Denis McNamara applied to Sacred Music

Just this past week I finished a course at the Liturgical Institute of St. Mary of the Lake University, Mundelein, with the Institute’s assistant director Dr. Denis McNamara. Dr. McNamara just recently published the groundbreaking book Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy through the Institute’s ‘Hillenbrand Books’, which was the main text for the course.

Ultimately, Dr. McNamara’s book is focused on the practical issue of new church architecture and church renovations, but he sets out to achieve it in the first place by means of an applied study in liturgical theology, architectural theology and a theology of beauty. This first part of his book provides a lens, a hermeneutic, for the rest of his study which journeys through the scriptural foundations of church architecture, the timeless applicability of the Classical tradition, the eschatological nature of iconic images, and a historical survey of modern church architecture.

McNamara’s perspective for the study of sacred art is sacramental (small “s”), according to the Church’s classic definition of a sacrament: “a visible sign of an invisible reality”. This means that sacred art, in this case architecture, uses visible signs to reveal the building’s ontology: its nature, its reason for being. (Dr. McNamara loves to use the word ontology in the classroom, it’s sort of as a catch phrase. One day, in a prayer led by one of the priests in the class, the word ontology managed to show up twice! When we finished the sign of the cross and opened our eyes we saw Denis smiling ear to ear.) Ontology: “What makes a church a church?” “What does sacred art say about its reason for being?”

I heard at one point in the course the axiom coined by the theologian Fr. Edward Oakes, SJ “art doesn’t lie”. In other words, seen from a sacramental perspective, art always signifies some reality: beauty is not in the the eye of the beholder, dependent on the viewer’s subjective state and experience in order to give it meaning. Art always says something about its intention, it communicates, it reveals something, it signifies something; the question is “what reality does it signify?”

In the case of the language of classical church architecture the elements used in design seek to signify the heavenly liturgy; the church building becomes a “sacramental building” which signifies the union of heaven and earth during the liturgy, it shows through its art and design the earth restored to heavenly order, its beauty represents the beauty, perfection, and other-worldliness of heaven, and it invites the liturgical participant to “actively participate” in the heavenly liturgy which is made present in the most excellent way in the holy sacrifice of the Mass. In contrast, in the case of post-modern deconstructivist architecture, which is based on a philosophy of despair, of chaos, which focuses on the disorder of fallen humanity, something else is signified; it represents the fall, it exhibits chaos in built form, it does not look to heaven, but further enables the viewer to “actively participate” in the effects of the fall.

“Architecture is the built form of ideas”, says McNamara. “Art doesn’t lie”. “Art invites the viewer to participate in the reality which it signifies”.

As I reflected on how sacred art assists or detracts from one’s active participation in the sacred mysteries that are celebrated in the liturgy, I couldn’t help but to stop and think of how these ideas could be applied, mutatis mutandis, to sacred music. What followed was somewhat of a revelation.

If architecture is the built form of ideas, it could be said that (in the case of sacred music) music is the sung form of ideas.

It seems that in many of our contemporary debates over liturgical music we can’t seem to get too far away from the subjective elements of musical style. I have heard very prominent exponents of modern “contemporary” liturgical music say to proponents of sacred music: “Why don’t you stop ragging on people who happen to like contemporary musical styles? I respect your stylistic preferences, why can’t you respect mine?” (You may not believe this, but this is an argument given by one of GIA’s most widely published composers–and he attributes it to Fr. Gelineau, with whom he studied). Sacred musicians might respond furiously saying “it’s not a question of style!” but then they might produce a counter-argument, or maybe even post a video on the internet, which compares contemporary and sacred musical styles. This usually amounts to the belittling of pop styles, and it makes an appeal to Gregorian chant, asking the viewer “which one seems more beautiful?” Well, if beauty is in the eye of the beholder then this amounts to an argument over personal taste and preference.

But if one asks the question “what does this musical repertoire, or musical style sacramentally represent?” then we might actually develop a grammar for properly analyzing liturgical music.

If music is the sung form of ideas, this means, in liturgy, that music represents theology. In other words, the music that is sung in liturgy reveals what those who participate in it believe that the liturgy is. Art doesn’t lie.

