The Challenges for Liturgists of the Future: Pastoral Liturgy

The Challenges for Liturgists of the Future: Pastoral Liturgy
by Fr. Paul Turner

A talk given at the 9th liturgical congress at Sant’ Anselmo in Rome, “Tra memoria e profezia,” – “Between Memory and Prophecy.”


  1. Thanks for this overview of the many “interesting” and at times “inconsistent” ways that liturgy is evolving at the pastoral level regardless of the visions of Magisterium and Academia as to what it “ought” to be.

    I am very aware through my family and my life in the public mental health system that “Many spontaneously perceive that they share core values and beliefs with their friends of other denominations, and they would welcome the opportunity to worship and share communion with them. This sensus fidelium maneuvers comfortably through its own private ecumenical and interfaith dialogue. To many Catholics, the differences among believers are simply not as sharp as the Academy perceives.”

    And so therefore I wonder what is going on when baptized and unbaptized are mixed together in the rites of initiation. ”To compare the series of rituals for the unbaptized and the rather efficient ceremony for those already baptized is to observe a striking difference in the handling of these groups, based on our theology of baptismal status. However, parishes have blurred this theology by forming groups for the purposes of catechesis, liturgy, and social bonding, which trump the rather stark theological distinction that baptism imposes.” Seems that what the parish is doing is not very consistent with what I am experiencing outside the parish.

    It appears to me that many “conversions” of the baptized are mere practical matters where a spouse who has come to Mass for years is now welcomed to communion. I think most of us want to be very welcoming and have a big celebration. But sometimes the process from the viewpoint of an onlooker appears to be rather artificial, programmatic, and boring like a lot of sacramental formation.

  2. A fair, balanced article, insofar as Fr. Turner acknowledged the EF and did not disparage the form.

    The EF is not only coming out of its recusancy but is also developing its own academy of liturgical study. While OF liturgical study often tends towards innovation, EF liturgical study often tends towards reflection. The EF academy often does not question the relevance of liturgy, but rather the intersection of ideology, philosophy, and theology within the rubrical integrity of the 1962 Missal.

    Each academy has its own conventions and language. Also, the above categories are quite stereotypical. Certainly, reflection in the OF liturgical academy has spearheaded great achievements in the study of patristic liturgy, for example. Even so, I am convinced that the obverse orientations of the two academies highlight the chasm between OF and EF liturgy and spirituality. Cooperation between the two academies is not merely a matter of dialogue but also the translation and explanation of each methodology within a commonly understood framework.

    1. Jordan,
      On what do you base your claim that OF Liturgical study often tends towards innovation? I don’t find a course called innovation at Notre Dame University.
      I don’t know if you would find that course at any graduate school of Liturgy. Also, what is rubrical integrity of the 1962 missal?

      1. I agree that “innovation” is probably not the right word to describe OF liturgical studies.

        Fr. Turner’s Introduction illustrates the way in which both OF and EF approaches liturgy. As he writes, “The Magisterium establishes the liturgy of the Church. The Academy analyzes it. Parishes implement it.” (1) All who study liturgy inhabit an area of tension between the Magisterium and implementation. The EF and OF traditions diverge at one critical point. While the EF academic tradition often views magisterially-defined liturgy as a mostly non-negotiable boundary which defines academic inquiry, the OF academic tradition often views magisterial liturgy as a template for liturgical development.

        Fr. Turner notes that “We also need especially from the liturgical academy, an unwavering allegiance to the liturgy. Devotional practices are not contrary to the liturgy, but they are not the liturgy, and we sometimes need help developing the liturgical spirituality of our people.” (9) Often, the EF movement considers devotional and liturgical heritage to be an accumulation of centuries of wisdom which is enlivened today by those who live this wisdom in gratitude. Many in the OF prefer a very regimented liturgical style informed by academic scholarship. The EF often takes a more casual view of personal devotion, so long as the devotion is congruent with historical piety.

