by F. A. Fulford
SO far the only conference of British Liturgists announced for this year is that at Oxford, to be held under the auspices of the Society of St. Gregory, from August 3 to 8. It is timely, therefore, to review what American Liturgists did at their Second National Liturgical Week held at St. Paul in October, 1941, particulars of which have now been issued in a book of 265 pages by the Benedictine Liturgical Conference of Newark.
The difference between the Oxford crogramme and the American approach to the Enmity is roughly that the former will specialise in music and will comprise lectures on the Spiritual Life and Catholic Liturgists' reaction to Social Problems, the Americans, on the other hand, emphasising for the second year in succession the need of revivifying and spiritualisiog the corporate lite of the parish, held up consistently before the eyes of the 1,125 people who listened to speeches of an extraordinarily elevated tye, as the essential unit of the Mystical Body.
This significant fact shows that Americans are particularly keen on eradicating a well-known evil resultant on the Reformation by relegating private devotionalism to its proper place, that is, behind Christian society's fitst bounden duty of rendering corporate worship to God. That they have had a second National Conference to deal with the same topic shows that the problem is not easy, though it was felt that tho young priests now being trained in seminaries are being better prepared to lead dig laity in Liturgical revival.
One parish priest, despite his personal zeal, deplored his own lack of training and said: " In our seminary days the Mystical Body was little more than a ' Mythical Body ': the Mass was a devotional act of receiving much while giving little, and the whole Liturgy was just—rubrics."
" God-centric corporate worship," as against the " ego-centric and self-centred " type, was dealt with by another
priest. who said : " Excellent Catholics, with the " getting-God-to-do-our
will tendency, put much stress on themselves by being primarily concerned with petition and contrition. For that reason the tendency is nar rowing, unexpansive. It cheapens us as creatures. Praise and adoration, on the other hand, turn us to the God
head. It is deepening, maturing, expansive."
And another priest " We must succeed in making our people altaror sacrifice-conscious, and gel them away from a tabernacle-consciousness. The important part in the Sacrifice is the Offertory and the conscious sharing of the people in that Offertory."
" The family is mode up of two people living for each other," is how another priest expressed his thoughts, while he pleaded that people should think as a comnumity at all times, " and the home is made up of two or more people living for the family. .411 nature, the whole story of life tells us that nobody really benefits by lust looking out for himself. In that direction. caring too much Jot yourself and acting for yourself, lees insanity.
" Why don't we teach people to come to ' corn-union '? There are entirely too many of our people that come to Communion with no thought of being united in the Mystical Body of Christ. They have no thought that they arc to become one in Christian charity with their Christ and they are to be united one to another."
The "Jitterbug" Priest The book 1 quote flora, nevertheless, makes lively reading, and there is a wealth of .wisecracks and funny anecdotes. American Liturgists, at any rate. do not wear long faces ! There are references to the " jitterbug priest," who " spitfires " his way through the Mass, to " the Liturgical sheep who want to make the responses. and the non-Liturgical goats who prefer to say the beads or look at the girls." There is an allusion by another speaker to " boy Soprani playing up to the box office by having them stand on the seats in church aid sing a Gotinod or Giorza Benedirtur to the registration of a Vox Humana and Vox Celeste." There is a plea to intensify the life of the Church by getting people away from " Hollywoodflesh " to a " Holy Wood Spirit," and there is. the description given by a parish priest of the high level to which Liturgical life has .reached among his people.
11c says : " A Mass is a most popular present among them. They are donated not only for funerals and anniversaries but for birthdays and weddings as well. As a member of the palish intelligentsia expressed it: 'Too hot for flowers in Purgatory anyway ' and to a young married couple: ' A shower of God's Graces will •do more good than a shower of bric-a-brac or kitchenware.' " Finally, there is the story told by a priest who went to Washington and tried to contact the men in uniform there. He wanted to " get the Missal into the lives of soldiers. At one point in our conversations (he goes on) I was told : • Father, you are in the wrong place. You arc in a lost cause when you come down to Wgeshingtoe with Missals. The only kind we are interested in arc the kind that kill people. Of course. we spell it differently.' " Dialogue Mass American lecturers, with characteristic thoroughness, went fully into practical proposals for bringing hack a love of Liturgy to the parish and with it the sense of corporateness. and pioneer priests in the Movement gave all the benefit of their experiences. They touched on the Dialogue Mass as a lust step to the ideal of the congregationally sung Mass, one speaker pointing out that the Dialogue Mass is now being said in 127 places-in the United States, people reciting parts of it in Latin along with the celebrant. I believe that in England you can count instances of the same practice on the fingers of one hand.
It may be -opporttme therefore to quote the remarks made by a Benedictine on the subject. He said: " The Dialogue Mass, as such, is generally admitted and approved. 'there have been, it is true, certain controversies as to its lawful method. But we can safely say now that its praisewotthiness is generally admitted, nay. expressly emphasised, by Roman decrees, e.g.. the decree of November 30, 1933. in rep'y to an appeal by Cardinal Minoretti." Ninety-eight American Ordinaries have approved it. the holy See insisting only on permission from the Bishop of the diocese.
It may be, as some predict, that the Holy Sec will soon accede to a desire growing in many quarters for, if not a Liturgy in the vernacular, at least some vernacular in the Liturgy, and it is inteiesting to note that here in England the vernacular is used considerably in the administration of some of the Sacraments.
The well-known Mgr. Martin liellriegel, who figures in the forefront of the American Liturgical Revival and whose opinion is valued by Liturgists throughout the world, remarked at St. Paul that " a proper setting for services is always of great importance " in order to inculcate the Liturgy among people.
He added: " We should take the philosophical axiom mote set iously : ' Nothing is in our mind which previously has not been in our senses,' " and pleaded, for instance, that there should he a wealth of purple hangings, holly wreaths and candles when parishioners gather in church on the nine evenings preceding Christmas to chant
,the venerable prophecies and " 0-anthems in expectation of the coming King.
He described, too, how children of his oafish collected old gold to be blessed, together with frankincense and myrrh, on Epiphany day, the gifts being taken in procession to the Crib and the gold being used later to make a chalice for a poor mission.
Rosary at Mass
The oft-debated wince( of saying the Rosary during Mass had its share in the discussion. but no one was brace enough to condemn it, having in mind, no doubt, Leo XII I's instructions for the October Devotions.
In search once more of the lighter bits in the book, I read a story told by a priest, who prefaced it by repeating the old adage that a habit does not make the monk and vestments do not make for an increase in religion.
He was on a trolley 'bus in Chicago, he said, when he met a very interesting Jew with whom he began to speak on
the great necessity of religion. Said the Jew :—" Father, religion is on the increase." He knew this, the Jew said, because he sold vestments to
Jewish Rabbis and was doing excellent business these days.
Another priest, confessing that, he had thrown himself too wildly into the Liturgical Movement, said :—" It was the result of a vista I made to England, where I became attracted (so I thought) to the Liturgical Movement in that country. I had seen sonic beautiful
• liturgical ' altars there, and when I came borne 1 looked at mimic. It was a cheap one with a lot of niches on it that looked like cracker-boxes, in which stood big saints, little saints and Middle-sized saints, so I removed it, putting in its place ' liturgical ' altar. The people thought I was going Protestant, and told the Bishop so. adding that the simple Alai I had put in was altogether too plain. Then the Bishop moved mite."
The third Annual Liturgical 'Week wit he held this year in the Usillett Slate. from October 12 to 1h. the venue helm St. Mcinracrs Ahhcv. Indiana.