If the liturgy is an earthly participation in the eschatological reality of heaven; a bursting forth of the heavenly liturgy that takes place at the end of time into the earthly liturgy of the fallen world, then its music should be eschatological. The music of this earthly liturgy would seek to provide a foretaste of the liturgy of heaven, the wedding banquet of the Lamb. It would be transcendent and other-worldly, its noble beauty would befit the heavenly King, it would be ordered music free of the effects of the fall, it would transcend the popular musical styles of the world and would actively engage its participants in a foretaste of the heavenly life that is to come.

On the other hand, if the music in the earthly liturgy sounds like the music of the popular culture, is like the music that would be sung or heard at a festive family dinner party, or perhaps at a concert or in a retail store, if the music is reflective of the music that is on top 40 radio, and so on, what does this say about what the liturgy is? Art doesn’t lie. This music would suggest that the liturgy is like a gathering for a family meal, is entertaining, is immanently bound up with the “now”, or with a particular time period (as is perhaps is the case with 70’s folk music), it may have the effect of persuading people to walk in the doors much like the shops in a mall. A liturgical theology that prefers music that says these things or has these effects would be one that views the earthly liturgy not as a participation in the glories of heaven, but one that is immanently bound up in the effects of the fall.

What all of this is saying to me is that perhaps we need to stop arguing about musical styles. Instead let’s take a step back and take a look at the music that is being sung in the liturgy and ask ourselves what theological reality it is expressing. If a liturgist or pastor or musician or anyone believes that the liturgy is simply a communal meal shared between friends that is bound up in this time and place, well, guess what, their liturgical music is probably going to reflect that. Instead of trying to convince them that certain musical styles and repertoires are appropriate for Mass, through persuasion or worse yet through beating them over the head with Church documents, perhaps we should enter a conversation about the ontology of the liturgy. Our time might be better spent giving a sound liturgical catechesis, in praying for conversion of hearts, for the evangelization of souls, and in becoming, ourselves, imbued with the spirit of the liturgy.

Art doesn’t lie. Music doesn’t lie. Let us know what we’re saying with the music that we sing in the earthly liturgy and let us always strive for a sacramental participation in the liturgy of heaven where God is all-in-all, and where the earth is restored and sings his praise eternally.

Liturgical Institute 10th Anniversary Address

Here is the address given by Liturgical Institute director Fr. Douglas Martis during the anniversary banquet and ceremony on the occasion of the institute’s tenth anniversary on July 7th, 2010. This is a vision of liturgical renewal worth believing in!

Your Excellencies, Reverend Fathers and Deacons, members of the Catholic Faithful:

Ten years is not a long time, and yet this first decade of the 21st century has been full.

In July of the year 2000, two young men, for whom the beauty of this campus had been foreign, arrived as new pioneers, explorers on the edge of a complex ecclesiastical frontier. They immediately were seized, inspired by the vision of Cardinal Mundelein, that this place should be a center of formation for the sake of the entire Church.

Through the leadership, vision, and profoundly theological intuition of Francis Cardinal George, that the rites of the liturgy should be studied from their long-ignored sacramental perspective, these two had the audacity to launch an new liturgical endeavor into the largely sated and settled—might we even say, “stagnant”—landscape of the post- Conciliar Church.

They discovered in this campus a kind of laboratory, where the values of authentic liturgical renewal could be taught, practiced and promoted.

For a newly minted architectural historian, Denis Robert McNamara, this campus was a play-ground in Classicism an opportunity to merge and consociate theological ideas and their expression in brick and mortar. His academic and professional career reached a decisive moment when Providence brought him here. This same Providence preserved the integrity of this campus when it moved the new kid on the block to speak boldly to his superiors against illogical and incongruous architectural building. In his area of expertise he is unrivaled. There is no one in the United States today, who speaks more intelligently, more articulately, more convincingly of the sacramentality of church buildings and the urgent need to be thoughtful and deliberate about construction and renovation of churches. I am proud to call him colleague.