        Also, the very slow pace of EF liturgical evolution reflects an often-found sentiment that the early medieval Mass, as transmitted through Trent, must be modified only after careful consideration of modifications against historical tradition. Fr. Turner’s support for modern technology at Mass (9) demonstrates a willingness to compare technology to traditional symbols of Catholic worship. I do not see this willingness in the EF communities.

        As someone who has studied an extinct non-Christian religion, I might not understand the nuances of living liturgy. My observations are merely casual and distorted.

      2. JZ “Many in the OF prefer a very regimented liturgical style informed by academic scholarship. The EF often takes a more casual view of personal devotion, so long as the devotion is congruent with historical piety.”

        I think this shows a confusion between liturgy and devotions.

        It is also ironic to see the defender of the EF describe the OF as regimented. I can think of little so regimented in appearance than the formations of an EF Solemn High Mass.

  3. ”Few people realize that … the typical collect dates from the sixth to the eighth century, … But many are learning for the first time that how you translate a collect depends on the occasion for which it was composed some 1500 years ago, the emendations it may have undergone after the Second Vatican Council, and the placement of that collect within the structures of the liturgical year today. “

    Few people realize the collects as serving any useful purpose at all. They just seem to be more formal words for the priest to say which seldom seem to relate to the actual prayers of the assembly. Sometimes, they may notice that the first one introduces the saint or feast of the day.

    Has anyone had success if explaining collects to congregations? What were the important things to say? What noticeable change was there in the congregations subsequently?

    Beyond the history of their presence beginning in the second quarter of church history, what strong reasons exist for retaining a collect or collects in the Mass?

    1. I suspect that many people are not even aware of the existence of collects. Between the priest’s words that are the same every week, those that are come back frequently but irregularly (the EPs), the prayers that never repeat (the general intercessions), the texts that repeat every three years (the lectionary) except that some come back every year and except for some flexibility, the special occasions, and the occasional improvisations by the priest… without study it is impossible for the regular Catholic to know what’s going on.

      I guess that the typical Catholic knows
      – that the words he says are the same every week
      – that the words that are said by the priest every single Sunday are the same every week
      – that the general intercessions and, usually, the homily, are different every week
      – and that the readings follow the liturgical calendar.
      Everything else is foggy.

    2. This is merely anecdotal and hardly scientific, but after thirty years as a Catholic, I still remember with fondness — even emotion — many of the collects of the Book of Common Prayer. Who could forget them? Anglican children used to memorize the collect for the coming Sunday, which not only brought its content to their attention but made it an old friend by the time Sunday came. (Such memorization also provided the opportunity for questions and catechesis, at the very least for the unfamiliar — and then unforgettable — rare phrase like “thy special grace preventing us,” meaning “going before us.” But mostly repetition made them easily comprehensible and, in many cases, fondly recalled. With children, it helps that they are wonderfully rhythmic.)

      1. I just came upon this reference the custom that I referred to above as not being dead: “In the Church of England, the collect has acquired a secondary function, in addition to its primary liturgical function as a ‘collecting prayer’. It is also used as a ‘prayer of the week’, and there is still among some Anglicans not only a desire to know and memorize the collect, but also to associate it with a particular day or week.This use of the collect brings liturgy and spirituality together creatively and is to be encouraged.”

  4. ”If they are living together, they may admit that their choice is wrong in the eyes of God, but that belief does not persuade them to separate. The action that will alleviate the situation is a choice many priests resent having to make: we help them get married. “
    Please help me here.
    I am missing the point of what it is which priests resent.
    It is probably obvious, but my brain is not making the connection.

    1. A former priest of this parish, a young man, was naturally well aware that the majority of couples coming to marry were already co-habiting. He thought this was likely to be advantageous in their understanding of each other. It was his practice in his marriage preparation talks to persuade the Catholic(s) to go to Confession the day before the wedding, and then “hold off” for one night. And they would . . . What’s to resent in that?

