The Catholic University of America


Final Examination
John Osman
for the degree of
Doctor of Philosophy 
Friday, March 20, 2015
11:00a.m., Caldwell Hall, Room 125


a manual of prayers for the use of the catholic laity: a neglected catechetical text of the third plenary council of baltimore
Director: Joseph White, Ph.D.
At the 1884 Third Plenary Council of Baltimore, the US Catholic bishops commissioned a national prayer book titled the Manual of Prayers for the Use of the Catholic Laity and the widely-known Baltimore Catechism. This study examines the Manual’s genesis, contents, and publication history to understand its contribution to the Church’s teaching efforts.
To account for the Manual’s contents, the study describes prayer book genres developed in the British Isles that shaped similar publications for use by American Catholics. The study considers the critiques of bishops and others concerning US-published prayer books, and episcopal decrees to address their weak theological content. To improve understanding of the Church’s liturgy, the bishops commissioned a prayer book for the laity containing selections from Roman liturgical books. The study quantifies the text’s sources from liturgical and devotional books. The book’s compiler, Rev. Clarence Woodman, C.S.P., adopted the English manual prayer book genre while most of the book’s content derived from the Roman Missal, Breviary, and Ritual, albeit augmented with highly regarded English and US prayers and instructions. With archival sources, the study recounts the Manual’s publication history. Lacking a national organization to carry out their decrees, the bishops delegated publication and marketing to the Catholic Publication Society, which obtained the book’s ownership but soon dissolved, signifying a failure of episcopal oversight.

By comparing the book’s instructions on the sacraments to those in the Council of Trent’s Roman Catechism, the study establishes the Manual’s contribution to the Church teaching efforts and relationship to the Baltimore Catechism. Unlike the influential catechism, the Manual commanded limited circulation and influence but, aiming to propagate the Church’s liturgy, foreshadowed the twentieth-century liturgical movement and the Second Vatican Council.