The Aims of the Pioneers of the Liturgical Movement

Over at NLM, Peter Kwasniewski has a thoughtful and thought-provoking post on the early liturgical movement and what its aims were. (For those who do not follow insider Thomist baseball, Dr. Kwasniewski is a well-respected scholar of Aquinas’s work).

Though I am not entirely in agreement with what he says in his piece, it seems to me that he raises some points that are worthy of comment and discussion.

1. Dr. Kwasniewski offers what I consider to be a helpful reminder that the liturgy that the pioneers of the liturgical movement wanted to open up for the faithful was what we today call the Extraordinary Form. Their initial goal was not to change that liturgy but to catechize and celebrate it in such a way that it could have a formative effect on the People of God. Some of the harsher critics of the EF would seem to imply that anyone formed by it would be, from a post-conciliar perspective, malformed. I think Kwasniewski shows that this is not a view that most of the pioneers of the liturgical movement would agree. The intent of the liturgical reformers prior to the Council was to have the people better formed by the liturgy, not to have a better liturgy form the people.

2. I don’t think, however, that Dr. Kwasniewski takes sufficient account of how those same pioneers in many cases came to believe that some measure of actual reform was necessary in order to have the liturgy more effectively form God’s people. In particular, many came to believe that widespread use of the vernacular, openness to different cultural expressions, and even some reform of the text and Ordo of the Mass was needed. We might argue about the actual reforms that took place, but it seems undeniable that most of those who, prior to the Council, wanted to have the people better formed by the liturgy came to think that some measure of reform of the liturgy itself was needed in order to accomplish that task.

3. Dr. Kwasniewski’s remarks about the universal call to the mystical life and asceticism are very thought provoking. I have long thought that one of the big shifts that took place in the post-Conciliar world was the wide-spread abandonment of asceticism as an ideal of the Christian life. And it is certainly true that the EF requires a certain ascetic discipline in order to get much out of it. Latin and chant do not have the immediate appeal of a language one speaks in everyday life or music that sounds like what one listens to for relaxation, and Kwasniewski notes that the effort that it takes to appreciate such things can be an important discipline by which lay people can be led into the mystical life.

4. One might ask, however, if in the pre-conciliar ascetic demands of the liturgy really had that salutary effect on any but a relatively elite group of lay people. I think the idea that the liturgical life of most Catholics before the Council was, or even could be, a “way of life” along the lines of Pierre Hadot ignores the reality that despite the efforts of the pioneers of the liturgical movement the unreformed liturgy was for many less an ascetical gateway into the mystical life and more an irrelevant exercise that one did out of duty. The benefits of the ascetic discipline required by attendance at a murmured Low Mass might well have been pretty minimal for your average person in the pews, praying her rosary. Boredom might well serve as a source of mortification that has spiritual benefits, but so too could two-chord ditties banged out on dubiously-tuned guitars.

Despite my doubts, the essay is well worth reading.


  1. The good doctor is writing of course from a particular perspective, that of members of NLM. The pioneers of the liturgical movement could barely have imagined what would be possible once the Holy Spirit got involved with the discussion and debate which resulted in SC. I knew some of the pioneers (Shawn Sheehan and Fred McManus) who were certainly advocates for the vernacular and there were others who favored the inclusion of hymns. So to say that they had what we call the EF in mind is a “sky is blue” kind of comment. There was no OF for them to compare or contrast it with. Once SC authorized a revision of the rites, the OF emerged as the renewed form of the Tridentine Mass. As has been pointed out here, one may celebrate the OF almost entirely in Latin, facing “the wall”, with all the propers as found in the ritual books. Of course, the readings would be in the vernacular, which make it look considerably different than the TLM. I’m not sure how many more of these conversations I can bear. The impetus for restorationism has been removed. I believe further fine tuning is in order, especially of the EF so that it can be honestly said to reflect the renewal called for by SC.

  2. On Sunday mornings I attend a “mumbled” EF low Mass. The Mass is for all intents a private Mass said on the high altar of the church. The priest makes no attempt at intelligibility. Occasionally I will hear a word or sentence clearly and then know the reading. Father often does not preach a homily, but rather a catechetical sermon. I’m saying the rosary to myself; others are reading from hand-missals; still others are following the action at the altar with their eyes. Thirty-five minutes start to finish, including sermon and communion.