For the Irish-born priest, Michael Francis Mannion, whose adopted home was the territory of Mormons, whose curriculum vitæ shows him notable as pastor and rector of cathedral, as founder of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, as promoter of the Choir School of the Madeleine, as theologian, teacher and author, this endeavor was the realization of a dream to establish a school where the principles of the Second Vatican Council and genuine renewal could get a fair hearing, it was the chance to provide an environment where the rites of the Church could be allowed to speak for themselves and where their logic, truth and age-less beauty would be appreciated and fostered without partisan polemic or edgy liturgical Gnosticism. We all owe an enormous debt to Monsignor Mannion. (He is unable to join us tonight. I spoke with him a few weeks ago, he sends his congratulations.)

I have the pleasure of caring for and carrying on what others have begun.

There are different ideas about what constitutes a liturgical institute. For some, it is a center of higher learning a base of direct assistance to parishes a resource for those looking for real answers. Some have described our Institute as a kind of national (or even international) worship office.

This liturgical institute, the Liturgical Institute was founded to be a kind of next step in liturgical renewal.

Cardinal George established the Liturgical Institute to explore the connection between liturgical expression and sacramental theology. We take as our starting point the liturgical rites as given and then ask the questions about their origin, meaning, and implementation. Our purpose it not to change the liturgy but rather to help the faithful better understand and appreciate the Church’s prayer in its purest form.

Our approach is nourished by the insights of the pioneers of the twentieth century liturgical movement such as Dom Lambert Beauduin, Virgil Michel, Justina Ward: to make the treasure of the liturgy accessible to the people.

We are aware that in the future, another generation will pick up the torch and promote renewal with the same urgency and commitment that their predecessors have held. Liturgical renewal must be done in every age because each generation must claim the Church’s public prayer in the way that is consistent with its proper genius.

As people who deeply love Christ, the Church and the people, and who have been touched by liturgical renewal we must constantly remind ourselves that we are situated in an historical context that none can escape. The reality of our day and time is not that much different from earlier periods: people have perhaps always called for renewal. Folks like Hillenbrand and Hellreigel complained that the faithful were not involved in the liturgy as much as they should be, that they understood little of what was going on, that they needed to learn more and to be more serious about its celebration.

The Liturgical Institute, from its inception, has resisted being categorized as liberal or conservative, progressive or traditional. Rather than saying that we situate ourselves as part of one group or another, I believe it is more accurate to say that the Liturgical Institute is blazing its own trail. At the Liturgical institute, we believe that a return to the original insight of these liturgical pioneers with help protect us from falling into the trap of “liturgical renewal” as a slogan. We want to celebrate the liturgy as carefully as possible, to let its own beauty be revealed.

I would apply Chesterton’s famous phrase to the liturgy: “it is not that liturgical reform has been tried and found wanting, it’s that it hasn’t really been tried yet.” What we would like to see different in the liturgical experience, is not any particular aspect of the reform, but rather people’s intelligence of it. We have been seized by the foundational notions of Liturgical Movement, such as “without intelligence, there can be no worship.” (Dom Virgil Michel) We would like to see people engaged in the liturgy not as a curiosity, not as an occasional, frenzied (or ecstatic) experience, but as something that really grounds their lives as Christians.

Every aspect of the current liturgy has the potential to lead the faithful deeper into the mystery of salvation. It is our conviction, that if the mystery is not tapped into, it is not a lack of the reform, but rather symptomatic of the urgent need for liturgical renewal.

Liturgical renewal is a perennial task because the liturgy continues to reveal her treasures gradually. I like to say that the liturgy is designed for those who are in it for the long-haul, true liturgical expression cannot be reduced to a “flash in the pan” encounter. This is why the Roman liturgy is radiant with noble simplicity.

We tend to say people are participating actively if they sing, and doubt the participation of the who do not sing… but the liturgy is much more complex than that. Regardless of the form of the liturgy, the faithful will always have the ability to participate actively if the notion is correctly understood.

If people do not understand the Christian cultural symbols, even if they know what the words mean, they will derive little benefit. For example if one says “water” or “agua” or “aqua” or “wasser” or “eau” if one only thinks “H20”, then the liturgy will have little effect. The one who is literate in the Christian language will understand any of the terms as flood, and creation, and baptism at the Jordan, and water and blood flowing from the side of Christ. The one with the Christian cultural language will make an immediate connection between the wood of the cross and the Tree of Life and the Tree in the Garden of Eden and Christ as the New Adam. This, I believe, is the urgent task for us. Most liturgist are beginning to acknowledge that understanding what words in a vernacular liturgy denote is not the same as comprehending the rich and expansive nuance that the term offers.