      One couple, friends of ours, reported on the diocesan ENGAGED ENCOUNTER daycourse, led by a married couple. There were 12 couples attending, ten co-habiting and two “waiting until the Day.” In the “How well do you know what your partner thinks about . . ? ” session, the minority were shocked and a little distressed that the ten couples scored much higher than they did. The result anyone would expect, but it’s important. Marriage must be fully restored to the couple (who are the ministers of the sacrament after all).

  5. ” This would provide a great service to those of us in pastoral ministry who know what the Catholic liturgy can do for our people, but we don’t always understand how or why it works. “

    ”We need clearer explanations of why things are the way they are, how we got the liturgy we celebrate, and the reasons why some practices changed and others were retained. We need scholars who can communicate these reasons in clear language made persuasive by logical argument. “

    I would like to see a lot more on these topics on this Pray Tell Blog and a lot less about EF versus OF, a lot less repetition of the various positions on the new missal translation.

    I want to get on with the work of teaching people how liturgy can work, what it is intended to do, and how each person has a active part in making it all happen.

  6. ”Devotional practices are not contrary to the liturgy, but they are not the liturgy, and we sometimes need help developing the liturgical spirituality of our people. “

    This essential distinction is still not understood or clearly taught in most US parishes. As others have pointed out here, there is still too much of a tendency to try to stuff all kinds of devotion into the allotted hour for Sunday Mass. Indeed, to show a point of major conflict, too many people want the Mass to be an occasion for devotional prayer instead of distinctly liturgical prayer. They do not understand that communal prayer calls for an entirely different kind of participation from devotional prayer. They do not connect prayer to anything active outside the mind. They do not connect prayer to participation in the community.

    We need to teach the broadest definitions of prayer and the subdivisions possible within that.

    1. The converse is also true, unfortunately. Many people only see the externals and do not connect prayer to anything active inside the mind. I conjecture that these are most of the ones who stop going to church after their confirmation.

    2. Tom, why force people to worship according to an academic model? Why must we act in community, even in a forced community, when we are also individuals?

      This is what I have been trying to get at in my previous post. The tendency in OF liturgical scholarship to “create community” at all costs despite personal piety and recollection is forced and counterproductive. We all kneel at the side of the Cross at Mass, even if some of us are praying silently and others are singing.

      Did a greeter force hymnals into the hands of Our Lady and St. John the Beloved as they stood in awe before God the Son in his majesty? No. They simply adored. That is all that is necessary at Mass.

      1. You are safer to claim that John’s dramatic narrative has the (unnamed) disciple whom Jesus loved and Mary, the mother of Jesus at the foot of the cross, together with a number of other women, rather than to say that that is how it was. Whether they adored before it was realised , a lot later, that God had raised Jesus from the dead, is, at the very least, a moot point.

        Mark’s Gospel, the earliest, has women only at the foot of the cross.

      2. When Simeon told Our Lady that her heart would be pierced with a sword, did he not refer to Christ’s passion and crucifixion? It is sufficient to trust that Our Lady knew Christ’s suffering at the Cross. I suppose that the constant deconstruction and synthesis of the reformed liturgy has led us to believe that Mary is not entrusted to us, and that she cannot lead us to the altar. “Behold thy son — Behold thy mother”. Perhaps these are Christ’s empty promises for a Church that validates itself.

        The Mass does not need to be filled with what we consider significant. Rather the Mass fills us with He who is significant. No amount of human scholarship can surpass the eternal Lord entering the world in the sacrament of the altar. So why try to constantly re-engineer what is already perfected? All that is needed for Mass is contrition, piety, and reverence, and not the latest knowledge of pre-Constantinian house liturgies. I have learned much from my advanced education. What I know above all is that my education is useless once the sacristy bell rings.

        The joy of the simple believer has almost been stamped out. It’s time to blow on the embers and set the fire of so-called “ignorance” alight again. If the OF is unwilling to enflame a simple, non-academic belief, then the EF will supply what is lacking.