    Peter Kwasniewski’s quotation of Pierre Hadot puts into words well my thoughts: “The liturgy gives him at once a broad and clear teaching on holiness and an inexhaustible wealth of new insights, new layers of meaning he may never have noticed before but which are already present in the texts he has always known.” Attendance at EF low Mass and EF sung or solemn Mass are often very different experiences. At the solemn Mass, I am listening for and following every word of the choir and ministers. At low Mass didactic content collapses to reveal a visually meditative pageant. The gestures of the “silent” Mass serve as markers along a well-worn trail traveled scores of times until one knows every pebble underfoot. Does one need a map for every hike on this path if he or she has traveled the path many times?

    Kwasniewski’s characterization of the peri- and post- conciliar liturgical movement only troubles the question of the EF’s inadequacies. Characterizing this period as a “late cancer phase” and lambasting the OF as a “theology embedded in a prosaic, earthbound, unimaginative spirituality” is insulting invective. As Deacon Fritz notes, the Tridentine liturgy required and still requires some reform to include more Catholics in the sacramental mystery. Kwasniewski’s summary dismissmal of the current school of reform is counterproductive.

  3. To Fritz’s second point, I agree and would only reinforce this. Beginning in the 1940’s, the liturgical movement as a whole clearly moved in the direction of not merely bringing people closer to the inherited Latin liturgy, but discussing how the old liturgy needed to be revised and reformed to reach the people. This tendency picked up steam throughout the 1950s. By the eve of the Second Vatican Council, the discussion on what to revise and how to reform was very strong and already controversial.

  4. Thanks, Fr. Ruff….would agree with Fr. Jack….this is not so much historical as advocacy based upon an ideological viewpoint that has skewed historical facts, development, etc.

    Makes about as much sense as this interview published in the Wanderer (interview was pre-Francis interview):

    To repeat what you state consistently and constantly, Fr. Ruff…if you truly believe in Lex Ordandi, Lex Credendi….then, you get an insight into why the reformers felt it necessary to change the order of Mass, etc. and why this whole internal polarization between EF and OF is so destructive. Per lex ordandi, lex credendi it will only reinforce the EF and its participants (so, not sure that they will be open to reform given what they do every time that they celebrate the EF) – if anything, what we are seeing is further proof that Lex Orandi, lex Credendit is a valid theory, observation, and experience.

  5. …if you truly believe in Lex Ordandi (sic), Lex Credendi….then, you get an insight into why the reformers felt it necessary to change the order of Mass, etc. and why this whole internal polarization between EF and OF is so destructive.
    Bill, could you remind me where exactly, if internally, is the location of this polarization? Does the field between the poles cause actual problems on any sort of measurable scale, as long as we’re measuring via “lex….”?

  6. Charles – doubt you will agree with me but the polarization has to do with what happens when you celebrate the EF – what underpins, what flows from it; the ecclesiology, the sacramental theology, etc.

    Thus, the EF embodies a certain type of ecclesiology, eucharistic theology…..lex ordandi, lex credendi is a principle that how we pray directly leads to how and what we believe.

    Example off the top of my head – a heavily clericalized liturgy (in which there is little emphasis on full, active participation by the people of God) that is celebrated week after week will lead that community to internalize certain beliefs about the church, about eucharist, about theology.

    To underline Fr. Ruff’s points above and from an earlier post about the USCCB 50 year statement on Sacrosanctum Consilium –

    This section merely has two examples of liturgical development (contra what this author states):
    – St. Pius X also made the concept of liturgical participation a matter of papal teaching: “…the faithful assemble for no other object than that of acquiring this [true Christian] spirit from its foremost and indispensable font, which is the active participation in the most holy mysteries and in the public and solemn prayer of the Church.” This 1903 motu proprio emphasized that music sung by the assembly (in addition to music sung by a choir) was an important means of participation in the Sacred Liturgy. Tra le sollecitudini clearly set a standard for subsequent magisterial documents.
    – Pope Pius XII, who indicated that the Roman Missal “needed both to be somewhat revised and also to be enriched with additions” (Discourse to the Participants in the First International Congress of Pastoral Liturgy at Assisi, 22 September 1956: AAS 48 (1956), p. 712). Pope Pius XII undertook some revision himself in a particular way with the restoration of the rites of Holy Week and the Easter Vigil (1951-56). Two of this Pope’s many…

    1. @Bill deHaas – comment #6:
      Your quotes imply that Popes Pius X and Pius XII saw in the old Mass what you think is completely absent, and felt it could be achieved through education and “somewhat revising” the old Missal.

