Re-Reading Sacrosanctum Concilium: Article 15

Articles 15-20 articulate the process by which the Council Fathers hoped that liturgical instruction and full, conscious and industrious participation in the liturgy by the faithful would be achieved. Formation programs for clergy (i.e., seminaries and their equivalents) are to be changed so that instruction and formation in the liturgy takes its place alongside instruction and formation in, e.g., scripture, doctrine, and pastoral care. In order to do so, article 15 decrees that seminary instructors in liturgy (and their equivalents) are to receive the training needed for their task.

Vatican Website Translation:

15. Professors who are appointed to teach liturgy in seminaries, religious houses of study, and theological faculties must be properly trained for their work in institutes which specialize in this subject.

Latin text:

15. Magistri, qui sacrae Liturgiae disciplinae in seminariis, studiorum domibus religiosis et facultatibus theologicis docendae praeficiuntur, ad munus suum in institutis ad hoc speciali cura destinatis probe instituendi sunt.

Slavishly literal translation:

15. Master teachers, who are assigned for teaching the discipline of sacred Liturgy in seminaries, religious houses of studies, and theological faculties are to be properly instructed for this office/task in institutes designated for this by special attention.


We should be aware that at the time of the Council, if liturgy was addressed at all in a seminary curriculum, it was normally seen as part of the pastoral curriculum, something one “caught” by celebrating Eucharist and the Liturgy of the Hours every day and being part of seminary ceremonies crews. If liturgy was taught in the classroom, it was often as an aspect of moral theology (an instance of the virtue of religion), canon law (the requirements for valid and licit celebration of sacraments) or church history (especially patristics). However, the Council Fathers were also aware that Institutes for the scientific study of Liturgy had been established in Paris (the Institut Supériur de Liturgie) and Rome (the Pontificio Istituto Liturgico at the Ateneo Sant’Anselmo); while the Council was still in session the liturgical institute at Trier was converted to a center for scientific liturgical studies. In the United States institutions of higher education such as St. John’s, Collegeville, the University of Notre Dame in Indiana, and the Catholic University of America in Washington, DC, all developed significant programs for liturgical study.

It might be of interest to trace how seminaries and other institutes of formation for pastoral leadership have responded to this decree of the Council over the last fifty years. Are professors of liturgy appointed to their faculties? If so, in what proportion to the other disciplines? What academic qualifications do these professors bring to their appointments? Is there a trajectory that we can trace in such appointments (i.e., have these appointments declined over the last fifty years, remained level, or increased)? It might also be of interest to discover if seminary professors of liturgy are ordained or non-ordained.

Note that this article only concerns itself with the training and appointment of liturgy faculty in seminaries and their equivalents. Discussion of the liturgy curriculum in seminaries and their equivalents will be treated in article 16.


  1. The FDLC presented a study of some aspects of these questions a few years ago. If I remember correctly, seminary students take, on average, 3 credit hours in liturgy. Anyone remember if those three hours include practica or if they were non-practica courses in liturgy (history, theology, etc)?

  2. Fr. Michael – some personal experience and observations based upon being both a student and a dean in the seminary:
    – one general liturgy course plus another via elective; ars celebrandi was done by the student director (two classmates did MA’s in liturgy at Notre Dame and one of those finished his STD in Rome; did ars celebrandi at CTU; diaconal internship in New Orleans. Reflection – some classmates found liturgy to be secondary and unimportant – Sunday only during diaconate; little practice or feedback and once ordained, their style was their decision. Some wanted more information, training, parish experience, etc. Little input from seminary faculty in this process. Liturgy prof was someone who did get STL in liturgy in Rome.
    – my experience as faculty – one liturgy prof assigned; liturgy usually was first one limited when course schedules were aligned; there was increased use of internships, bilingual/trilingual expertise. But, feedback during internships ran the continuum from lalmost none to organized staff, lay, survey feedback with faculty input during the internship.

    IMO – you have to look at specific seminaries. After VII, appears that most seminaries did focus on liturgy and assigned qualified staff to a degree. But would estimate that too many local, diocesan or religious seminaries with limited staff and student numbers did not have qualified liturgy staffs. We have lived through a dramatic and significant downsizing of seminaries – so, you would need to look at St. Meinrads (with a focus on liturgy with a past FDLC head as teacher); St. John’s in CA (Paul Ford could address); Mundelein (Chicago – would suggest that they have seen dramatic liturgy changes over the past 15 years), Detroit – much more limited in scope and creativity; NYC seminaries have contrcted and merged; then you seem to have a second tier or level – Houston, New Orleans, St. Louis, Maryland, Boston, Conception, St. John’s.

    Some other questions:
    – difference between Roman trained staff and US trained staff and its impact on liturgy training
    – lay liturgy staff involvement (seems to be retracting)
    – continued limited liturgy required course work
    – some successes with internships, cultural diversity, enculturation but this appears to be offset by too many seminarians who have focused on EF, etc. that does not translate to their *day jobs* in most diocesan parishes (per friends still teaching; this phenomenon has had a very negative effect – there is little attention to liturgical history in terms of this extraordinary form; it is not welcomed by active pastors or parish communities)

    – have not even addressed such things as seminarians and music, chant, ars celebrandi that instructs and provides feedback on chanting prayers, EPs, etc. (this seems to be left to individual choice) OR RCIA, sacraments and liturgical approach/experience.

    Just some random thoughts (sorry, Fr. Michael, if this is not organized according to Lonergan)

  3. In the 1970’s seminary, we had several courses on the theology and history of the Liturgy and/or Eucharist, but about a three day seminar as I recall on the art of celebrating the revised Mass and other sacraments. To be quite honest, I think the seminary staff felt we should catch how to celebrate the revised Mass by watching the seminary profs and in our field placements–attention to detail was not in vogue after Vatican II except for the creativity of the priest coming up with his own style. This disastrous turn in moving away from “saying the black and doing the red” has led to the disaster in the art of celebrating the revised rite for so many parishes today and one only need visit a few to know what I mean. So the gravitational pull of the EF Mass for those of us who celebrate it will benefit the art of celebrating the revised Mass where attention to the details of the OF Mass, its GIRM and rubrics will help tremendously and move priests from the fierce individualism of crass liturgical creativity and experimentation not to mention down right folksy-sloppiness and casualness.

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