      3. Thank God the Catholic tent has room for both Thomas Aquinas and Thomas a Kempis, John Chrysostom and John Vianney … Joe O’Leary and Jordan Zarembo for that matter 🙂

      4. Jordan,
        I respect your devotion to the EF. However, Vatican II with the goal of “full, consciuos, and active participation” reformed the Liturgy. If EF is your bag, fine. You have the permission and right to celebrate it. Please stop trying to compare and contrast the two forms with false comparisons. I think you are trying to make inaccurate statements about the OF while using your idea of what academy is. Do you celebrate the EF or are you celebrating OF with a personal resentment and ax to grind? I don’t understand.

      5. Why so resist communal prayer?

        Why insist on private prayer, on devotional prayer?

        What is it about the definition of liturgy as communal prayer which you don’t get?

        If you want to reduce things to “all that is necessary”, why go to Mass at all?
        Believe and be baptized and you are done with it, aren’t you?

      6. I am a layman and an academic, but not a priest.

        I attend the OF on the days when I can’t go to the EF. I have no grudge against it. Mass is Mass. That’s precisely the point. Why must we continuously analyze ritual? Let’s forget about trying to make sense of Mass and simply live in gratefulness for what God has given us.

        Changes will come as necessary. Sometimes prayers and propers need to be changed to reflect the prescription of councils and even moral obligations. Sometimes changes happen spontaneously, as is the case with local devotions and feasts. Speculation on how liturgy can be changed is, in my opinion, fruitless. Rather, let change happen in joyful patience.

        Once the Cure of Ars noticed that one of his parishioners would stop into church every day for adoration of the Blessed Sacrament. Eventually St. John Vianney asked his parishioner, “what do you think when you adore the sacrament?” The man merely said, “I look at him, and He looks at me.”

        That is my belief. At Mass, we encounter Christ and he encounters us. His sight is infinite; ours is finite and distorted by concupiscence. What little vision we contribute to the Mass will never supplant Christ’s vision.

      7. JZ,
        SC does not offer an academic model. It offers a liturgical theology based on an ecclesiology which sees the church as the entire people of God rather than as an institution operated by clerics for the benefit of simple believers.

        The simple believer does not have the right to shut down the multiple possibilities in order to keep things simple for everyone.

        It sounds to me like you have a specific and limited concept of what
        the Mass is about which is not congruent with the entire development of the Eucharist and does not take into account all the dimensions of liturgy.

        You are entitled to your beliefs and vision as you have stated them above, but as they are quite specific to you, they are rather irrelevant to discussions about how ministers of the liturgy can best prepare services for the assembled people of God.

  7. ”Is video projection a natural outgrowth of our adoption of microphones and electric lights, which replace acoustically sound buildings and the play of candlelight? If so, then what does this say about the incarnational theology that has made the Catholic Church one of the greenest assemblages of believers around, encountering God in bread and wine, water and ash, palm branch and olive oil, perfume, bare feet, the phases of the moon, the rising of the sun, the music of the human voice, and the hallowed place of pipe organs?“
    I’m with him here until he adds the pipe organs. Does anybody else think these mechanical things originally developed for entertainment are quite different in kind from the rest of his list, closer to microphones and electric lights?

  8. ”There is more to the liturgy than a single celebration of the Sunday Eucharist. Liturgy needs a stable community of people to give it life and depth.

    The Academy could learn from the lived experience of Catholics for whom the Sunday liturgy is the source and summit of a life that isn’t so liturgical the other days of the week.”

    This is essential to the understanding of liturgical prayer. We liturgists need to put as much or more effort into building community as we do into preparing services. We need to work at each feeding the other: liturgy feeding community and community feeding liturgy in conscious, intentional, active ways.

