Archbishop Chaput: Evangelization and the Renewal of the Liturgy

I had the privilege last night to attend a lecture given by Archbishop Charles Chaput, a part of the Hillenbrand Lecture Series of the Liturgical Institute of the University of Our Lady of the Lake, Mundelein, which followed a solemn celebration of Mass and Vespers, with the Archbishop, for the liturgy on the Feast of St. John the Baptist. Music for the Mass was offered by the participants of the Liturgical Instutite “Sacred Music Retreat” under the direction of Kevin Allen.

It was an inspiring lecture, and was very honest and forthright, as is Chaput’s style. He takes up the question asked by Romano Guardini, 75 years ago: Is modern man capable of the liturgical act? Of course, his answer in the end is yes, but he offers some very keen and practical insight into the task of liturgical renewal in our day in age.

In taking up Guardini’s challenge, Archbishop Chaput offers reflection on four points as a contribution to our next task of liturgical renewal:

1. We need to recover the intrinsic and inseparable connection between liturgy and evangelization.

2. The liturgy is a participation in the liturgy of heaven, in which we worship in Spirit and truth with the worldwide Church and the communion of saints.

3. We need to strive to recover and live with the same vibrant liturgical and evangelical spirituality as the early Christians.

4. The liturgy is a school of sacrificial love. The law of our prayer should be the law of our life. Lex orandi, lex vivendi. We are to become the sacrifice we celebrate.

He concludes:

“The liturgical act becomes possible for modern man when you see your lives and work in light of God’s plan for the world, in light of his desire that all men and women be saved and come to the knowledge of the truth. The mystery we celebrate with the angels and the saints must take root deep in our lives and personalities. It must bear fruit. Each of us must make our own unique contribution to God’s loving plan — that all creation become adoration and sacrifice in praise of him.”

That Chaput is typically not seen as being as liturgically focused as he is focused on cultural and pro-life issues, it was good to hear him agree that “in the post-conciliar era, the professional Catholic liturgical establishment opted for the former path, trying to adapt the liturgy to the demands of modern culture… [and] that time has shown this to be a dead end. Trying to engineer the liturgy to be more “relevant” and “intelligible” through a kind of relentless cult of novelty, has only resulted in confusion and a deepening of the divide between believers and the true spirit of the liturgy.”

Let the liturgy speak for itself, he seemed to say. Let us conform ourselves to Christ and live the life of the Church’s liturgy. Amen!

Here’s the complete text of the lecture.

5 Replies to “Archbishop Chaput: Evangelization and the Renewal of the Liturgy”

  1. Abp. Chaput never ceases to amaze and edify. I've been so eager for him to take on the question of the liturgy in his usual robust and public style, and in this talk he says something more beautiful about the liturgy than I've heard anywhere else:

    "Liturgy is both the source of the Church’s mission and its goal. … this should be the foundation not only for our thinking about the liturgy but for our pastoral strategies as well. The reason we evangelize is in order to bring people into communion with the living God in the Eucharistic liturgy. And this experience of communion with God, in turn, impels us to evangelize."

    As he points out, this amounts to a gloss on "source and summit" — but what a gloss!

    That said, I'm a bit surprised that the archbishop would say that he finds "the Novus Ordo, properly celebrated, a much richer expression of worship [than the Extraordinary Form]".

    That one statement seems slightly out-of-sync with the rest of his talk, if for no other reason than that it was an expression of a personal preference in response to a very important, even foundational liturgical question.

    Fr. Barron, whom Abp. Chaput quotes in his talk, is certainly right that "our goal is not to accommodate the liturgy to the world, but to let the liturgy be itself".

    And so the question is: To what extent does the Ordinary Form allow the liturgy of the Roman Rite to "be itself"?

    This is not so much a question about theological riches (of which the Ordinary Form is certainly full), or a call for a rubric-by-rubric comparison of the two forms, as if such an exercise could determine which form is "better".

    Instead, the question should lead us to ask whether the changes introduced in 1970, or perhaps the manner in which they were introduced, were compatible with the nature of authentic liturgical development, and with the limits set forth by the Council.

    And I think anyone working for liturgical reform and renewal in the era of Summorum Pontificum must take that question very seriously, and have a thoroughly developed answer to it (whether the answer is 'yes' or 'no'). Archbishop Chaput's indication of his own personal preference seems to me to distract unfortunately from that ever-important question.

  2. Very insightful thoughts here Ben. I also found the talk to be very inspiring, and in the clear "Chaput" style. I also raised an eyebrow at his belief that the OF is a "richer expression". I was thinking he may have meant "clearer", which could be true, but I agree with you that in terms of "richness" I'm not sure that I would agree with him.

    There were a few more eyebrow raisers in the Q&A session after the talk–he mentioned that the new LA Cathedral really is quite beautiful… and that the Neo-Catechumenate way liturgy really gets the "banquet" aspect of the heavenly banquet… I really attribute this mostly to his need, as an Archbishop, to do his best to think as broadly as possible, as he must. His support of and focus on the OF, and its proper celebration, will probably, if nothing else, keep him broadly centered on his concerns as an Archbishop.

  3. "…They were overcome with awe. They went back home and filed this report: 'We came to the Greeks, and we were taken to the place where they worship their God. … We do not know whether we have been in heaven or on earth. … We know only that God dwells there among men.' Not long after that, Vladimir was baptized and exhorted all his countrymen to be baptized too."

    I have heard this anecdote many times, and it describes well my first encounter with the Extraordinary Form.

    While someone with a better knowledge of the historical context could correct me, I wonder if the unfamiliar ritual Greek of the liturgy that the Kievan delegates observed played a great part in their sense of awe (though as diplomats from the Rus to Constantinople, would they have been conversant in Greek?) ++Chaput's enthusiastic praise of the vernacular liturgy is not surprising, but I always find myself wondering whether liturgy in Latin, regardless of which form is employed, might be a better pastoral strategy for reaching post-modern man than is generally assumed.

    I agree with the other commenters that the Archbishop's passing shot at the EF was eyebrow-raising at least. I have heard similar potshots from the pulpit before, and from priests who are just as vigorous in their moral and theological orthodoxy as Chaput. But in years of attending licit EF Masses I must say I have never heard a priest publicly take a swipe at the Missal of 1970.

    Such rhetorical jabs avoid and prevent a discussion of the serious questions that Ben rightly reminds us of in his comments above.

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