      And heavily clericalized with little emphasis on active participation? Are you talking about the EF or OF? Your description covers many OF Masses in practice in regards to the role of the people, and the rite is designed to give most of the control to the priest. The priest may no longer be the only person distributing communion or reading, but he has a level of personal control over the liturgy that no priest a century ago would have even thought possible. He can decide how “high” or “low” it will be, if girls will serve, if the long readings will be used, what direction to face, how to distribute communion, how much is sung, what music to use, if propers and Latin are okay, if contemporary music is okay, if he will use all or just some of the options, if he will never use certain options, how fast to say Mass, and how many lay people will help him out, etc. He even chooses whether or not these choices should reflect the desires of his people, if they should reflect what he thinks the desires of his people are, or if he should impose his own preferences on them for their own good. A century ago a priest got to decide high or low and how fast to say the words, and a few other things, but nothing near the same level.

      In a strange way, I feel that the old Mass “belongs” to me more than the OF ever will because the priest doesn’t have such dominating control over it. I find the “highly clericalized” charge that is often waged against the EF to not really hold up and it rings false to me.

  7. Point three is interesting. Honestly, I would not have thought the preconciliar liturgy to be an ascetic inspiration. And today, I think Catholics see asceticism more in the extraordinary forms of service rendered to the poor–people like Mother Teresa or Dorothy Day or the martyrs of Central America. And it’s undeniable that more young lay people have the opportunity to take a year or more of their lives to serve in missionary or justice apostolates here or abroad.

    Is kneeling an act of asceticism? Sure, but we still have that. Is Lent a period of penance or a collective preparation for baptism? Where would Pope Francis suggest we find the inspiration for asceticism? In the streets, most likely.

    I don’t buy the notion of liturgical reform being conducted on behalf of those who wanted change, or ease. I find that premise vaguely insulting, that reformers are somehow spiritual hedonists and expressing a selfish urge. My reading of the Liturgical Movement was that reformers were looking to revitalize the entire Church, not just their segment of it.

    The TLM’s day has passed. There is little enough hope of recovering the entire Catholic milieu that it inspired/accompanied. There are paths to asceticism, mysticism, and even those integrated into the “modern” values of justice, communion, and evangelization.

  8. What sort of “ascetic” and “mystical” elements can Kwaniewski be thinking of?

    Is chant ascetic and mystical because it’s relatively quiet? Or what? What does he mean by “mystical”?

  9. I don’t know where the “new liturgical movement” is going, if anywhere. Certainly the EF enthusiasts are a vocal minority and those priests, such as myself, who are willing to celebrate it have found that it affects in a positive way our way of celebrating the normative Mass, the OF or NO. I’ve had parishioners who like attending the EF High Mass or Solemn Sung on occasion but would not want it weekly for themselves. They comment that they find the EF more “reverent” in ethos and find the participants more reverent. Yet they prefer the OF and I presume more because the vernacular does make verbal participation and comprehension more accessible. I think more Catholics would feel at home in an EF Mass celebrated in the vernacular.
    Personally, if I had to make a choice I would prefer the OF and strive to make it as reverent in ethos and for participants as possible while maintaining actual participation. In terms of the reform of the reform of the OF I doubt seriously that there will be any major changes at least under Pope Francis. The greatest problem with the OF isn’t the OF per se, but how priests and congregations celebrate it, usually in a banal and sometimes less than serious way, with too much of the personality of the congregation and the priest involved. I’d be happy with more chant, in English and Latin, less hymns and the Mass chanted itself with chants that are accessible to the congregation. I prefer the Liturgy of the Eucharist ad orientem for wide variety of reasons although I’m quite comfortable celebrating facing the assembly. I’d prefer Holy Communion kneeling but this isn’t a deal breaker, and if on the hand, the Anglican way seems most fitting compared to our own.

  10. Fritz, I wish I could be as positive about this piece as you seem to be.

    After a promising start, it lurches into polemic, in the wheezy form that seems to have become the house style at NLM:

    … its late cancer phase was second-rate modern(ist) theology embedded in a prosaic, earthbound, unimaginative spirituality, along with a tremendous naivete about sociology and worship, plus a good bit of plain dishonesty in their lopsided ressourcement, advocacy scholarship, narrow agendas, and peculiarly modern form of archaicism.

    I am puzzled by the accusation of archaicism (the OED defines that bizarre word as “ancient style or quality”; I think he meant to write something like antiquarianism, using ism to signal ideology. But let that pass, along with the overblown and disjointed prose.) I have met lots of ‘liturgical progressives’, but never a one who wants to do everything exactly as the early Christians did. Nor have I encountered a progressive who would claim that everything ‘mediaeval’ is therefore an accretion and must be stripped away.

