Recommended Reading

One of the delights of belonging to the Liturgy Network of the Notre Dame Center for Pastoral Liturgy (the predecessor of today’s ND Center for Liturgy) was a special gathering held during the annual conference specifically for M.A. graduates of the program.  At that special gathering, professors teaching in the program offered a review of what they considered the most significant articles and books they had read on a particular topic in liturgical studies that year.  It allowed students who were frequently in employed in jobs that kept them from keeping up with cutting edge scholarship to stay au courant in their academic field.

Perhaps Pray Tell could take up the mantle of this initiative.  Fr. Anthony Ruff has more than once invited us to review and promote works in the field that might generate some interesting conversation on the blog.  I’d be very interested to see what the Pray Tell readership would recommend for our mutual enrichment.

I suggest that we try to come up with books and articles published in the last ten years in the following categories:

  • Method in Liturgical Studies
  • Liturgical Theology
  • Liturgical History
  • Pastoral Liturgy
  • Liturgical Arts

My recommendations in each of these areas are:

Method in Liturgical Studies: Juliette J. Day.  Reading the Liturgy: An exploration of texts in Christian worship. T&T Clark, 2014.

In this exploration of liturgical hermeneutics, Day combines insights from literary and linguistic studies to construct a new methodological paradigm for liturgical studies.  Her insights into the processes of liturgical production, revision, acceptance and interpretation alone would make this is valuable contribution, but she also highlights how the liturgy may provide the opportunity for one’s own (and one’s community’s) narrative to interact with God’s narrative.

Liturgical Theology: Catherine Vincie.  Celebrating Divine Mystery: A Primer in Liturgical Theology.  Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2009.

Vincie has a real gift for presenting foundational concepts in liturgical theology in a clear and accessible way.  Exploring topics such as the liturgical assembly, the liturgy as divine-human dialogue, the paschal mystery and anamnesis, the liturgy and time, symbol, and the liturgy and culture, she culls insights from many sources and eras.  I would have liked more engagement with David Tracy’s attempts to name God — Limit-of, the Whole, Ultimate Reality, the Hidden, the Incomprehensible, the Infinite, the Impossible – as an enrichment of the liturgical project of naming the One Worshiped.

Liturgical History: Amalar of Metz.  On the Liturgy.  2 vols.  Edited and Translated by Eric Knibbs.  Dumbarton Oaks Medieval Library.  Cambridge-London: Harvard University Press, 2014.

Knibbs provides the longest, final version of Amalar’s masterpiece as critically edited by Jean-Michael Hanssens in 1948 in a facing page Latin-English edition.  The two volumes comprise Amalar’s introductory statements (a Proemium presenting new information Amalar had received from the clerics at St. Peter’s Basilica in Rome in 831; and the original Preface, dedicating the work to Louis the Pious) and four books, commenting on the Temporale, clerical ranks and vestments, the Mass, and the Divine Office.  (I would call attention also to Timothy Thibodeau’s magnificent English translation of William Durand’s Rationale, published by Brepols in their Corpus Christianorum in Translation series, based on the critical edition he co-edited with Anselme Davril, OSB, in the Corpus Christianorum Continuatio Mediaevalis [CCCM 140] as a worthy parallel to Knibbs book for those who would explore another exemplar of medieval allegorical exegesis of the liturgy.)

Pastoral Liturgy: Edward Foley (gen. ed.).  A Handbook for Catholic Preaching.  Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2016.

Developed under the auspices of The Catholic Academy of Liturgy with co-sponsorship from The Catholic Association of Teachers of Homiletics and The Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions, this Handbook is a worthy successor to earlier projects, e.g., A Commentary on the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2008).  Short articles by a variety of authors are grouped into five sections: Introductory essays, historical perspectives, genres of preaching, contemporary perspectives on preaching and contemporary issues in preaching.  The last two sections are of special interest for cutting edge thoughts about preaching.

Liturgical Arts: C. Michael Hawn (ed.).  New Songs of Celebration Render: Congregational Song in the Twenty-First Century.  Chicago, IL: GIA Publications, Inc., 2013.

An overview of seven “streams” of congregational song flowing into the rich sea of contemporary worship music.  Each stream is entrusted to different authors (Kathleen Harmon, SNDdeN: “Roman Catholic Liturgical Music after Vatican II”; Emily R. Brink: “Classic Contemporary Protestant Hymnody”; James Abbington: “African-American Congregational Song”; David W. Music: “Gospel and Revival Hymnody in the Twentieth Century”; Deborah Carlton Loftis: “Folk Influences on Hymnody”; Greg Scheer: “Praise and Worship, from Jesus People to Gen X”; C. Michael Hawn and Lim Swee Hong: “The Rise of Global and Ecumenical Song”) with the general editor offering a helpful introduction and conclusion.

I look forward to hearing from other readers of Pray Tell what recent books and articles they would recommend as required reading for the summer.

Mike Joncas
University of St. Thomas
St. Paul, MN


  1. Regarding sacred music, Joseph P. Swain, Sacred Treasure: Understanding Catholic Liturgical Music (Pueblo Books, 2012).

  2. A popular, rather than scholarly, book on liturgy generally which I’ve benefited from greatly: N T Wright, For All God’s Worth: True Worship and the Calling of the Church

    I think the category would be “pastoral liturgy”, but there’s a good bit of liturgical theology as well.

  3. Every Easter, re-read Tad Guzie’s The Book of Sacramental Basics
    Pastoral Liturgy, Joseph. A. Jungmann, SJ
    The Reform of the Liturgy, Bugnini (in honor of his being Vincentian)

    Fr. Michael – okay, not in the last ten years

  4. Not recent, but excellent and incredibly edifying: “The Language of the Book of Common Prayer” (Stella Brook, 1965, Andre Deutsch Ltd, London)

  5. Method in Liturgical Theology: Gordon Lathrop’s SAVING IMAGES: THE PRESENCE OF THE BIBLE IN CHRISTIAN LITURGY (Fortress Press, 2017). Synthesizes and solidifies Lathrop’s years of research, argumentation, and original theological reflection on how worship shaped the books of the Bible and “the working presence of the Bible” in Christian liturgy. The pastoral-homiletic implications make for rewarding reading.

    Liturgical Theology: Albert Gerhards and Benedikt Kranemann’s INTRODUCTION TO THE STUDY OF LITURGY (Pueblo/Liturgical Press, 2017). A thorough, authoritative, well-organized treatment of history, method, and theology, repeatedly offering keen insights, altogether a fine comprehensive textbook–in my opinion, unequalled by anything published in English in the past decade–reliably translated by veteran expert Linda Maloney.

    Liturgical History and Art: Robin Jensen’s THE CROSS: HISTORY, ART, AND CONTROVERSY (Harvard University Press, 2017). A historical survey smartly organized by consistently pursued categories and beautifully illustrated with dozens of images/prints/photos that, due to straightforward prose, enables the reader both to benefit from greater knowledge of his central Christian symbol and to draw one’s own pastoral-liturgical benefits.

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