Liturgy in Collegeville: From the Archives – Part XXIX

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

July 28, 1965

Present were Father Abbot, Fathers John, Daniel, Godfrey, Arnold, Anselm, Michael, Aelred, Brice, Kieran, Austin, Brother Gerard, Fathers Hermann Schmidt, SJ and Suitbert Benz, OSB.

Father John opened the meeting and stated the purpose: to ask Fathers Schmidt and Suitbert for their observations of the liturgy at St. John’s and to receive whatever recommendations they might be able to give us. (The following report is arranged topically for easier reading).

Father Schmidt began with his observation on the tabernacle. He said that the celebration of the community Mass on the main altar over the tabernacle does not seem proper. He suggested that this problem of the tabernacle and its proper location be discussed by a liturgist with an architect or artist.

Later during the meeting when the subject was again brought up, the suggestion was made that out of reverence for the Blessed Sacrament the tabernacle be removed from the main altar and that the lower chapel be designated as the Blessed Sacrament chapel. Both Frs. Schmidt and Suitbert were agreed that this could be a favorable solution to the problem. Father Abbot wondered whether the removal of the Blessed Sacrament from the upper church would result in the upper church becoming a museum, a place for many visitors without the proper reverence due to a church. It was mentioned that this need not be the case since, even as it is at present, not many people are aware of the tabernacle on the altar “until someone genuflects” and that many are becoming used to thinking of the church as a sacred space rather than as merely a building to house the tabernacle.

Father Suitbert suggested that another suggestion might be the erection of a tabernacle or sacrament house to the side of the main altar, thus properly arranging the altar for the celebration of the Eucharist. Father Schmidt made the suggestion of turning the chapter house into a Blessed Sacrament chapel. Father Suitbert remarked that most abbey churches in Europe have the Blessed Sacrament reserved on a side altar. Father Schmidt remarked that the U.S. is not Italy, where the people talk in church all the time, even at Mass. It was then finally suggested that the Blessed Sacrament be reserved in the lower chapel since this would be a simple solution for now.

Another observation concerned the sanctuary lamp. Fr. Schmidt expressed his dislike for the color and the positioning of the present lamp, pointing out that the problem is not primarily a theological or liturgical one, but an architectural one. (The color has since been changed).

Although Father Suitbert was favorable to our present form of Sunday celebration, he noted that the position of the celebrant needs improvement. Father Abbot asked whether we could ignore the present arrangement of the sanctuary and place a new chair on a raised platform in front of the throne area.

Father Schmidt spoke of a tradition of the Eastern Church, viz., the custom of the bishop asking one of his priests to celebrate in his stead and as his “delegate.” In such a case, this priest takes the second place in the assembly, i.e., to the right of the bishop. Fr. Schmidt extended the example by suggesting that perhaps the celebrant could sit at the abbot’s right. The abbot inquired as to how the bishop would vest in such a case. Father Schmidt said that this is not so clear in the East since their ritual is not so rigidly structured, but that the bishop would be robed in some solemn way.

Father Suitbert spoke of the different arrangement at Maria Laach (Germany) where the abbot has his place in choir and is at the throne only on occasions when he pontificates. He wondered if the idea of the celebrant as the bishop’s delegate is a good idea in our circumstances.

It was then pointed out that perhaps the only solution is to remodel the entire throne area. Father Abbot explained then that his position between the two choirs was originally envisioned as being primarily a choir stall, becoming a throne only when the curtain was place on it and the prie-dieu taken away.

Father Godfrey spoke of the need to develop a changing order of concelebration whereby Father Abbot will be relieved from being the chief celebrant each day. (Measures have been taken to implement this suggestion).

Father Schmidt was then asked to comment on the practice of daily concelebration. He remarked that it would not be easy to give a brief explanation of his views, but did note that we are starting out in our practice in the wrong way, saying that we need to go to the Oriental rites for a proper understanding.

The question of vestments for concelebration was broached. Father Schmidt said that at present there will be no exceptions to the general norms, but that perhaps after three or four years exceptions will officially be granted.

Father Suitbert noted that in Maria Laach there are normally no more than five priests concelebrating. On greater feasts more do this. The vestments worn by the concelebrants is normally the cuculla and stole with only the chief celebrant wearing all the traditional Mass vestments. Permission was requested for this by the Abbot of Maria Laach, and, to paraphrase his own words, “As you know, the indult was not given by Rome; on the other hand, they did not tell us that we couldn’t do it.” (Father Schmidt at this time seemed to show some disapproval at such an interpretation of law). Father Suitbert stressed the need for liberty and autonomy in matters such as this, and was forceful in emphasizing the need for the U.S. to show Rome that hers is a mature church, not a mission land.

Father Abbot remarked that we are prepared to go ahead with English but there is still the major question: to whom shall we go in order to receive official approval? Father Schmidt repeated Father Suitbert’s stress on the need for autonomy. There is a great danger now of running constantly to Rome for everything, which tendency can only help restore and strengthen the very aspect of centralization which the council is so eager to remove. Mention was made of the “Notitiae,” the unofficial organ, presumably, of the post-conciliar commission, as an example of the old trend in its 1965 version.

In light of this, it was asked when we can act on further use of the vernacular in the Divine Office; it is not possible to implement more than Sunday Vespers at the present time? Father Abbot stated that he is in favor of making one more attempt at requesting more vernacular.

Father Suitbert commented on another matter: the present choir arrangement in our new church. He said that the present disposition of stalls, separating lay from cleric, gives visitors a rather striking negative impression.


  1. Fr. Hermann Schmidt, SJ was pretty famous at Vatican II and in the liturgical renewal. He’s author of the famous Hebdomada Sancta book on Holy Week.

    Fr. Suitbert Benz, OSB, is not known to me, but a Google search shows that he wrote a book (in German) on the origin and meaning of the Ravenna rotulus.

    Does anyone know more about these individuals?

    I wonder why they were in Collegeville. I had not known that they ever visited here.


  2. Interesting that it is consistently “Fr. Schmidt” (last name) and “Fr. Suitbert” (first name). Is that fraternal familiarity for a fellow Benedictine, or greater deference to Schmidt?

    1. @Adam Booth, CSC – comment #2:
      I assume it’s the Benedictine thing. Traditionally monks have gone by first names, never “Fr. Ruff” – but outside the monastery you’ve seen people sometimes use that common style of diocesan priests for monks too. I don’t know what other orders have done but I’ve seen a lot more last name for Jesuits.

  3. Capuchins are first-namers, IIRC, so that’s why Cardinal Sean (O’Malley) of Boston requested that people stick to the Capuchin custom when he arrived in Boston.

  4. Interesting, how this debate of nearly 50 years ago still has echos today. Where was the tabernacle originally placed in the Abbey Church?

  5. (My original email got away from me.) Herman Schmidt,S. J. taught Eucharistic theology at St. John’s summer school in 1964. I recall his two days on concelebration because he restricted attendance to priests, banishing the few of us not ordained to occupy ourselves. It was a topic of great concern among the ordained. He was a German on a Roman faculty at that time, perhaps San Anselmo if my memory serves me. I got special permission from CUA to take his six week course as part of my doctoral program. Fr. Suitbert is not a familiar name from that era. A mystery.

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