    Rather, the appeal is to greater continuity, in order to heal some of the ‘ruptures’ that were put in place in reaction to the Reformation.

    And then there’s the romantic gush in the following paragraph about ‘beautiful stillness, pregnant silences, richly nourishing prayers, poignant gestures…’ making ‘the regular life of public worship a continuous schooling in the prayer of the heart, a repeated call to ever deeper penetration of the mysteries of faith, a recurrent opportunity for exercising the theological virtues, a convivial context for receiving higher graces from God.’ The world seen through rose-coloured glasses!

    I take Kwasniewski’s point about ascesis, but this insight gets lost in the rodomontade.

    The issues he is raising are important. They merit discussion. His polemical piece does little more than reinforce prejudices on both sides.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #11:
      First, thanks for introducing me to the word “rodomontade.” I will try to find a way to incorporate it into my everyday discourse (shouldn’t be too hard).

      Second, I guess I approached the piece presuming a certain level of disagreement and so my eyes simply glazed over at certain points as I thought “blah, blah, blah, yeah, yeah, yeah.” What struck me were the points about the early liturgical movement’s aims and ascesis.

      Third, I think Kwasniewski would agree that liturgical progressives don’t want “to do everything exactly as the early Christians did.” Indeed, that’s his point. The appeal to antiquity that liturgical progressives do make (and I know they do this because I have witnessed it on innumerable occasions) is highly selective, and the parts that get passed over are often the more ascetic dimensions of early Christianity (e.g. protracted fasting, lengthy public penance, prayers that mention human sinfulness and unworthiness in just about every sentence). As to the medieval “accretions” — well, maybe I’m sensitive because I’m a quasi-medievalist, but on this very blog I have seen comments that depict the middle ages as an exemplar of everything that had gone wrong with the liturgy prior to the Council.

      Fourth, regarding the romantic gush… well, obviously. But my charitable way of reading this is as a description of what the old liturgy was for a few, and what the pioneers of the liturgical movement hoped to make it for the vast throng of Catholics. I would argue that the fact that most of them came to support an actual reform of the liturgy suggests that they came to see their hope as misguided, and I would further suggest that advocates of the EF should take this lesson to heart and admit that theirs will only ever be a niche market. But on this I suspect that you and I have no disagreement.

  11. Fritz, I agree broadly with you, and especially with your fourth point. For quite a few worshipers, the ‘old liturgy’ was itself a matter of ascesis, something you had to get through in order to get your ticket punched, in large part to avoid an eternity of being roasted on a fiery spit. It was often ‘mumbled’ (Jordan, above) and rarely ‘convivial’ (Kwasniewski). I can see that the ‘pioneers’ wanted to reframe this for more of the faithful.

    And, it seems clear that simply reading about the existing liturgy was insufficient for the change to take place.

    Suppose the Consilium reforms had never taken place, or that the excesses of post-Consilium practice never become widespread. Would writers like Peter Kwasniewski still have the same appreciation of ‘the old liturgy’? Maybe the clown masses and songs sung to a badly tuned guitar have, by contrast, thrown the Tridentine Mass into a wildly positive light!

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #13:

      Suppose the Consilium reforms had never taken place, or that the excesses of post-Consilium practice never become widespread. Would writers like Peter Kwasniewski still have the same appreciation of ‘the old liturgy’?

      This is an extremely important question Jonathan raises. As seen in my first post, I am of two minds: one part romanticizes the EF, and another part criticizes Peter Kwasniewski’s characterization of the reforms. However, my romanticization of the EF, and arguably Kwasniewski’s romanticization, derive from a source outside of arguments over liturgical ideology or reform. Even if the work of the Consilium never took place, or even if its recommendations were rejected, some Catholics (including myself) would inevitably confuse asceticism and mysticism with a predominantly or exclusively intellectual understanding of the Mass. As Todd points out (at #7), denial of self is more than an esoteric understanding of liturgy. Perhaps reform was (and is) necessary simply because denial of self involves mind and heart, interpersonal action as well as contemplation. I suspect many traditionalists realize the latter point, but would rather rationalize a purely cognitive approach to liturgy as a defense of what is comfortable.

  12. I’m not convinced by his argument – and would see a variety of competing claims in his broad supporters of “traditional” liturgy (these could be both those who reject the Conciliar reforms wholesale and those who reject certain implementations of the reforms). Because his terms are slippery, it’s hard for me to really accept or reject his claims.
    Despite that, the question that arises for me is whether on the whole I could claim the Liturgical Movement for the liturgies I’m often at. Sadly, I must by and large answer in the negative.

