Liturgy in the Era of a Jesuit Pope by Andrew Cameron-Mowat, SJ

popeincenseIn the latest issue of Music and Liturgy, Andrew Cameron-Mowat, SJ reflects on the topic of liturgy in the era of a Jesuit pope. Cameron-Mowat is a member of the British province of Jesuits and has extensive experience teaching and researching in the fields of sacramental theology and liturgy as a lecturer at Heythrop College. Most recently he served his province as Provincial’s Assistant for Formation and now is in parish ministry.

Cameron-Mowat’s essay in Music and Liturgy is based on a lecture he gave at All Souls Church in Conventry, UK on 15 November 2015. Music and Liturgy and Fr. Cameron-Mowat graciously gave us permission to reproduce the article here.

A quick excerpt:

The central core of the ministry of Jesuits is about the word, whether through the promotion of our Spirituality, or through preaching and teaching. Our ability to communicate the love of God in Christ by whatever means available to us – through spiritual direction, through the arts, through science, through teaching, through Blogs, through the web, through the liturgy, and to be as contemporary and as adaptable as possible to suit the prevailing culture’s modes of communication – this is what makes us who we are. What happens when Pope Francis preaches the word? How does he do it? Is there something about his preaching content and manner, that teaches us something important? Clearly the relationship between the speaker and the hearer is crucial, and he does a great deal of communication through his face and actions as well as through what he says.

Click here to download a PDF of Cameron-Mowat’s full essay, “Liturgy in the Era of a Jesuit Pope.”

This article is reproduced with the permission of its author. It appears in the February 2015 issue of Music and Liturgy (Vol. 40, No. 3), a publication of the Society of St Gregory. For further details of the Society and its work please visit


  1. Even if Pope Francis is unlikely to make major changes in the liturgy, there remains the hope that he will promote Vatican II’s standard that local conferences have more input in the translations we use and that he will hear the plea of many in the English-speaking world to revise the “English” of the Third Roman Missal. The current torturous rendering in English is akin to “praying in tongues” –though the spirit may be at prayer the mind is uncomprehending. Many of us hope to pray with both spirit and mind, otherwise how shall we who do not comprehend say the “Amen” to the prayer since we do not know what is being said. St Paul had a similar opinion in 1 Corinthians 14.

    1. @Norm Langenbrunner:
      I quite like the new translation. I find it conveys the mystery of the faith better than the old translation ever did. The old translation was overly simplistic and left out some pretty serious theological and spiritual truths. I hope that omission was by accident and not by design, although I fear the latter may be true. I can definitely see your point however about the wordiness of some of the collects and prefaces. Perhaps we need to find a balance between accuracy and expression.

  2. “The central core of the ministry of Jesuits is about the word, whether through the promotion of our Spirituality, or through preaching and teaching.”

    Yup – there lies the problem all right! It’s too narrow an approach to liturgy…

  3. Francis has been Pope for all of two years and somebody has already written, edited, and had published a book about the liturgy in his era? Are we pushing things just a bit?

  4. I think this:

    “Cameron-Mowat’s essay in Music and Liturgy is based on a lecture he gave at All Souls Church in Conventry, UK on 15 November 2015.”

    has an incorrect date. I don’t think we have gotten to November 2015 yet….at least I hope we haven’t as that would mean I slept though the next 8 months.

  5. This is a typically intelligent and inspiring piece by Cameron-Mowat.
    He is himself a gifted liturgist and much loved Parish priest, who very much lives out the Ignatian philosophy he describes so well in this lecture. Bravo.

  6. I don’t claim to understand Jesuit spirituality. I don’t think it can be understood, in an abstract way. It seems heavily bound up with practice, the “way of proceeding” that Fr Andrew Cameron-Mowat refers to in this excellent lecture.

    Nonetheless, after 10 years in a Jesuit-run parish (Farm Street, where Fr Andrew is now the parish priest) I would venture the following observation. On the one hand, the Jesuits I have met and worked with seem very receptive to God speaking to his people in the liturgy, to feeling his presence before, during and after the celebration.

    On the other, they almost never take liturgical actions with a direct goal of stimulating those feelings. There is no apparent goal of ‘shock and awe’. The celebrations, whether a simple said Mass in English or the more solemn Latin Novus Ordo celebrated every Sunday, have a by-the-book austerity to them. On occasion there are minor departures from the text or the rubrics, but these are very rare. There is nothing theatrical about the way these priests lead the liturgy. I notice something similar in viewing Pope Francis’s celebrations.

    Fr Andrew captures it very well for me when he speaks of “stripping away all pretence, going behind theories of sacramental symbolism, and … removing the clouds of unknowing that … obfuscate and confuse rather than name and bring to our attention the presence of Christ in our ministry”.

    Though I have never heard the Jesuits use the term, this strikes me as a good example of the principle of obliquity: the best way to get something is often to aim at something else. You are unlikely to find happiness by making happiness your focus in life. A company whose goal is “to make money” is unlikely to succeed in doing so. Conducting liturgy with a goal of provoking feelings of mystery in the congregation is likely to provoke less positive feelings.

    1. @Jonathan Day – comment #6:

      Absolutely agree. There is a real danger of using liturgy to manipulate people and their emotions (and I see this happening quite regularly in evangelical protestant services). A more useful way of thinking about liturgical preparation and celebration could be this: creating the conditions in which God can speak to his people. Not making them jump through hoops but enabling them to open their hearts if they so desire.

  7. My church building is Jesuit built of the late 1800’s neo-Gothic/Romanesque French-revival. It is pungent in color and devotional images in art and stained glass, while soaring, still warm and intimate. It was built obviously for the Mass and other sacraments, but also for devotions, popular devotions-private or public. Images of the Sacred Heart are present as well as multiple Marian images. The windows are also filled with images of the saints (mostly Jesuit) and angels. Statues abound. The Stations of the Cross loom large and striking. Pope Francis has emphasized over and over again popular devotions and I suspect he would love the interior and exterior of our church which is both beautiful but also whimsical. I wonder how modern day Jesuits would conceive and build new churches?

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