Michael Davies with His Eminence Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI
In 1963, when Michael Treharne Davies had qualified as a teacher from St. Mary’s College [n Twickenham, England], his Senior Lecturer in English stated in a testimonial that he was the most hard-working student he had known. He said he had an incisive, scholarly, questioning mind and an insatiable curiosity which made him willing to range widely and tackle any topic that was presented to him, and carry out his own research and probe into it. In spite of the scope and success of his activities, he said there was no sign of superficiality in Michael Davies’ work or of affectation in his general outlook.
He went on to say that Davies regarded every piece of work as a job to be done, did it with thoroughness and intelligence, and was then very diffident about his own achievement – not looking for applause, but only anxious to get on with the next task. He ended by describing him as open, reliable, co-operative, firm in his religious faith and tenacious in pursuing his ideals without fuss or outward show. It was an admirable and perceptive summation of the qualities that Michael Davies would display throughout his life.
Michael was also noted for his loyalties - loyal to his roots as a Welshman (and to their rugby team!), loyal to his friends and loyal to the Church in which he now found the fullness of the truth.
As a schoolteacher, and also as 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 had expected.
He joined the Latin Mass Society in February 1967 and very quickly became actively involved. In October 1968 he addressed a conference in
and gave a talk on "Mass and the Under Elevens". Later that month he spoke in
London on "Children and the Mass". He had been a Catholic for only ten years
and a teacher for only four years but he could see immediately the damaging
effect the changes in the Church would have on the faith of young people. He
was to be their champion and he threw himself entirely into the battle. Cambridge
Maria Davies clearly remembers Michael’s first foray into print. In May 1967 The Tablet had printed an article on the Vietnam War by a priest who had made various claims about Americans bombing Catholic churches in
and killing people on
their way to Mass. Michael simply did not believe the story and checked the
information. His letter to The Tablet
(24 June 1967) proved that the entire article was groundless and based on
Communist propaganda. This insistence on checking information in the search for
truth became the cornerstone of everything he produced subsequently. North Vietnam
Michael Davies with Walter Matt, then editor of the Remnant, US traditional Catholic newspaper, celebrating 30 years since the first edition
This was never more clearly demonstrated than in his clinical analysis of the new order of
became a continual source of irritation, and more, to those "experts" who
wished to steamroller liturgical change upon the laity, that their spurious
claims and grand plans were put under the microscope and found, in the most
part, to be groundless. His life’s work was spent meticulously researching
these supposed new insights, this new scholarship, and exposing it for public scrutiny
as the baseless 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, his children, or the
children he taught. Mass.
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, the publishing houses, and were introducing a new religion to our churches and schools to the detriment of the faithful. He was also equally appalled not only that the hierarchies of the world had abandoned their duty to their flocks and 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 earlier generations.
Michael Davies as a young soldier in the British Army in the 1950s in Malaya, during the Emergency
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 the well-orchestrated plan of a clique of European bishops and their liturgical advisers.
Michael Davies with Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, later Pope Benedict XVI,
at a General Assembly of the Federation
Michael Davies argued that the Church’s attempted headlong rush into unity with other Christian bodies would, in fact, have the adverse effect to that being claimed and was leading swiftly to its decline. Thus was born his great trilogy, Liturgical Revolution.
His first volume, Cranmer’s Godly Order (1976), examined the Protestant Reformation, what happened, and why. 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" a false understanding of the Second Vatican Council. 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 the
during and after the
Council, the prayers and rubrics of the new rite of Mass, and the devastating
impact of the changes on the Church throughout the world. Vatican
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 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.
Michael Davies on the Paris to Chartres pilgrimage, carrying the Welsh flag
Perhaps the publication in July 2007 by Pope Benedict XVI of the motu proprio Summorum Pontificum was the greatest vindication of Michael’s unceasing public support for Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and for the traditional Roman rite. 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 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."
Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger,
(Translated from the original German)
9 November 2004.
(Translated from the original German)
9 November 2004.
His 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. While it is true to say that Michael Davies was a man who was hugely admired and respected within the world of traditional Catholicism, and well known in the corridors of power in
, it must also be recognised that he was relatively
unknown to the great majority of Catholic faithful who still attend Sunday Mass
in their parish churches. Rome
The immensity of the man will only be fully appreciated in the years and decades to come when his writings, particularly on the Mass, will be recognised as a major contribution to the resurgence and restoration of the traditional liturgy and faith of the Church.
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.
The re-publication of Pope Paul’s New Mass was as a timely and valuable contribution to this debate and will surely bring Davies’ 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 changes. It is a book that deserves 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.
Taken from a foreword in July 2009 by Leo Darroch to the new edition of Michael's book Pope Paul's New Mass. Leo Darroch is a former President of the International Una Voce Federation