Page 4, 27th June 1958

27th June 1958
Page 4
Page 4, 27th June 1958 — Report of a six-months lecture tour

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Locations: Melbourne, Perth, Sydney


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Report of a six-months lecture tour


By Fr. Clifford Howell, S.J.

ANYTHING which merits the name of a **movement" normally has certain clearly recognisable characteristics; there are some individual leaders who campaign by speech and pen for the spread of specific ideas; there are centres of influence, such as societies or institutes there arc periodicals, either technical or popular; there are organised meetings of those who have the cause at heart, and there are some definite practical achievements.

Australia could hardly be said to have a "liturgical movement" in this sense prior to 1956. None of the above characteristics could be found apart from the existence of a few priests, here and there, who had become interested as the result of reading European liturgical books and the American liturgical monthly "Worship".

But in 1956 these priests succeeded in organising a "Liturgical Week" in Melbourne. As may he seen from its book of "Proceedings" subsequently published (and reviewed in THE CATHOLIC HERALD). the standard of the papers read and discussions held was very high. Attendance was remarkably good as regards numbers, but was not truly representative of Australia as a whole because there were but few who came from outside the Archdiocese of Melbourne. Interest was great, but all too local.


THERE are, however, one or two "key-men" in each big city of Australia, and some of them held important positions such as Diocesan Directors of Education. Their interest in the liturgical movement, as it exists in Europe and America, keeps them in touch with each other at least by letter.

Both the success, and also the limitations, of the Melbourne Congress led them to consider plans for launching the liturgical movement on a much wider scale. They decided that there must certainly be another congress, that it should be somewhere other than Melbourne, and such as to interest especially the Hierarchy and the clergy. They would not aim, this time, to interest laity by means of the congress—that should be for clergy

alone. Moreover the clergy should be attracted from all parts of the Commonwealth by choosing as subject of the congress something directly practical and pastoral, with no connotations of anything merely aesthetic or archeological: also by the importation of some nonAustralian speaker conversant with the practical techniques of the liturgical movement in Europe and America.

In addition they would use this speaker to address gatherings of clergy, teachers and laity to be organised locally in all the main centres of the Commonwealth. His task would he to explain to clergy and teachers precisely what the liturgical movement is, what it aims to do, and to show them by practical demonstrations how the liturgy can be utilised in a pastorally effective manner.

To the laity this speaker would strive to make clear the basic concepts which underlie the liturgy itself, namely the Mystical Body doctrine, and the function of the Mass and the sacraments as activities of the Mystical Body. The organisers felt that if such a plan could be carried through with the backing of the highest ecclesiastical authority, it would be likely to have considerable impact on public opinion throughout the Commonwealth as a whole.


THE prime mover in all this was Fr.

Roger Pryke, parish priest of Camperdown (a district of Sydney) and chaplain to the University of Sydney. It was he who approached Cardinal Gilroy and obtained the

Cardinal's approval for holding the proposed Congress at Manly Seminary; and he did me the signal honour of proposing that I he invited as the visiting lecturer, on the grounds that my small book "The Work of our Redemption". has sold widely throughout Australia, and that I have specialised in introducing the liturgical outlook to the general public by means of my "Layfolk's Week" (liturgical-style mission).

That is how it came about that 1 landed in Perth, Western Australia, in December 1957, in order to carry out the extensive programme of lectures and sermons which had been organised by Fr. Pryke and his collaborators. From then until my departure from Sydney in May 1958 I was given the opportunity of speaking (in lectures or sermons) more than a hundred and fifty times.

Most of the lecture-audiences

consisted of priests,or teaching nuns and brothers, that is. of the people, whose interest and collaboration would be of greatest value. The events usually took the form of a "Priests' Day", convened and presided over by the Bishop himself (or his Auxiliary); there would be two (or even three) lectures and. perhaps, also a demonstration.

The number of priests attending would be anything up to a hundred, according to the size of the diocese. There were similar "Days" for nuns and brothers, convened and presided over sometimes by the Bishop and sometimes by the Director of Education. Some of these meetings were truly colossal: for instance, in Sydney there were present no less than 1,300 nuns, and 300 brothers, as well as about 60

priests who came even though it was not "their" day. Some of these nuns had travelled over 300 miles to attend. This was the result of brilliant organisation on the part of Fr. Pryke and his friends.

Most popular


a certain amount of repetition in the subjects of these lectures and sermons. Nevertheless the total range of subjects handled was fairly comprehensive; the question periods, in particular, were of great value in dealing with topics which otherwise could not have been fitted in, and they showed how deeply interested all these audiences were in the pastoral use of liturgy. The most popular item of all was -invariably the celebration of Dialogue Mass according to the most developed practical techniques of the liturgical movement, involving the use of Gelineau psalms at points corresponding with the Introit, Gradual, Offertory and Communion, together with a formal Gospel procession and Offertory procession.

The actual experience of taking part in such Masses has won over to the liturgical movement literally hundreds of priests and thousands of teachers throughout Australia. It is the answer to the oft-repeated questions : "What can we do to lead people into active and intelligent participation in the Mass, and how do we go about doing it?" They have seen for themselves what can he done and have been enabled to grasp the principles underlying the technique.

Three different forms of "Community Mass" were demonstrated at the Manly Congress in the presence of Cardinal Gilroy, several Bishops and hundreds of priests. The most impressive of all the demonstrations was probably that which took place in Hobart Cathedral. The building was absolutely packed, and hundreds had to stand even though all the aisles and the transepts were filled with extra benches and chairs.

The Archbishop himself was the celebrant, at an altar facing the people. All this immense crowd sang the antiphons of five different Gelineau psalms, gave the Latin answers throughout, witnessed the Gospel and Offertory processions and listened to the Lector in the translated parts. Five priests were occupied for 18 minutes in distributing Communions.

Another, almost equally impressive event was the similar Mass for some 1,200 people in the presence of the Bishop of Maitland. Masses of the same type were celebrated on many other occasions in cities throughout Australia,and always aroused great enthusiasm among the participants.


IT is safe to say that a really worth-while proportion of the Bishops. priests and teachers of Australia have now experienced the pastoral effectiveness of modern liturgical techniques; in the now prevailing climate of benevolence from above and zeal from below all the conditions exist for the successful development of a vigorous and sound liturgical movement.

Already Fr. Pryke has set up a publishing and distributing centre In Sydney for the production of texts needed for parishes where priests desire to introduce various forms of Community Mass and Evening Services involving active participation of the people.

Some of the Bishops have appointed diocesan "commissions for promoting the liturgical epostolate" (as recommended by the Pope in Mediator Dri n. 116) and others are sure to follow. Some are considering the promulgation of " Directives" about the active participation of the people in the Mass, on the lines of those already issued by Bishops in Germany, Austria, France, Belgium and other European countries. Editors of Australian periodicals are insistently seeking articles on liturgical subjects; liturgical studygroups of interested laity are springing up here and ' there; courses of lectures on the liturgy have been arranged in some centres: the nuns and brothers who run Australia's schools are showing tremendous keenness.

All these factors taken together would seem to indicate that Fr. Pryke and his collaborators have judged the situation with remarkable insight and handled it very successfully. They have achieved the immediate object of the plans they devised, and the future is bright.

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