  13. I don’t particularly want to wade into commentary on the article as a whole, but I would like to add a thought about asceticism. To be fair, I don’t really think that the connection of liturgy with asceticism is that going-to-Mass-is-a-dull-duty. It’s actually much deeper than that, if I understand this correctly. It’s related to how the cross and the representation of Christ’s sacrifice are understood.

    ISTM, pre-modern practices of asceticism were fostered by sin-consciousness combined with two related ideas — the expectation that hell awaits not only terrible sinners but even those who commit comparatively minor infractions of the law, and the notion that the only possible way out of this terrible predicament is by through acts of self-renunciation united with the cross. This put everybody in the game, although ascetics were also a special exemplary group.

    By restating the Christian message more as it appears in the New Testament, the Council changed the whole frame for the discussion, and we are still, istm, figuring out the consequences. In this sense, it’s not the liturgy, but the whole of Vatican II that is to blame, if blame attaches to this shift. Actually, the Enlightenment is also behind this, when you come right down to it, and whatever one thinks of the Enlightenment, it’s not going away.

    Some have tried to put asceticism on a different footing in the post-Conciliar era, casting older practices (such as fasting) as discipline oriented to spiritual growth and solidarity with the suffering. It is not nearly as successful as the previous synthesis, which emphasized guilt and punishment. But “successful” is a relative term. What is the measure of success here, exactly? To what degree are traditional ascetical practices psychologically or physically of dubious value? John Chrysostom practiced fasting so avidly in early life that he permanently ruined his digestion. And I think we’ve all known good people who have been beset by scruples arising from too much anxiety over guilt.

    1. @Rita Ferrone – comment #15:
      Agreed. Even Ignatius of Loyola, no wuss he, practiced great privations but came to view them later as counterproductive to deeper aims of the spiritual life. Another early Jesuit, Peter Favre, counseled for gentleness in dealing with others, but holding oneself to high inner standards. Rather than recover or pine for an immature asceticism, I’d rather look at the issues confronting liturgy with thoughts like that. What does it mean for a priest or music director to lead four or five Masses and place demands on high performance for oneself, while retaining a cheerful, welcoming, and open tone? Even if it means singing all the verses of hymns, of providing Communion from the Cup, and investing time greeting people before Mass. And not cutting any corners at the 11:30 or 7pm Mass, or daily Mass, or on holy days?

      If Dr Kwasniewski isn’t finding opportunities for asceticism in the modern Roman Rite, he’s hung up on peripherals, and not the core of the Gospel. I went back and reviewed the article again, and I’d have to give it more than three “blah’s” and “yeah’s.” And if this is the most serious commentary NLM can muster, then the movement is more spent than I thought.

      1. @Todd Flowerday – comment #17:
        Interesting comment, Todd. The demands of self-denial necessitated by generous self-giving in service and love of neighbor may be the unacknowledged “pattern” of ascetic practice alive and well in the church today.

    2. @Rita Ferrone – comment #15:
      Thanks, Rita….it appears that we continue to conflate the actual eucharistic theology & ecclesiology of VII with what I would call *ars celebrandi* and personal likes/dislikes or rubrics.

      Thus, VII’s documents (not just SC) assumed that dogma, liturgy develops – that some of this came from ressourcement; others from forward thinking reformers.
      The reform tried to inculcate a full, active participation by making liturgy the public prayer of all (not just some). It attempted to recapture or to re-emphasize that the communal eucharist is an action (not an object); that it includes the presence of Christ in Word, Eucharist, and Community; It can best be summarized by using the Emmaus journey – breaking open the word; breaking bread/wine, going forth on mission.
      IMO, VII reformers changed the order of the Mass because they developed the eucharistic foundation.

      Too often, it appears that folks only cite their personal preferences (e.g. kneeling for communion, chant, ad orientem) and apply those to EF and OF and then *label* (typical, tired traddie mantra – banal, too much community centered, presider is acting, etc.)

      Fact – any liturgy (of either form) can be banal; presider can act out; etc. And things such as certain rubrics seem to get elevated so that it feels like *my personal likes* determine why EF or OF are best (nothing like buying into the current societal individualism and relativism – do they ever realize that).