At the Liturgical Institute, we pray in Latin and in the vernacular without stigmas. For us there is no shame in being polyglot (our community is, after all, international!) Rather we see a real benefit in terms of insight and understanding that is brought by celebration and discussion in different languages.

For us, language is not a political statement, but is seen as a natural aspect of our Catholic faith and celebration. What would our communities be like if we worshipped effortlessly in Latin and in the vernacular without hostility or aversion? We see Latin not a archaism but as heritage. Our approach is what Dr. McNamara calls an “easy orthodoxy”. We feel no need to be angry. These are the liturgical rites we’ve been given; they are what we have received. Our liturgical expression is both patristic and scholastic, it is modern and ancient. There is room for Aquinas and Augustine. We don’t have to choose one or the other. We try to balance immanence and transcendence. We see the Eucharist as the body of Christ without compromising our participation in it.

In short, all we need in the liturgy is already available to us, Like grace, as Augustine says, it is always present, but needs to be received. We have no purpose other than the praise of God and imploring the sanctification of the world If we are fortunate, the by product is community, engagement, nourishment.

Thank you for being a part of this vision. The future of liturgical renewal is here.

Rev. Douglas Martis, Ph.D., S.T.D.
The Liturgical Institute

The Liturgical Institute: 10 Years of Critical Thinking with the Mind of the Church

Is it possible today to thoroughly and critically study the Church’s liturgy, in an atmosphere of prayer, with complete fidelity to the tradition and authority of the Church, and to do all of this with joy? The answer is yes, and it has been happening at the Liturgical Institute of St. Mary of the Lake University, Mundelein IL, for the past 10 years.

According to a description on the Institute’s Facebook page: “Established in 2000 by Cardinal George to prepare Catholics for ‘a new era in liturgical renewal,’ the Institute’s programs are rooted in a dynamic fidelity to the reforms promoted by the Second Vatican Council and the deep traditions of the Church.”

Yesterday the Institute celebrated its 10 year anniversary with an alumni banquet, and with a liturgy celebrated by LI alumni Bishop James S. Wall of Gallup, New Mexico. The first Spiritus Liturgiae award was given to Msgr. James Moroney, Executive Secretary of the Vox Clara Commission, for his promotion of and service to the authentic liturgy.

Msgr. Moroney, a key player in the new English translation of the Roman Missal, is also on the summer faculty of the Liturgical Institute, currently teaching a course on liturgical inculturation. Also on this summer’s faculty is Dr. Denis McNamara, the Institute’s assistant director, who recently published the groundbreaking book “Catholic Church Architecture and the Spirit of the Liturgy”.

Institute director Fr. Douglas Martis and LI faculty member and Office of Worship Director for the Diocese of LaCrosse Christopher Carstens debuted the all-new Mystical Body Mystical Voice program for liturgical catechesis in light of the new translation of the Roman Missal as part of the festivities of the 10-year Anniversary celebration. A book by the same title is nearing completion and will be published by the Institute’s publishing imprint Hillenbrand Books in the coming months. A lecture by Archbishop Charles Chaput was also recently given at the LI on the connection between liturgy and evangelization.

Needless to say, the Liturgical Institute is breaking new ground and is truly on the cutting edge of the new era of liturgical renewal that we are embarking upon now as a Church. This is possible because of the four characteristics mentioned in the first paragraph above: Prayer, Study, Fidelity, and Joy, according to the Institute’s motto: “where prayer and study meet in fidelity and joy”.

The academic life at the Institute revolves around the communal celebration of the liturgy, daily Mass, Lauds and Vespers–the office is sung with the Mundelein Psalter, and Mass propers are sung in the Mass (no hymns or songs), along with Gregorian ordinaries and other sacred music offered by student scholas. The singing of the liturgy is foundational for all that is done at the Institute. The second part of the foundation is a fidelity to the norms that are given to us by the Church. Courses are rites-based and are aimed at critical reflection on the liturgy of the Church from all possible perspectives in order for students to become thoroughly imbued with the Spirit of the Liturgy, and to assist in their fully conscious, active and intelligent participation in the sacred mysteries therein.