  9. I am uncomfortable with the opening salvo: “The Magisterium establishes the liturgy of the Church.” I don’t disagree with the facticity of the statement if one means that in the Roman church the Magisterium promulgates the editio typica of books, through the auspices of the CWDS creates liturgical boundaries, etc. Yet, a much more nuanced and cautious statement is called for if one means sacramental worship writ large. The worship of the church existed authentically before the “Magisterium” ever took the shape we currently know. As concerns sacramental theology Magisterium is a derivative of the sacramental ordering of the church – it is not so much its creator as its precipitate. Not stating the case in such a manner seems to call into question the a priori essential nature of the worshiping church – at least to my mind. Worship might be goal posted by the Magisterium but its establishment is an ecclesial act in toto grounded in the ministry of Christ. Let’s be clear with the Romans, when in Rome, what their role is. How they understand their role and attempt to exercise it in relationship to the Petrine ministry of confirming the faith in relationship to local churches and the larger Christian body is already problematic enough.

    1. I can appreciate your uneasiness. There have been many in this room who use the word Magisterium with a very limited understanding. Fr. Turner’s statement that the Magisterium establishes the Liturgy of the Church is the reality.But my question is who is the Magisterium? The recognitio process for the Roman Missal in the US is a good example. Here the Magisterium is who? It would appear to be the Pope and the Congregation of Worship. The USCCB never voted on the final version of the MIssal. There are three functions of the teaching Magisterium, ala Thomas Aquinas. 1)the research of scholars and theologians, 2.)the lived faith of everday Catholics-sensus fidelium, 3.)the official magisterium of the Papacy and Bishops. All three of these work together in the teaching function of the Magisterium. They work together to teach,support and correct when necessary.

      1. Could you please give the citation for this from Aquinas.

        I have heard similar things in the past and have been unable to
        find them.

        What is the easiest on line site for searching Aquinas?

      2. Rereading Turner’s presentation, “Magisterium,” especially in light of how he frames academia and parish life, seems to only mean authority to promulgate. Yet, the diocesan bishop “establishes” the worship of every particular church in its essential sense – hence I suspect the sacramental reason Vatican II placed such liturgical authority in the local churches leaving Rome with the recognitio. It simply is not the case that the recognitio establishes liturgy nor for that matter the church – although I know we are all acting like it now-a-days, as a matter of survival or otherwise. If Turner means Magisterium as you have construed, well maybe we’re getting somewhere, but I can’t understand him to mean it so broadly when the “pastoral liturgy” in the parish he cites isn’t explicitly linked in the definition of Magisterium and is spoken of, at least in tone, as a derivative reality (ie., handing down the books, now the parish worships). Hmmm…

  10. Since this thread is about the liturgy of the future, permit me to ask the following questions. They might be a bit off-topic here but they still relate
    to the future. I’m genuinely curious: I’m not out to start any polemics.

    1) It is my understanding that some liturgists have, since the 1970’s, been advocating greater simplifications to the Mass of the Ordinary Form, especially for most weekdays. Fr. Chupungco speaks of (and supports) the proposed “ferial Mass” in his latest book entitled “What, Then, Is Liturgy?” and I’ve been told by another professor that the “ferial Mass” was an advocacy of many European liturgists. Understandably there isn’t much public talk nowadays about a ferial Mass or about further simplifications of the Mass, but I’m genuinely curious if the concept of a Ferial Mass or a simplified Ordo Missae still has considerable support within Catholic liturgical academe and among pastors, and is only waiting for more friendly times to emerge as a real possibility

    2) Is the concept of optional alternative Missals (by country or by region) or optional alternative Orders of Mass (again, by country or region) still supported by members of liturgical academe? Here in the Philippines there is an entire alternative Missal called “Liturgy Alive!” being sold in Catholic bookstores, but I have yet to attend a Mass offered with its orations.

    3) In Brazil, priests and bishops are officially permitted to offer weekday Mass with only the alb and stole, and I believe that this is done in some parts of Western Europe as well (whether licitly or not I don’t know). Here in the Philippines, by long practice (albeit without proper sanction), it has become normal priests to offer Mass in chasu-alb and stole, even for Sunday Masses. Setting aside questions of lawfulness, is the trend towards simplification of vestments growing or diminishing? (I’m realistic enough to realize that the use of pre-1960-style Roman vestments is still a tiny niche in the vast hall that is the Roman Catholic church.)