      And too often some comments degenerate to *what do I get out of it judgments* in terms of any insights into liturgy – btw, another current societal fixation which diminishes liturgy as if it is part of some type of retail/marketing organization. e.g. I don’t get anything out of the OF; thus the EF is better or the OF is banal, etc.

      Sorry, find using *asceticism* as a metric to analyze liturgy to be going down the wrong road. This author, especially, defines it to an extreme – back to over-emphasizing the sacrificial aspect (becomes pelagian) or focusing on *atonement* to a ridiculous degree (one wonders about the theology that God created us *good* or the language around Jesus *buying us back* – sounds masochistic). It also seems to dip into what I state above about an *individualistic* approach to the community eucharist.

    3. @Rita Ferrone – comment #15:
      I’d want to slice things a bit more finely with regard to pre-modern asceticism. What you describe could certainly characterize the asceticism of the late medieval period, but in the patristic period asceticism was really much more about the transformational potential of human nature, or so at least Peter Brown argues in The Body and Society.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #20:
        You are right to make this distinction. My description is really of a late medieval / early modern synthesis carried through Baroque, or Counter-Reformation Catholicism and associated with the Tridentine rites. The massive importance of fasting in the patristic era accompanied a different set of concerns and assumptions. Chrysostom may have ruined his health by an overabundance of fasting, but he did it for different reasons than the fear of hell!

    4. @Rita Ferrone – comment #16:

      Actually, the Enlightenment is also behind this, when you come right down to it, and whatever one thinks of the Enlightenment, it’s not going away.

      Rita, thanks for pointing out the necessity of the Enlightenment in light of the Council. In my view, the revolution in the meaning of ascetic behavior and purpose arises not from the Council but almost entirely from the Reformation and Enlightenment. Here is the source of a sea change in the individual Christian life vis a vis ascetic goals. Protestant reformers often rejected certain forms of asceticism (such as fasting and abstinence) as incompatible with human inclination and their soteriologies. Despite the Tridentine fathers and the counter-reformation leader’s desire to preserve peri-feudal discipline and liturgy, the hermetic seal was bound to break (it is surprising that the seal lasted 400 plus years!). The pressures of Christian traditions who had already moved into a post-feudal understanding of asceticism and ritual, as well as the Enlightenment questioning of God, were bound to result in a crisis of penance and denial in mid 20th century Catholicism. The artificially frozen Tridentine models, when exposed to public light, often resembled little in other western Christian traditions or notions of public personal conduct at that time.

      Liturgical change in the Roman Rite has been rapid and comprehensive over the past fifty years. Inevitably traditionalists will rebel against a resignification of self-denial as not a personal penitential response but rather an act of human solidarity against evil, as Rita has pointed out. This is one juncture where traditionalists can claim the former Tridentine-era understanding of penitential asceticism as their own, but must also deny that ascetic resignification is a very recent phenomenon.

  14. Msgr. Martin Hellriegel, a priest of the St. Louis Archdiocese and noted figure in the early liturgy reform movement, was certainly engaged in adapting and innovating liturgical forms. In clear violation of the rubrics, he read the scriptures in the vernacular, created offertory processions, celebrated Mass facing the people, composed new hymns, and even used theatrical lighting in the liturgy for dramatic effect. He rode a donkey in the solemn procession on Palm Sunday. Many years before the Vatican approved the revised rites for Holy Week he had fashioned his own revised and expanded version of these rites and celebrated them with great fanfare in his parish. His practices were highly controversial, (especially among his fellow clergy whose parishioners were flocking to his parish!)

    To claim that these men didn’t intend for a vernacular liturgy is ignorant of history. In 1964, Msgr. Hellriegel celebrated the closing Mass for the Liturgical Week in St. Louis–the first publicly-proclaimed High Mass of the Roman Rite in English. This was with roughly 20,000 in attendance at the St. Louis Arena, a professional hockey arena.

    His progressive ways and populist appeal did not escape notice. After his death, it was revealed that he twice declined the pope’s invitation to be ordained a bishop so that he could stay with the people of Holy Cross parish.

    1. @Scott Pluff – comment #17:
      Scott, do you know if any of Msgr. Hellriegel’s experiments are documented anywhere? I’ve long been fascinated by the actual practice of “progressive” liturgists prior to the Council who actually experimented in parishes (e.g. people like Hellriegel or Parsch) and would love to see, for example, the actual Holy Week Ordo that Hellriegel used.

      1. @Fritz Bauerschmidt – comment #20:
        I have a decent bibliography of his writings, some self-published manuscripts and several articles in Orate Fratres. You can reach me at scottcharlespluff [at] I have a box of his writings and some photos stored in my home office. One of these days I will catalog and digitize these materials. Three generations of my wife’s family were closely associated with Hellriegel throughout his life.