In receiving and embracing the gift of the liturgy from the Church, who first received the gift from Christ himself under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, students of the Liturgical Institute demonstrate a very deep and real joy. The students are not angry, they are not bitter, they are not resentful, they do not mock or defame, they exhibit a Fruit of the Holy Spirit: supernatural joy. I speak from experience as I say this–I myself am a current student at the Institute and I not only possess this joy and deep love of the Church and her liturgy, but I also see it in my classmates, colleagues, and professors. I am surrounded by brilliant scholars, keen intellects, faithful servants, first-rate talents, and disciples of Christ, and I feel incredibly privileged to have the opportunity to study at the Liturgical Institute, especially during this watershed moment in the Church’s history where the fruits of seeds planted over the past two centuries are beginning to bud forth.

Many congratulations to the Liturgical Institute of St. Mary of the Lake on 10 years of faithful service to the Church. May you have many more!

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.

Gregorian Chant: The Acting Voice of Christ in Song

The reason for my journey toward and ardent love of Gregorian chant can be singularly boiled down to this: In Gregorian chant the Word of the Liturgy, the mystical Voice of Christ, is given primacy.

So much of our experience of the liturgy today is focused on musical styles that abstract and take precedence over the liturgical texts, if they are not altogether changed or substituted for something else in the first place. It’s not uncommon for composers who write in more contemporary “pop” musical styles to hack apart phrases, rewrite scriptural passages, omit major sections, obscure word accentuation, even make their own additions to a scriptural or liturgical text, and all of this is done, or so it seems, to meet the demands of the musical style in which they’re writing. Just take a look at musical settings of the psalms in many of today’s hymnals for proof of this. Where is the emphasis? What is given pride of place? In this music is it the Voice of Christ that acts and speaks to us in the liturgy? Or is it distorted by the idiosyncrasies of musical styles?

As Liturgiam Authenticam has said, the text of the liturgy is “…endowed with those qualities by which the sacred mysteries of salvation and the indefectible faith of the Church are efficaciously transmitted by means of human language to prayer, and worthy worship is offered to God the Most High.” (LA, art. 3)

It should be clear that the texts of the liturgy are no ordinary texts!

In a recent debate that I was in with a noted liturgist and “contemporary composer”, he insisted to no end that we should absolutely apply “intellectual property rights” to translated liturgical texts. He insisted that the texts of the liturgy (the carriers of the “sacred mysteries of salvation”, the “indefectible faith of the Church”, by which “worthy worship is offered to God the Most High”) were the “property” of those who translated them, and asserted that to the “owners” of these texts were due copyright royalties, because the texts were their “property”. This is an entirely different subject, and I’m sure it will be discussed amply here, but it should speak to us, I think, a basic truth about the efficacious nature of the texts of the liturgy, and, perhaps it also shows the misunderstanding or even disrespect that we often give them in our modern liturgical practices.

The text of the liturgy gives voice to the Mystical Body of Christ, and is not owned by anyone, but is the inheritance of us all.

The Church’s tradition and wisdom has offered us an exemplary musical model for the singing of the texts of the liturgy, a musical form and repertoire that has given a perfect expression of the Voice of Christ acting in the liturgy in Gregorian chant. Chant offers to the Church a complete musical setting of all of the texts of the liturgy–from the parts that are prescribed for the priest, for the people, to the parts for the choir alone.

The Second Vatican Council states that “The Church acknowledges Gregorian chant as specially suited to the Roman liturgy: therefore, other things being equal, it should be given pride of place in liturgical services.” (SC 116)

The more that I have reflected on the way in which Gregorian chant gives a perfect expression to the Voice of Christ in the liturgy, I have come up with an expanded permutation of this idea:

Gregorian chant is given “pride of place” in the liturgy because the Liturgical Word is given pride of place in Gregorian chant.