    1. Personal rather than academic or legal opinion follows.

      I do not know why we need full suits of vestments.
      It seems to me that putting on a full coverage chasuble signs all that need to be signed regarding the minister of the Eucharist.

      Similarly, I see a very effective sign in the stole worn over the uniform by military chaplains that they are acting in their priestly role and sufficiently vested in that way. I would have very little trouble with [a fuller stole than the folded rebbons used by chaplains] just a stole as the ministerial vestment for many sacraments.

      Just last week I was wondering if it would not be a more effective and respectful sign to dress altar servers in white shirts and blazer jackets than cassocks and surplices.

      1. The advantage of surplices for servers is that with a couple each in several sizes everyone is outfitted cheaply. I suspect many young men in my parish never buy a suit coat until they take their first job interview.

        I’ve had five children in band or chorus. Trust me, you do NOT want to get into specifying uniforms for young men and women!

  11. The Rev. Turner writes, “The Academy could help us by reaching into social sciences to learn more why our rituals do and do not connect with worshipers.” It need not take academic research to figure out what connects and what doesn’t. I’d suggest that he watch this video of one of Sr. Anna Nobili’s dances and notice the faces of the youth in the audience:

    Are they attentive and actively engaged in a form of religious expression, or are they simply bewitched or scandalized by the “desacralizing element” of the nun’s dance? It seems to me that this audience reaction is quite different from the behavior of teenagers at American rock concerts!

    My interest in sacred dance was re-awakened last week when the Vatican closed the 500-year-old Abbey of Santa Croce, giving as one reason “liturgical irregularities”, i.e., the performance of a dance by Sr. Anna: . (Her crucifix dance begins c. 6.0 of the video embedded in this article.)

    Was it necessary to cite the nun’s dance as a reason to close the monastery? From the Congregation for the Sacraments and Divine Worship’s “Dance in the Liturgy” about “western culture”:

    “Here dancing is tied with love, with diversion, with profaneness, with unbridling of the senses: such dancing, in general, is not pure.

    “For that reason it cannot be introduced into liturgical celebrations of any kind whatever: that would be to inject into the liturgy one of the most desacralized and desacralizing elements; and so it would be equivalent to creating an atmosphere of profaneness which would easily recall to those present and to the participants in the celebration worldly places and situations.” .

    1. Was it necessary to cite the nun’s dance as a reason to close the monastery?

      As far as I know, the Vatican hasn’t commented publicly on the reasons for the supression. This is all speculation.

      1. I don’t have enough knowledge to really appreciate most dance. But after viewing the videos in Mary Cogan’s post, I have to ask, what’s all the fuss about? I’m guessing that the choreography and skill is that of a talented high school student, but it’s hardly the pole dancing or prancing around the altar some sources suggest!
        I suspect this may well be a case of slander via innuendo.

  12. Right, “the issues were much more important than dance, i.e., financial and moral integrity. . . .” If I recall, the Cistercian mission does not include teaching or dealing with children, so I cannot believe there was any evidence of sexual abuse at Santa Croce. The abbot and two monks who gave cause for concern were removed in 2009 and dispersed to separate communities. The monks have reportedly run up a huge debt. The complaint of liturgical abuse, however, centered entirely on the dance of Sr. Nobili and other nuns before an altar during a bible reading.

    I cannot imagine any Catholic parish welcoming a nun linked by publicity to the closing of an abbey of such historic importance. And I think the loss of her dancing is significant, as would be any active participation by women in church spaces. I wonder also about a chilling fallout on the relative autonomy of Cistercian religious houses. “Unintended consequences”?

  13. But I lost my original point: the Lithuanian teenagers in that audience seemed to feel the religious dimension of the nun’s dance. That too is active participation that one would hope for in the liturgy as well.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *