The FDLC and Built of Living Stones, an interview with Fr. John Sauer

Region VIII of the FDLC (Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions) recently met at the Abbey Guesthouse in Collegeville. After their meeting, I interviewed Fr. John Sauer, one of the region’s representatives to the national board. We spoke about the FDLC and Fr. Sauer’s work on the drafting commission for Built of Living Stones.

Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions

There were two significant items on the agenda for this regional meeting: 1) the restructuring of the FDLC, and 2) the National Statues for the Catechumenate.

The FDLC was created by the BCL (Bishop’s Conference on the Liturgy) to help with the reforms after Vatican II. The FDLC focuses on the question, “How do we help people celebrate the reformed liturgies well?” As the needs of the liturgical reform continue to evolve, the FDLC is renewing its focus on forming people liturgically. With fewer dioceses having liturgical commissions and worship offices, the need for networking and collaboration is more important.

The FDLC is in the middle of a major restructuring based on a recent self-study. The results called for a more director-driven structure and the re-alignment of the 12 regions of the FDLC into 14, as per the new USCCB regions. The National Board will now consist of one representative from each region rather than two, thereby reducing the size of the Board from 24 to 14. According to Fr. Sauer, the motivation for this restructuring was practical. Since the FDLC has a close relationship with the USCCB, it made sense to follow the USCCB’s regional layout.

The restructuring of the FDLC is not the biggest shift that is occurring in the organization. According to Fr. Sauer, there has also been a change in the mission and vision of the FDLC so that the FDLC can better respond to the current liturgical needs of the Catholic Church in the United States. This movement can be seen in the shift of emphasis at recent national meetings. At one time, much of the meeting was taken up in addressing position statements proposed by the regions. The position statements recommended resources for the implementation of the rites and sometimes suggested adaptations. Recent meetings have seen a substantial decline in the number of position statements at the National Meeting, requiring changes to be made to the structure of the National Meeting.

The FDLC is also in the middle of preparing its own recommendations for the USCCB’s upcoming review of the National Statutes for the Catechumenate. Fr. Sauer envisions that the delegates to the National Meeting in Chicago will have a great deal of insight into current pastoral practice in light of current national norms. He predicts that his colleagues will champion the sacramental principles found in the statutes.

Central to the discussion on the national statues will be the need for greater sensitivity to the various rites of initiation. The discussion will also likely focus on deepening our understanding of what the catechumenate means to us today. Additionally, the bishops may grapple with how the national statues are lived out in various conditions, such as urban and rural life.

Fr. Sauer thinks we may see a new approach to the presence of candidates for full communion at the Easter Vigil. As baptized Christians, candidates seeking communion with the Catholic Church often do not need the rigorous education which is the hallmark of the RCIA. Their preparation should be more fluid and developed on a case-by-case basis. They should be received into the Church when they are ready and this does not always correspond to the Easter Vigil.

Above all, a better understanding of each group (catechumens, candidates, and confirmands) needs to be articulated by the national statues and tools must be developed to ensure that the national statues are appropriately implemented.

For Fr. Sauer and many in the FDLC, today is an exciting time for the Church. The FDLC is ready to respond to this new phase of liturgical renewal in which helping people deepen their celebration of the rites is the focus.

Built of Living Stones

I also spoke to Fr. Sauer about his work as a member of the drafting commission for Built of Living Stones. According to Fr. Sauer, in their first few meetings the commission had a choice to make: “1) Do we revise Environment and Art? 2) Do we create a companion document? or 3) Do we start over?” The commission opted for the third. The commission felt that people didn’t need a vision document like Environment and Art; rather, they needed a practical document which would help them make Environment and Art’s vision a reality.

Built of Living Stones was designed to help churches move through the process of renovating or constructing their church buildings. The commission worked hard to express foundational principles and provide guidance without issuing new directives. It sought to bring together in one place the directives that were in the various liturgical books.

When asked whether Built of Living Stones was a success, Fr. Sauer thought that it had been a helpful tool for many congregations. When asked whether there was an area where Built of Living Stones could be expanded, he felt that a section on technology might be beneficial. At that time, the commission felt uncomfortable including a section on technology because of the rapid advances that were occurring in the early 2000’s. Fr. Sauer thought that if Built of Living Stones was updated, it would need to give greater attention to the usage of technology in our media driven world.


Fr. John Sauer is a presbyter of the Diocese of Winona, MN where he is pastor of Sacred Heart Parish in Owatonna and Holy Trinity Parish in Litomysl. He is Director of the Office of Divine Worship for the Diocese of Winona and a Board member of the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions.


One comment

  1. Sounds like the reorganization will eliminate what was once the prophetic character of FDLC. I guess they won’t be tackling issues like a process for revising RM3 or inquiring whether indults might be arranged for the use of the 1973 or 1998 translations. Perhaps the bishops would view such things as dissent rather than prophetic.

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