In my training in Gregorian chant, from the very beginning, the focus for interpretation was placed first and foremost on the Liturgical Word. The following are a few quotes from the first chapter of “An Introduction to the Interpretation of Gregorian Chant, Volume I: Foundations”, by Luigi Agustoni and Johannes Göschl, translated by Fr. Columba Kelly. I find them to be a fantastic foundation for the singing of Gregorian chant, and a wonderful reflection on the liturgical texts, and on the incarnational theology of the Voice of Christ acting in the liturgy:

The phrase “In the beginning was the word” has an unlimited value when applied to the Gregorian repertory. In fact, the text is the key to understanding both the rhythm and the melody of a Gregorian composition.


The source, from which the Gregorian melodies originate and are nourished, is the word. In fact, it is the word of the liturgy, a word that possesses a sacramental character according to the statements of the Second Vatican Council, for Christ is present in it, and in it Christ is received. This word of the liturgy, which in the final analysis is always God speaking to us, that is to say, the encounter of the human being with God, finds its highest expression when it can blossom forth in music. This happens in Gregorian chant to an eminent degree.


The innermost living principle of Gregorian chant is to be found in the Word of God and in the human response to it, both of which are imbedded in the context of the liturgy as an unendingly new sacramental happening that nourishes the life of the Christian community and its members.


The text [of Gregorian chant] is not something that just happens to be attached to a particular melody but rather the text is a sounded word that has flowered into a musical work. The line does not run from the melody to the text that has been set, but on the contrary the exact opposite. The direction is from the word to its realization in musical sound.


To deliberately abstract the text from its melody is to deprive Gregorian chant of its very reason for existence and the source of its very life. Word and melody have entered into an indissoluble union. The word lives here in perfect symbiosis with its carrier, the melody.


Therefore, [in the interpretation of Gregorian chant] the fundamental elements to be taken into account are the following:

1. the word as the primary source of the interpretation;

2. the melody as conditioned by the text and by the modal laws;

3. the neume design as the symbolic representation of the musical form received by the text.

(Excerpts taken from the preface and first chapter of “An Introduction to the Interpretation of Gregorian Chant”, Agustoni and Göschl, 1987, tr. Kelly, 2006.)

The Liturgical Movement – Major Advancements Every 60 Years?

I mentioned in the comment box on one of Jeffrey’s recent posts that in a course I’m currently taking on the 19th and 20th century “Liturgical Movement”, a classmate remarked that we are, now in 2010, almost as far away from Vatican II as Vatican II was away from Pope Pius X’s 1903 Motu Proprio, Tra le Sollecitudini.

This was a very keen insight, one that the professor himself had not yet thought about. I was thinking about this more and I realized that there was another equally important event 60 years earlier than Pius X’s 1903 Motu Proprio: Prosper Guéranger’s “The Liturgical Year” was begun and first published. This 15 volume work on the liturgy really was the first substantial rumbling in the 19th c. Liturgical Movement, perhaps the “soft” inauguration, or initiation of the movement.

So it seems a paradigm shifting event has taken place just about every 60 years in the modern liturgical movement since it first begun:

  • 1841 – Guéranger’s “The Liturgical Year” is first published (the Liturgical Movement initiated)
  • 1903 – Pius X’s “Tra le Sollecitudini” on Sacred Music is given Motu Proprio (the Liturgical Movement is officially inaugurated by the Church)
  • 1963 – “Sacrosanctum Concilium” of the Second Vatican Council is promulgated (the Liturgical Movement is codified in a Dogmatic Constitution of the Church)
  • 2023 – ???

What’s coming friends? Each of the previous events was a forceful and paradigm shifting event in the modern Liturgical Movement. Each built upon the other, no doubt amidst the simultaneous chaos of the developing modern world, but each was a substantial and clear turning point in the movement. If history repeats itself, we are due for the next 60 year installment of the Liturgical Movement in about 13 years.

Here is my initial prediction, if my logic is on-target:

1. Initiation
2. Inauguration
3. Codification
4. Implementation

This is great reason to hope, friends. This is clearly where our Pope is leading us. What will be the next paradigm shifting event that future generations will study in their liturgy courses? There is great reason to hope!