Pope Benedict XVI distributes Communion to a nun as he celebrates Christmas Eve Mass in St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican Dec. 24, 2012. (CNS photo/Paul Haring)
The Sacra Liturgia conference, to be held in Rome from June 25 to 28, 2013,
is an international conference with the goal to study, promote, and renew the
appreciation of liturgical formation and celebration and its foundation for the
mission of the Church, particularly in the light of the teaching of Pope
Benedict XVI. The conference is being organized under the direction of Bishop Dominique
Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, France, and will feature many noted speakers, including Cardinal
Raymond Burke, Bishop Marc Aillet, Father Uwe Michael Lang, Don Nicola Bux, and
Tracey Rowland, among others.
Dom Alcuin Reid, one of the organizers of Sacra
Liturgia 2013, is a monk of the Monastère Saint-Benoît in the Diocese of
Fréjus-Toulon, France. His major work, The Organic Development of
(Ignatius Press, 2005), carries a preface by Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger. He
recently corresponded with Catholic World Report about the conference, and
reflected on the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the state of
liturgy today, and the pontificate of Benedict XVI.
CWR: How did the conference Sacra Liturgia 2013 come about and what are some
of its main goals?
Dom Alcuin Reid: This conference is a sequel, as it were, to
Adoratio 2011 which my bishop, Msgr. Dominique Rey, organized in Rome two years
ago. I was part of the organizing team and the question was asked whether we
should do something in the future. With his characteristic enthusiasm, Msgr.
Rey took up the idea of a conference dedicated to the Sacred Liturgy,
particularly in the light of the importance that Pope Benedict XVI has placed
From the outset the conference’s aim has been to
consider various aspects of the liturgy from its unique role in the Churchas
the source and summit of her life and mission, as the Council said. So our aim
is not to hold an event for liturgical specialists or scholars or to produce
experts in liturgical minutiae, but to make a significant contribution to the
understanding of and formation in what the Sacred Liturgy is, and to underline
its importance in every aspect of the Church’s life, especially as the Church
launches into the New Evangelization.
In a way this is a conference for non-specialists, for
anyone wanting to deepen their appreciation of the liturgy as a whole.
Certainly there are specific topics, but they will be addressed in a manner
that explores that area’s role in the New Evangelization: Professor Miguel
Ayuso’s “The Sacred Liturgy as the heart and life of the mission of the family”;
Dr. Gabriel Steinschulte’s “Liturgical Music and the New Evangelisation”;
Father Michael Lang’s “Sacred Art and Architecture at the Service of the
Mission of the Church,” etc.
We also aim to celebrate both forms of the Roman rite
in an exemplary way. We will come together to pray as well as to think and
talk. There will be two celebrations each of Mass and of Vespers. We hope that
they will serve as models of good practice.
Any conference leads to meeting new people and forming
new friendships. In God’s Providence these too will further our goals.
CWR: The conference’s website, noting the 50th anniversary of the Second
Vatican Council, states that “it is clear that a great deal has been achieved; but it
is equally clear that there have been many misunderstandings and
irregularities.” What have been some of the positive achievements since Vatican
II’s Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium?
Dom Alcuin Reid: Personally, I think that the greatest achievement,
which is a direct fruit of the Constitution on the Liturgy, has been to place actuosa participatio in the liturgy at the center the
spiritual life. This was the great desire of the 20th-century liturgical movement
for 50 years before the Council, and of others, including St. Pius X, before
In the quote you
mentioned, which is from Pope Benedict XVI’s closing message to the Eucharistic
Congress in Dublin last year, “misunderstandings” are spoken of. “Actuosa participatio” has often been translated as “active”
participation and has sometimes been applied in an activist
way: the “everyone has to do something at Mass in order to participate”
approach, so often seen in Masses with children, etc.
Sometimes, the busier
people are “doing” things at Mass the less they actually
participate. The liturgy is an action, Christ’s saving action, in which we are
called to participate first and foremost with mind and heart, and with bodily
expression second. The two are reciprocal, of course, but internal
participation has to have priority. Perhaps it may be clearer, today, to speak
about being “connected” to the liturgical action. Liturgical connectivity is
what the Council called for, because it is by means of this connection Christ
touches us and empowers us to respond to his grace with lives of faithful
service. This is the motivation for the
liturgical reforms called for by Vatican II.
Since Sacrosanctum Concilium there have also been more widespread
efforts in liturgical formation. The Constitution regarded this as the
pre-condition for fruitful participation in the liturgy, something I plan to
explore in my own conference presentation.
undoubtedly include the acceptance of the vernacular for liturgical readings
from Sacred Scripture and in the rites of the sacraments. The promotion of the
Liturgy of the Hours as the prayer of the whole Church and not just that of
clergy and religious is most certainly an advance.
One more recent
achievement is that the “misunderstandings and irregularities” that followed
the Council are now more openly acknowledged. We owe this in no small way to
Benedict XVI’s historical honesty, both as pope and as cardinal. Because of
this we are now in a better position seek a more authentic reading of Sacrosanctum Concilium and to move forward and consider what
adjustments or enrichments are necessary now.
CWR: What are some of the most notable misunderstandings and irregularities?
What can lay people do to address those sorts of problems?