    2. @Scott Pluff – comment #18:
      Amen to this. He’s following Alcuin Reid evidently in claiming the early leaders of the movement didn’t want changes. Aside from the common sense starting point that they initially had no idea a major reform was even possible, It doesn’t hold up to scrutiny.

      In addition to your observations about Hellreigel, I would add a few more. Romano Guardini celebrated Mass facing the people as early as the 1930s. Robert Amiet recalls experiencing a midnight Easter Vigil in 1937, something not permitted until 1951. I won’t even go into the saga that preceded changes in the initiation rites. Missionaries petitioned for ages. Finally, the movement for the vernacular, as you point out, was long in coming; Keith Pecklers’ book, Dynamic Equivalence, gives an account.

  15. Deacon – the best resource is his library at Glennon-Kenrick Seminary in STL. His works, etc. were organized and catalogued by one of my mentors and professors, Rev. John Rybolt, CM, who is currently VP of Mission at DePaul University and head of the Vincentian Studies Institute.

    Here is a link:

    Given your university library, here is another source of information – look up Orates Frates:

    “When Virgil Michel founded Orate Fratres (now Worship) in 1926, Hellriegel was one of the original associate editors. In the course of the years, he contributed some 63 articles. Their distinctive style, plus that of the several books he authored, inevitably led to his being called the American counterpart of Pius Parsch, the famous pastoral liturgical popularizer of Austria.”

  16. I’m not sure I see his reference to asceticism as a weak point in his piece, except insofar as he conflates various personal and ‘traditional’ ascetic practices with liturgies that are more ‘ascetic’ in their perforrmance and that are/would be part of traditional Catholic liturgy.
    The main issue as I see it, is that ‘traditional Catholic liturgy’ is actually never really specified in the piece and he could be referring to either pre-conciliar (even pre-’62) liturgy or post-conciliar liturgy celebrated ‘traditionally’ (hence, Benedict is an heir of the Liturgical Movement, even though Benedict to my knowledge never repudiated the Council, only some implementation). There may be considerable family resemblances in those two categories, but because there is a council in between, I’m not sure one can conflate them because the one rejects the specifics of the reform while the other rejects the implementation of it. Even if there is overlap in interests, they can’t really come to the same conclusion – but maybe theirs is just an uneasy alliance until the ‘progressives’ disappear, or something.
    Back to asceticism – here I think the original post might have a point – to a degree. There may be a tendency in the celebration of many reformed liturgies to downplay the ascetic dimensions of Christianity – whether by ignoring it or by recasting it as activism, and this for reasons mentioned already, not least of which the ‘dubious value’ of traditional ascetic practices. Now, I’m not suggesting activism is bad or that we ought to all start whipping ourselves. But some traditional ascetic practices – fasting most importantly – seem to be part of the Gospel itself, don’t seem to be optional, and importantly don’t seem to be in conflict with more ‘active’ discipleship. On a grander liturgical scale, I wonder what we miss by downplaying periods of penance. The rhythm of the seasons seems to suffer, and we miss the way in which sometimes suffering, penance and joy mingle.

  17. The thing that strikes me about almost all the pioneers of the Liturgical Movement is that they were members of religious orders. Personally I think this greatly influenced their view of what a worshipping community is, and what it is capable of. I think a good deal of the pre-suppositions of the Movement, and, by extension, many of the ways in which the Vatican II reforms were implemented were influenced by a very over-idealised concept of the Assembly – an Assembly that was, in effect, an already constituted, unified religious community, formed by common faith-experience. It is very debatable as to whether any ‘ordinary parish community’ could ever approximate to such an ideal.

    1. @Ian Coleman – comment #30:
      It would take a level of commitment we don’t often see. But it’s a valid question. Does liturgy form the community or does a good community form its expression of excellent liturgy? It strikes me as a mutual exchange and feeding.

      And outside of religious orders, one does find such liturgies on retreats, at conferences, and for special occasions–not always, but enough to make me occasionally tingle with anticipation. Maybe the hope was that the Holy Spirit would work more fruitfully through a better expression of parish liturgy.

  18. “To what degree are traditional ascetical practices psychologically or physically of dubious value?”

    Rita ==

    Kwaniewski speaks approvingly of “salutary self-hatred”. Have there ever been other (so-called) Christians who explicitly preached self-hatred? Is this a new heresy? Surely hatred of anyone is totally incompatible with Christianity and has no place in the Mass ever.

