962.
“Doing the issues by months — January, February, March, etc. — is a huge help for onboarding someone into this traditional content,” he said, explaining, “Instead of the Ordinary of the Mass starting on one page and the Propers for the day starting on a different page, as you’ll find in the Missal of 1962, we lay it out in full English and Latin in side-by-side columns and in linear sequence, with the all the Propers already placed within the Mass for anyone who walks into church any given Sunday.”
But, Seng said, Benedictus is not intended to replace the hand missals often used at the traditional Latin Mass.
“I have stridently tried to avoid the impression that Benedictus is simply a missalette,” he said. “Though it certainly serves that function, most of those who are already familiar with the TLM want something that is giving the extras that Benedictus provides — how do I go deeper into my love and understanding of the liturgy?”
The “extras” that come with each issue of Benedictus, Seng said, include excerpts from the traditional form of the Divine Office, meditations from the great writers and thinkers of the Church, and practical advice on “how to live liturgically in the home.”
A typical read-through of a day in each monthly issue, Seng said, “begins with a morning devotion, which is curated from the breviary. It’s an excerpt from the Office of Lauds, the morning prayer from the Roman breviary. Turn the page and you have the texts for the traditional Latin Mass of the day, which is followed by a full meditation curated from some classical author relevant either to the feast of the day, the Mass texts of the day or the breviary text of the day. The day then concludes with an evening devotion from the Office of Vespers, which is also curated from the traditional breviary. Add to this the artwork and various special sections peppered throughout the issue, and there you have a month with Benedictus.”
Benedictus subscriber Dana Cole attends the traditional Latin Mass at St. Francis de Sales Oratory in St. Louis, served by the Institute of Christ the King Sovereign Priest, which celebrates the extraordinary form exclusively.
Cole became a subscriber before Pope Francis issued Traditionis Custodes, but since then, she said, Benedictus had become even more invaluable.
“Now, more than ever, the traditional Mass community must have at their fingertips the whole treasure of the liturgy throughout the ages,” she said, “brought to them each month, to pray in private at least if no Latin Mass is available.”
Cole told the Register that she subscribes to Benedictus because it provides a daily encounter with the riches of the traditional Latin Mass and the traditional form of the Divine Office.
“To have so much in such a little book!” she told the Register. “The art, the spiritual reading taken from centuries of holy writers, the Sunday and Daily Masses so accessible, and the Psalms for morning and evening devotions — it’s all a treasure. The only thing I would ask is a little longer evening devotion.”