Dom Alcuin Reid: I’ve already mentioned the error of “activist
participation.” Perhaps one of the others is how we sometimes perceive or
approach the liturgy. That is, the liturgy is first and foremost ritual worship
which the Church offers to Almighty God. It is not something we stage in order
to affirm or to entertain ourselves or our particular community. And if I
approach the liturgyor worse, if I
prepare or celebrate the liturgyas if it is
something belonging to me or us, there is a danger that its nature as the Church’s worship of God, in and through which Christ
acts, may be obscured or lost. We need to be habituated, to be formed, in order
fruitfully to connect with the Church’s ritual worshipand emphasizing that need is one of the
reasons for Sacra Liturgia 2013. Abbot
Zielinski’s presentation “Liturgy, ritual, and contemporary manAnthropological
and psychological connections” will make an interesting contribution on this.
Of course there have
been and sometimes still are liturgical abuses. Authority must deal with them
firmly, and lay people should make them known, calmly and with charity. There
are also sometimes misunderstandings about practices such as the celebration of
Mass facing the people, the exclusive use of the vernacular, receiving Holy
Communion in the hand, receiving Holy Communion under both species, etc. In
some places these have become untouchable idols of the modern liturgy, whereas
they are in fact options. It is not unconscionable to consider whether other, more
classical, practices may be more appropriate for facilitating our connection
with the liturgical action, with Christ.
Also, some clergyeven bishopsstill pretend that the older liturgical rites are somehow not to be used. The usus antiquiorthe more ancient
useto use one of Benedict XVI’s phrases, should
be freely available to all. It will bear much fruit in the Church of the New
Given the centrality of
the liturgy, lay men and women should exercise prudence in respect to
liturgical problems; prudence, that is, in respect of their own “spiritual
health.” If there are irregularities and for some reason these are not
corrected it may be necessary to change the church or chapel at which one
regularly worships. This need may become a grave duty for parents whose
vocation includes the primary formation of children in the faith. The liturgy
is too important for us to accept practice that is second best, or worse. Our
spiritual health, and that of those in our care, must come first.
Lay people can also “support
good practice” as it were, be that by aiding particular clergy or religious,
communities, liturgical institutes, publications, web resources, and so on. The
“new liturgical movement” which has been given so much impetus by Benedict XVI
is now a widespread reality and many lay men and women are leading key
initiatives. Its further progress depends on each one of us contributing
according to our means.
CWR: This past December, Pope Benedict XVI sent a note of encouragement to
Bishop Rey regarding the conference. How would you assess the work that
Benedict has accomplished in the areas of liturgy and worship?
Dom Alcuin Reid: Primarily in fostering the “new liturgical movement,”
I think. Firstly, by his teaching, above all in Sacramentum
Caritatis, which is a profound tutorial on the liturgical and
ecclesial celebration of the Blessed Eucharist. Also by his acts, most
certainly through Summorum Pontificum, where he
authoritatively asserted that that the rites that were once “sacred and great…cannot
be all of a sudden entirely forbidden or considered harmful.” Finally, by his
example: papal liturgies have shown us the meaning of ars
of celebrating the sacred mysteries with a true noble simplicity. And always, at the head of
these liturgies has stood a man who has looked together with us toward the
cross he had placed in the center of the altar. The liturgy is about Him, not
me, he has taught us.
There is more to do, certainly,
and that is our task. But Benedict XVI has laid solid foundations for us.
CWR: Do you foresee his resignation and the upcoming conclave having an
effect on the Conference?
In the light of his
retirement I imagine that many of the speakers will want to pay tribute to His
Holiness. And perhaps it will focus us more clearly on exploring the task of
building upon the foundations he has laid.
The conclave itself
will not impact directly on the conferenceunless one of our speakers is elected, in which case the program will
probably have to be adjusted!
The new pope may well,
and rightly, prioritize other areas of the Church’s life. He would be able to
do so all the more securely in the light of the foundations for sound
liturgical practice and teaching laid by his predecessor.
We plan to attend the
papal Mass of Saints Peter and Paul on the morning after the conference closes,
and one clear effect of his resignation is that Benedict XVI will not be the
celebrant that day. In some ways this will add a note of sadness. But the Holy
Spirit will give us a new pope who will be there, and as ever it will be a joy
and a grace to be close to Peter, to pray with him, and to be strengthened by
CWR: Who are some of the most notable speakers who will be presenting at the conference?
What can participants expect in terms of key topics and themes addressed in the
Dom Alcuin Reid: Cardinal Ranjith’s opening address on the liturgy as
the “source and summit of the life and mission of the Church” is certainly key.
Three other cardinals will contribute: Cardinal Burke will speak of the place
of liturgical law in the mission of the Church. Cardinal Cañizares will celebrate and preach at Mass, as will Cardinal Brandmüller.
Speakers have been
selected because of their scholarship, good practice, and expertise. I’ve
already mentioned some. Msgr. Guido Marini, the papal Master of Ceremonies, is
well known. Don Nicola Bux may be familiar because of his publications on the
liturgy. Professor Tracey Rowland’s work on Benedict XVI is widely acclaimed
and I, for one, am looking forward to her paper on “The usus
antiquior and the New Evangelization.” Some speakers may be less
familiar because they work in a different language (there will be simultaneous translation
available at the conference), but they have important contributions to make at
an international level. The conference website has a full list of speakers and
topics, with one yet to be confirmed.
CWR: How can readers learn more about the conference?
Dom Alcuin Reid: Our website has
all the relevant information in the five languages of the conference, including
facilities for online registration. It also gives the links to our Facebook page and Twitter account
on which updates are posted regularly. People can contact the conference
secretariat through the website if they need other information.
To date we have confirmed participants from over 20
countries. Registrations are coming in from lay men and women, religious,
seminarians and other students, deacons, priests, and even bishops. Sacra
Liturgia 2013 promises to be a large and diverse gathering which augurs well
for the liturgical renewal encouraged by Benedict XVI and for the New Evangelization.