Michael Davies (1936-2004)
Michael Treharne Davies was born in Yeovil, Somerset, on 13th March 1936, of a Welsh father and an English mother. Although born in England he always saw himself as a true son of Wales and looked upon the town of Tonyrefail in the Rhondda Valley as his spiritual home. He knew the Welsh language and would often regale his friends with tales of Welsh dragons and recall great victories of the Welsh rugby union team.
On leaving school he enlisted as a regular soldier in the Somerset Light Infantry in which he served from 1954 until 1960. He saw service in Malaya during the Malayan Emergency, in Egypt during the Suez crisis, and in Cyprus during the EOKA campaign. It was during this time that he converted to the Catholic faith in 1956; a decision that was influenced by events during his active service.
Between the years 1962 to 1963 he lived in Newcastle upon Tyne where his wife Maria was training as a teacher in the Sacred Heart Sisters College and he himself trained as a teacher at St. Margaret’s Catholic Training College, Twickenham, and qualified in 1964. From this he devoted his life to the service and education of others. Many thousands of young people have reason to be grateful for his dedicated teaching of the Faith during his 30 years as a teacher, firstly in St. Ignatius Loyola Preparatory School, Buckhurst Hill, 1964 – 1967, and then in St. Mary’s Primary School, Beckenham, Kent from 1967 until 1994.
The period since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965) has undoubtedly been a difficult period for the Catholic Church and many of the faithful have experienced profound reservations about liturgical developments introduced in the name the Council. Initially Michael Davies had a degree of enthusiasm for the Council and it was not until 1972 that this enthusiasm was modified and he adopted a more critical analysis of its documents and of subsequent events. His research led to the publication of his trilogy on liturgical revolution: Cranmer’s Godly Order, Pope John’s Council, and Pope Paul’s New Mass. His output then became prolific with works on such great figures as St. John Fisher and John Cardinal Newman. He also felt passionately that Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre had been seriously misrepresented in a CTS pamphlet published in 1976. When the author refused to withdraw his allegations Michael wrote a spirited Apologia Pro Marcel Lefebvre that ran eventually to three volumes.
For many people who, when the liturgical changes were introduced, were ploughing a very lone ‘traditional’ furrow in their parishes, his books and encouragement were like manna from heaven. In his research and exposition of the real facts on the liturgy and architecture he shed a great deal of light on matters that many liturgical ‘experts’ would have preferred to keep secret. It was this information, exposing the shallowness and historical ignorance of the ‘progressive modernists,’ that has allowed so many ordinary people in the pew to present their priests and bishops with reasoned argument against unwarranted change; something that many did not enjoy. The fact that the cause of tradition is now making a very effective return world-wide to our altars is due in great part to Michael and his scholarship and leadership. This may well be his lasting legacy to the Church; the provision of books and papers that rallied the faithful and educated them in a period of time that will truly be called one of the dark ages of the Church.
It has to be acknowledged that for many in the hierarchy he was deeply unpopular but in this time of great change his constant theme was loyalty to the Holy See and to the traditions of the Church. It could be argued with some conviction that he has been directly responsible for perhaps hundreds of thousands of concerned Catholics around the world remaining faithful to Rome and the Holy See despite their disaffection with the direction the Catholic Church has taken since 1965.
In his own country he served as a committee member and then vice president of the leading traditional organisation, The Latin Mass Society of England and Wales. In the wider international field he served as a councillor of the International Federation Una Voce, was President from 1995 until 2003, and President d’Honneur from 2003 to 2004.
He was diagnosed with terminal prostate cancer in late 2002 but this was seen as more an irritation than something to be feared. He cheerfully commented to a friend that should the pain become too much he would simply drink more whisky. In the event, he died, suddenly, of a heart attack on 25th September 2004. He was a man with rare qualities. For a ‘humble’ schoolmaster in a primary school in the suburbs his legacy is immense and I am sure that history will be kind to him.
He will be recognised as a true son of Holy Mother Church and a giant among men in a period when the Church was in turmoil.
This text is taken from an obituary in Mass of Ages, November 2004. It was written by colleague and friend - Leo Darrroch
Selection of Works
We are currently in the process of posting articles, book reviews and other items by Michael Davies from the LMS archives - do check back!
- Organic Development and Liturgical Rupture; review of "The Organic Development of the Liturgy", Dom Alcuin Reid OSB (Published in Mass of Ages, August 2004)
- Reinstating Trent; review of "Looking Again at the Question of the Liturgy with Cardinal Ratzinger: Proceedings of the July 2001 Fontgombault Liturgical Conference (Published in Mass of Ages, February 2004)
- Teaching the Faith, review of "What we Catholics Believe: the Timeless Objective Truths of the Catholic Church by Daphne McLeod" (Published in Mass of Ages, May 2003)
- The Church in Collapse (Published in Mass of Ages, February 2003)
- Production Line Liturgy; review of "The Modern Rite", Mgr Klaus Gamber (Published in Mass of Ages, November 2002)
- Out of Africa (Published in Mass of Ages, February 2002)
- Catholic FAQ's (Published in Mass of Ages, February 2002)