Apr 15, 2009

SCL Conference Focuses on Roman Missal

Online Edition:

April 2009

Vol. XV, No. 2

SCL Conference Focuses on Roman Missal

by Father Paul J. Keller, OP

The Missale Romanum was the topic of the January 29-February 1, 2009 annual conference of the Society for Catholic Liturgy (SCL). About 150 attended the event, held at the St. Cecilia Cathedral and Cultural Center in Omaha, Nebraska.

The SCL has held scholarly conferences since its inception, but a few years ago added a second “track” of presentations, which are less academic and more practical in focus. The addition of “Track II” talks allows greater participation of people who are not academics, but who are involved in the liturgical and sacramental life of the Church.

Monsignor Bruce E. Harbert, Executive Secretary for the International Commission on the English Liturgy (ICEL), gave the keynote address, titled “Opening the Roman Missal”. Monsignor Harbert discussed the origins of the Missale and the so-called “Sacramentary”, as well as other liturgical books.

The Track I (academic) presentations began with Father Cassian Folsom, OSB, prior and founder of the restored Benedictine monastery in Norcia, Italy, who traced the outlines of the history of the Missale Romanum, additionally commenting on a detailed bibliography that he provided to his auditors.

Sister Madeleine Grace, CVI, of the University of St. Thomas, Houston, Texas, spoke on the contribution of Saint Ambrose to the development of the Roman Missal as seen in his use of Latin, his composition of hymns and the development of the Roman Canon.

Father S. Joseph Lionel, a priest from India and a doctoral candidate at the Liturgical Institute in Chicago, presented a paper on the liturgical hermeneutics of Scripture in the prefaces for the Masses of the Sundays of Lent. Father Thomas Buffer, STD, pastor of St. Stephen the Martyr Parish in Columbus, Ohio, lectured on the origins and meaning of the word salus in the Missale Romanum, discussing its varied meanings in the pre-Christian era and its eventual Christianization, which took up elements of the Roman usage. John Hammond explained the history and characteristics of the strophic hymn, in which verses or “strophes” use the same tune, in place of chanted Propers (texts for particular days) in the Roman Missal. The Dies Irae as an exemplar of the Missale Romanum and its influence on culture was Father Robert Johansen’s theme.

Father Dennis Gill, director for the Office of Worship in Philadelphia, presented the history and development of the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM), highlighting new aspects of the current edition and the importance for the faithful application of the Instruction for theological and liturgical continuity. Edward Schaefer, member of the Society’s board of directors and Associate Dean for Academic and Student Affairs in the College of Fine Arts at the University of Florida, spoke on the tensions that sometimes exist between Catholics who prefer the “extraordinary form” of Mass, and those who prefer the “ordinary form”, and he offered options for the future.

In his paper on the use of the Novo Vulgata Editio of the Bible in the Roman rite Mass, Monsignor Michael Kevin Magee of St. Charles Seminary in Overbrook, Pennsylvania, argued for the importance of due attention to Latin biblical texts for worship and handing on the Church’s tradition. Father John Burns, O. Carm., explained the theological significance of the processions of the Ordo Missae (Order of Mass) and their influence on church architecture.

Track II began with a presentation by Father Dennis Gill and Sister Marganne Drago, SSJ, on the USCCB’s 2007 music guidelines, Sing to the Lord: Music in Divine Worship, offering practical suggestions for sung celebrations of the Sacred Liturgy. Father Morgan White spoke on “The Principle of Progressive Solemnity and the Roman Missal”; and Father Timothy Vaverek’s presentation, “Orientation for the Celebration of the Liturgy”, explained the theology and rubrics associated with the ad orientem (priest facing “liturgical east”) celebration of the ordinary form of the Roman rite. Father Vaverek introduced the ad orientem celebration in 1997 to all Sunday Masses in his Texas parish and continues the practice to this day.

Colleen Carter, who is involved with the Schola Cantorum of St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, spoke on “The Offertory Motets of Palestrina in the Ordinary and Extra-Ordinary Forms of the Roman Mass”. On the premise that “Proper offertory texts are often neglected in both the ordinary and extraordinary forms of the Roman Liturgy when choirs perform polyphonic works rather than the Offertory chant”, her paper “explored Palestrina’s cycle of five-voice Offertory motets as a way for church musicians to have both polyphony and proper texts.”

Other Track II talks included Father Anthony McLaughlin’s “Summorum Pontificum: Reconciling the Old and the New at the Parish Level”; Conrad Donakowski’s “‘Useless for Modern Man?’ Precedents and Problems Inherited from the Age of Democratic Revolution”; and Robert Fastiggi’s “The Roman Missal and Papal Authority”. Dr. Donakowski is emeritus professor of Music from Michigan State University, and Dr. Fastiggi is professor of systematic theology at Sacred Heart Seminary in Detroit.

The closing plenary address was given by Michael P. Foley of Baylor University who spoke on “The Mystic Meaning of the Missale Romanum”. Dr. Foley explained the notion of allegory and traced the history of the allegorical interpretation of the Mass and its place in the contemporary liturgy.

Members of the Society for Catholic Liturgy had two opportunities for contact with the Priestly Fraternity of Saint Peter (FSSP), founded in 1988 for the formation of priests to celebrate Mass according to the 1962 Missal (“extraordinary form”). On Friday morning, the group attended a Solemn High Mass at the Fraternity parish, Immaculate Conception Church in Omaha. First-year seminarians from Our Lady of Guadalupe, the FSSP seminary near Lincoln, came to Immaculate Conception to sing Latin responses, hymns, and Gregorian chant antiphons.

Later that afternoon, SCL members boarded a bus to the FSSP’s North American seminary outside the town of Denton, where they toured the public areas of the seminary, including its cloister. Thomas Gordon Smith, noted architect from Notre Dame University and an SCL board member, has worked with the Priestly Fraternity for the past decade to design and build the complex. The residence houses one hundred seminarians and ten priests and administrators. Offices and Masses are said in the Aula Magna (great hall), but by December 2009, liturgies will be sung in the new chapel being constructed on the prow of the hill.

The Society for Catholic Liturgy, founded in 1995, is a multidisciplinary association of Catholic scholars, teachers, pastors, and professionals that promotes scholarly study and practical renewal of the Church’s liturgy. In addition to its annual conference, the SCL publishes Antiphon three times a year — a journal of scholarly articles on liturgical and sacramental theology, including some of the papers from the annual SCL conference.

Next year’s SCL conference, titled “Munera Liturgica: Liturgical Roles and Responsibilities”, will be held on the campus of St. Mary’s Catholic Church in Greenville, South Carolina, January 28-31, 2010.

Visit the Society’s website (www.liturgysociety.org) for registration information and instructions for submitting paper proposals for the conference.


Father Keller, president of the board of directors of the Society for Catholic Liturgy, teaches theology at the Franciscan University of Steubenville, and resides at St. Dominic Priory in Youngstown. He holds a doctorate in sacramental theology from Sant’ Anselmo in Rome.



Father Paul J. Keller, OP