  19. Ian (#30)

    I think a good deal of the pre-suppositions of the Movement, and, by extension, many of the ways in which the Vatican II reforms were implemented were influenced by a very over-idealised concept of the Assembly – an Assembly that was, in effect, an already constituted, unified religious community, formed by common faith-experience. It is very debatable as to whether any ‘ordinary parish community’ could ever approximate to such an ideal.

    I can think of a number of “ordinary parish communities” (by which I take it you mean those run by diocesan clergy as opposed to religious order priests) that have been quite remarkable in this respect. Often, as with Hellriegel, it was the inspiration of the pastor which over time gelled them into worshipping communities par excellence. When he moved on, or died, the inspiration could fade away again, but thank goodness not always.

    1. @Paul Inwood – comment #33:
      Monsignor Myles Burke (the New Testament Biblical Scholar) was pastor at Corpus Christi church in Manhattan, NY for years. This is a parish church of NYC and he implemented the reformed liturgy. Luis Bouyer, a very important person in the liturgical reform, would often come to stay there on his breaks and would often return there for the holy week celebrations because he thought so highly of how the reformed liturgy was implemented and celebrated at Corpus Christi.

      I think there is a fundamental flaw in Dr Kwasniewski’s thesis, and it ignores real history of the previous 60 years before the council.
      In the very early 1900’s Romano Guardini was writing about the great awakening of the richness of the ‘ecclesia’ that burst forth in the pre war church. this was a vision that wanted to enrich the church with all the dimension of the “Ecclesia”. then add the biblical movement, the rediscovery (!) of the paschal mystery, and an openness to the riches of the “resourcement” movement……well, this lead to a slow but consistent movement of change in liturgical expression not for the sake of change but
      to be consistent with the theology of the church. there is the deep theology of Odel Casel, so many thinkers and theologians. the “new holy week”
      services of the 1950’s to reflect the importance of the paschal mystery.
      in the USA you have the Liturgical weeks of Notre Dame of the 1950’s,
      which gave the American church insight to these studies and ideas.
      By the time of the council, all this had been going on for 100 years, and it had finally reached a point that this new wine of the “Ecclesia” , the living Paschal mystery, and the insights from patristics and biblical studies could not be poured into “old wine skins” that had become rigid from the polemics of the reformation, and frozen from centuries of legalism and “rubicism”

      now the implementation of all this since the council is another issue and it made mistakes…

      1. @Patrick Logsdon – comment #34:

        In my student days in NYC (Fall 1970-Spring 1973) I would attend the noonday Mass on occasion at Corpus Christi. Msgr. Burke often presided.

        The ICEL translation of much of MR70 had been published in a brown construction paper-covered spiral-bound volume in the Spring of 1970. But Msgr. Burke never used that translation during those three years that I commuted to NYC; he had made his own. And I’m not sure he ever used the approved translation while he was still pastor at Corpus Christi.

        As I recall, his own translation was a bit more “Cranmerian.”

      2. @Fr. Ron Krisman – comment #36:
        Yes he did use his own translation, I figured it was his interest from translating/editing the NAB?.
        But the mass was of Paul Vl, in a parish and as far as I know he never got any real heat for not using the official translation.

  20. I recall attending Mass at Corpus Christi in the early 80s and they were still not using the ICEL translation. I remember distinctly that the response to “The Lord be with you” was “And with your Spirit.” I sometimes wonder if they ended up waiting ICEL out and never had to make the change.

  21. Having sometimes filled in as musician at Corpus Christi, I can testify that, as far as the people’s parts were concerned, the translation was that of the first post-Conciliar version (and this continued under other pastors). I’d be moderately surprised to learn that Burke imposed his own translation, as has been conjectured.

    As of last month, at least, they were still using the Benziger hymnal for their extraordinary assembly participation, with those earlier texts in it.

    I’d also add, parenthetically, that I can easy imagine the great man’s outrage at the giggling over Book of Common Prayer translations in another thread here.

    For me, the most poignant and present comment in this thread is “Despite that, the question that arises for me is whether on the whole I could claim the Liturgical Movement for the liturgies I’m often at. Sadly, I must by and large answer in the negative.”

  22. I believe that the New York Times ran a story on Corpus Christi right before the new translation took effect. The story started with something to the effect of “Next week, when the priest at Corpus Christi says ‘the Lord be with you,’ the people will respond ‘and with your spirit,’ just as they have for the last forty years …”

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