Summer School of Liturgy
By DOM BERNARD McELLIGOTT
The beginning of July brings the summer
holiday pleasantly near. That all-important fortnight or month has no doubt been planned since the rainy days of Lent. But many whose holiday falls due in August may not have given their plans the final polish. To them, and to all who believe in an elasticity of time-table, the idea of a summer school may appeal as an adventure. Catholics whose daily work is done in an unChristian environment will find a few days spent at a summer school of Catholic Liturgy and plainsong bracing and refreshing to mind and spirit.
In America they seem to have found this out, and to be pursuing the discovery on a large scale. English readers of that excellent monthly, Orate Fratres, will have noticed their announcements with admiration and something like envy.
New York School
The Pius X School of liturgy and liturgical music, for instance, is a permanent institution in New York, and is running several summer schools in different towns in the States. A notice in the Pittsburgh Catholic tells us that the latest undertaking of the Pittsburgh Diocesan Commission was a " diocesan convention" of choir members and organists, adding that to the organisation belong the astonishing number of four hundred organists and eight thousand volunteer singers.
The National Council of Catholic Women, held recently at Texas, adopted a resolution urging " the nation-wide introduction of a course in Catholic worship and plainsong by Catholic colleges and high schools" and giving enthusiastic approval to " the efforts of our zealous bishops and pastors to induce the laity to co-operate with them in celebrating the Sacred Mysteries in accordance with true liturgical practice." Orate Fratres comments: " Since hereby the most influential organization of Catholic women in America went on record in favour of the principles of the liturgical movement, the resolution is of importance." The appropriate gloss seems to be " I'll say it is!"
English Women's Part Organizations of Catholic women in England like the Catholic Women's League, the Grail and the Dames o1 St. Joan, showed by their whole-hearted co-operation in the People's Mass for Peace at Westminster Cathedral in 1936 and 1937 their active enthusiasm for the liturgical movement. Can they now carry the realization of the Church's ideals a stage further by officially adopting a scheme like that of the Catholic Women of America? In control of Catholic education are the Catholic Headmasters' Conference and the Conference of Teaching
Orders. If they could see their way to passing a resolution to establish courses of Catholic liturgy and plainsong in Catholic schools, such a move could not fail to have a profound influence on Catholic life in England.
Another notice in Orate Fratres is that of the fourth " Liturgical Week " held in Paris by the Ligue feminine d'Action catholique franfaise. There were present representatives of thirty-five dioceses. To quote the report, "Particular interest was aroused by the address of the pastor of Notre Dame d'Esperence, who described how he succeeded in effecting a spiritual quickening in his congregation, one of the largest in the city, by introducing intelligent congregational participation at Mass and Vespers. The various conferences of the week laid stress on the interrelation of Catholic Action and the liturgical movement."
The chaplain of the German University of Prague records another instance of this quickening of spiritual life among the under graduates under his charge. He " began by introducing congregational singing and I prayer according to liturgical norms, and by simultaneously explaining the meaning and structure of the Mass in a series of sermons. Various student associations soon pledged their assistance in choir work, in serving at the altar and in leading the prayers."
Instruction With Singing
Incidentally, this priest's method of procedure seems the right one to secure a full
response from the people. They should be started in the actual practice of singing and praying part of the Mass in common, and simultaneously instructed in the Mass itself as an external and internal Sacrifice., and in the meaning of what they are doing and saying.
This seems to be far the best way. It is not much use for the congregation to sing together if they do not understand the Mass, and on the other hand understanding the Mass is not by itself corporate worship. Both understanding and singing the Mass together are necessary for the full active participation demanded by the Church, and each of these two necessary elements will assist the other.
The Meaning Understood To return to America: Liturgy and Sociology is another magazine devoted to the furtherance of the Liturgy and Social Justice. Truly these two go together—the Liturgy which is the centre of Catholic spiritual life and " the prime and indispensable source of the Christian spirit " (Pius X); and Social Justice, the application of the Christian spirit to contemporary economic evils. During this summer, Liturgy and Sociology is trying the experiment of a " Farm-Summer School, a co-operative venture combining a full liturgical life with manual labour and study." Five schools, each lasting for a fortnight, are to be held from June 20 to August 29. "Liturgy and Life," " The Mystical Body of Christ," and "Liturgy and Sociology " are the subjects of study, and High Mass will be sung each day by all in common. These few details may prove interesting to readers of the Catholic Herald as a sign that large numhers of Catholics in America and elsewhere are taking up with enthusiasm and selfsacrifice the study and practice of the liturgy, seeing in it the principal means of the social regeneration of our world.
Our own summer school of liturgy and plainsong in England is held at Oxford in the first week of August. This year it starts on the evening of Monday, August 2, and finishes at 1.0 p.m. on Saturday, August 7.
The school is run by the Society of St. Gregory, under the patronage of the Archbishops and Bishops. High Mass, including a Solemn Requiem for deceased members, is sung daily by those who attend the School, the Proper by a group of priests and laymen and the Ordinary by the rest. On one morning all take part in a Recited Mass. Either Vespers or Compline is sung in the evenings. There arc three courses of plainsong, Elementary, Intermediate and Advanced. Lectures in these courses proceed simultaneously in the mornings, the afternoons are free, and at 5 o'clock the whole school meets for a general practice of the following morning's Mass, or of Vespers and Compline. A separate course in polyphony is available, and most of the members join in the practice of motets by
Palestrina or Byrd. Special lectures are given on Liturgy, Hymns, psalmody, chant accompaniment and kindred subjects.
The men have rooms in Worcester College, and lodgings in Oxford accommodate the ladies. The fee for the school is ten shillings for members of the Society of St. Gregory, and seventeen shillings for nonmembers. All information about the school can be obtained from the Secretary of the S.S.G., Fr. 0. F. Coffey, Catholic Church, Dunficld Road, Beckenham Hill, London, S.E,6.
It should be said that the aim of the Summer School is to be as practical as pos
sible. The chant is taught on the principles of Solesmes, and the plan of lectures and practice, followed by the singing of Mass Vespers and Compline, ensures that all who attend the school will learn by taking part in the Liturgy itself.
Many priests, nuns from the teaching Orders and choirmasters attend. But it must be emphasised that the school is also and equally for the Catholic layman and laywoman. ordinary members of congregations who have little or no " voice," but a real desire to take part in the Liturgy. Over a hundred came last year. The inside of a week is all too short, but living with the Liturgy for those few days can be a revelation of the Christian life centred on doctrine and a corporate worship.