After decreeing that teachers of liturgy in seminaries and their equivalents be appropriately prepared for their work in article 15, the Council Fathers in article 16 discuss the place that liturgical studies should occupy in these institutions of higher learning.

Vatican Website translation:

16. The study of sacred liturgy is to be ranked among the compulsory and major courses in seminaries and religious houses of studies; in theological faculties it is to rank among the principal courses. It is to be taught under its theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects. Moreover, other professors, while striving to expound the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation from the angle proper to each of their own subjects, must nevertheless do so in a way which will clearly bring out the connection between their subjects and the liturgy, as also the unity which underlies all priestly training. This consideration is especially important for professors of dogmatic, spiritual, and pastoral theology and for those of holy scripture.

Latin text:

16. Disciplina de sacra Liturgia in seminariis et studiorum domibus religiosis inter disciplinas necessarias et potiores, in facultatibus autem theologicis inter disciplinas principales est habenda, et sub aspectu cum theologico et historico, tum spirituali, pastorali et iuridico tradenda. Curent insuper aliarum disciplinarum magistri, imprimis theologiae dogmaticae, sacrae Scripturae, theologiae spiritualis et pastoralis ita, ex intrinsecis exigentiis proprii uniuscuiusque obiecti, mysterium Christi et historiam salutis excolere, ut exinde earum connexio cum Liturgia et unitas sacerdotalis institutionis aperte clarescant.

Slavishly literal translation:

16. The discipline of sacred Liturgy is to be held among the necessary and stronger disciplines in seminaries and religious houses of studies, and among the principal disciplines in theological faculties, to be treated under its theological and historical aspects, as well as its spiritual, pastoral and juridical [perspectives]. Teachers of other disciplines, especially of dogmatic theology, of sacred Scripture, of spiritual and pastoral theology, should take care, from the intrinsic exigencies proper to each subject, to expound the mystery of Christ and the history of salvation, so that the connection of each with the Liturgy and the unity of priestly instruction would clearly shine forth.


First of all, liturgy is to be ranked alongside other major disciplines in these institutions and not relegated to an auxiliary status. This does not mean that there must be an equal number of classroom hours devoted to liturgical studies as to the study of scripture, dogma, church history, etc., but that liturgical studies must be recognized as a significant component of a theological education.

Second, liturgical studies should encompass (at least) theological, historical, spiritual, pastoral, and juridical aspects. Thus students should become familiar with the sources and methods of liturgical theology, grounded in the axiom of Prosper of Aquitaine: “let the rule of praying establish the rule of believing.” They should be able to trace the history of the evolution of the various rites, perhaps with a special emphasis on their texts and ceremonies. They should be taught how to pray liturgically, so that their personal, group, devotional, and para-liturgical prayer might find its source and summit in the liturgy. They should be initiated into pastoral liturgy, learning how to wisely choose (in concert with others) the options proposed by the liturgical books best able to support the prayer of the particular community that is being served (and perhaps even learning how to critique these texts and ceremonies with a view toward the full, conscious and active participation of the faithful). Finally they should have a grasp of liturgical law, understanding what is demanded, permitted, untreated or forbidden in the legislation regulating the celebration of the liturgy.

Third, the Council Fathers propose that theological education, especially for seminarians, manifest a genuine unity founded in the exploration of the mystery of Christ and salvation history rather than simply present a random succession of self-contained topics taught only from disciplinary perspectives. They suggest that making explicit the connections between liturgical studies and the other theological disciplines may further the goal of a unified theological education.

Readers may want to discuss: 1) to what extent these conciliar decrees have been enacted in seminary curricula in the last 50 years (i.e., how have various territorial “Programs of Priestly Formation” integrated liturgical studies into the formal educational component of seminary life); 2) if there are omissions in the description of liturgical studies that may have come to light over the last 50 years that might be added (e.g., understanding of liturgical music, art, and architecture; engagement with social sciences to understand the sign systems being used); 3) to what extent this delineation of liturgical studies should guide the education of those outside of Orders who will have responsibility for guiding community prayer (e.g., lectors, acolytes, sacristans, directors of music, those responsible for the worship space and its artistic appointments) and, if so, how does this education take place.

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