Liturgy in Collegeville: From the Archives – Part XXV

Pray Tell continues its series on the liturgical history of Collegeville. The sub-series “From the Archives” reprints some of the Liturgy Committee meeting minutes from 1963 to 1969. This sub-series is a behind-the-scenes look at liturgy in Collegeville during and immediately after the Second Vatican Council.

The next record from the Liturgy Committee:

Minutes of the Liturgy Committee

November 2, 1964

Present were Fathers John, Daniel, Emeric, Michael, Aelred, Gerard, Brice, Wenceslaus, Leon, Fr. Mederic and Brother Gerard.

Father John opened the meeting with the announcement that Father Abbot would use the same power of commutation for the Office of the Dead for Nov. 6 (The Commemoration of the Deceased of the Monastery) that he used for our funeral liturgy. Further, in Masses of the Commemoration of the Faithful Departed we will keep the Mass of the Day but offer it for the intention of the faithful departed.

Next the committee discussed the petition to be recommended by the American Abbots at the meeting of abbots in Rome in 1965. One clause in the petition dealt with permission to recite the Office in the vernacular in public and private. Father John suggested deleting the phrase “in private,” since the abbots can give permission for vernacular private recitation even now. The committee stated that it did not agree with the principle of reciting all 150 Psalms weekly. The Roman liturgy no longer has this principle, and we would like more readings. Further, we want to recommend dropping Prime and two little hours, or at least making this “ad libitum.” Fr. Mederic wanted the principle of unity in diversity underlined, but it was pointed out by Fr. Aelred that this is what is meant by the notion of controlled experimentation. Both Fr. Mederic and Bro. Gerard would like surveys about what effect our lack of vernacular recitation of the Office would have on vocations. It was thought that such a survey would only be feasible after a year or so.

A number of comments on our present liturgical practices were made by members of the committee. Fr. Mederic said that people were leaving choir after Sunday Mass in a disordered fashion, spilling all over. Fr. Aelred repeated that people should not cut across the sanctuary, and that we had to inculcate in them the notion that the sanctuary is a sacred place.

It was suggested that we review the entire present form of our Mass, toning up our Sunday conventional Masses now and starting to work on an English High Mass for the first Sunday of Advent.


  1. “The committee stated that it did not agree with the principle of reciting all 150 Psalms weekly.”

    A room full of Benedictines openly dissented from Benedict’s clear mandate on the very basis of their vocation.

    1. @Brian McCord – comment #1:
      The reason that Benedict’s Rule has survived is because it is lived in its spirit, not its letter.

      In this same spirit, it seems to me that Benedict’s desire for flexibility (“We strongly recommend, however, that if this distribution of the Psalms is displeasing to anyone, they should be arranged otherwise…”) trumps specific numbers (“…taking care in any case that the Psalter with its full number of 150 Psalms be chanted every week…”)

      One must also remember that in Benedict’s day, his monasteries were strictly cloistered, which allowed for a full celebration of the Opus Dei, whereas in 19th Century America, nearly every Benedictine house had active apostolates.

      1. @Chase M. Becker – comment #2:
        The language of the Rule itself does not admit of flexibility in abridging the weekly cursus of Psalms. In fact, Benedict made clear that 150 a week was a concession to the weakness of modern monks, in comparison to the daily recitation of the entire Psalter by the desert monks. You may well impute that flexibility to the Rule, and you would certainly not be alone in doing so, but you would be arguing against the clear mandate of the Rule: monks exist in large part to chant the psalms each week. To borrow from a popular Internet meme: “you had one job.”

        That said, I understand that pioneer American monks often had two jobs, so to speak, but they still managed to cover the Psalter in a week up to the mid-60s or thereabouts.

  2. This is a good example of her style, which deeply resonates with me:

    “I love to talk about sin, which makes little sense to people who want to label me as a liberal. . . . when sin is boiled down to low self esteem and immorality then it becomes something we can control or limit in some way rather than something we are bondage to. The reality is that I cannot free myself from the bondage of self. I cannot keep from being turned in on self. I cannot by my own understanding or effort disentangle myself from my self interest and when I think that I can …I am trying to do what is only God’s to do. To me, there is actually great hope in admitting my mortality and brokenness because then I finally lay aside my sin management program and allow God to be God for me. Which is all any of us really need when it comes down to it.”

  3. I still stand by my original comment in saying that the accepted principal of living the spirit of the Rule and the fact of outside pastoral responsibility more than justifies a wider Psalm distribution.

    However, for the sake of continuing the conversation, I’d like to point out that the only reason that American houses were able to cover the entire Psalter in a week was because they were anticipating and combining Offices. I can’t see spiritual or liturgical benefit of praying the entire Psalter each week if Offices lose their individual character.

    Nearly all of the Benedictine houses I’ve visited currently utilize a 4-week Psalter, with Offices taking place 4-5 times each day. What contemporary monasteries may lack in quantity, they certainly make up for in quality. All of the place I’ve visited utilize Offices which are highly contemplative, with long periods of silence; slow, thoughtful recitation of the Psalms, and/or a well-paced chanting of the Psalms. This contemplative sort of liturgy would never have happened in these same houses when all 150 Psalms were being prayed.

    A further followup on the flexibility of the Rule: the fact that Benedictines, Cistercians, Trappists, Camaldolese, and others – across denominational lines – all claim Benedict’s Rule as a guide seem to indicate that there is a vast amount of flexibility in the Rule, particularly when one accepts that all of these groups are living its spirit, not its letter.

    1. @Chase M. Becker – comment #5:
      These are all subjective impressions on your part, making it hard to argue with you. I would mention that Clear Creek covers all 150 in a week, and does not “rush” the psalms. Aside from that, well, the Rule says what it says, and any number of houses claim to maintain its spirit. “Who am I to judge?”

      1. @Brian McCord – comment #8:
        Very well. I am aware of Clear Creek and other traditional monasteries, and it’s important to realize that they were founded on a far different vision of monastic life than the first wave of Benedictine houses in this country.

  4. The current official Benedictine guidelines, Thesaurus Liturgiae Horarum Monasticae, specify that a minimum of 75 psalms be recited weekly. TLHM gives schemas for a 150-psalm week per the Rule, another 150-psalm week with the psalms arranged differently and not in numerical order, and two two-week schemas that cover at least 75 psalms a week. I believe it also allows for use of the Roman (that is, non-Benedictine) Liturgy of the Hours under certain conditions.

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