From June 1-4 New York City will be host to Sacra Liturgia USA 2015, the first Sacra Liturgia initiative in the United States. It follows on from its international conference in Rome in 2013 on liturgical formation, celebration, and the role of the liturgy in the mission of the Church, convened by Bishop Dominique Rey of Fréjus-Toulon, France. The proceedings of the Rome conference, Sacred Liturgy: The Source and Summit of the Life and Mission of the Church, were published by Ignatius Press in 2014.
Catholic World Report recently corresponded with Dom Alcuin Reid, Sacra Liturgia’s international coordinator,about the upcoming conference in New York City.
CWR: How did the initiative for a Sacra Liturgia conference in New York come about?
Dom Alcuin: Following our conference in Rome in 2013, at which a large number of American clergy, religious and laity were present, an approach was made through me to Bishop Rey to see if a similar initiative could be organized in the USA. We were delighted at the request and have done all that we can to support an event in the States.
Once New York City was identified as the most appropriate location for a conference Bishop Rey wrote to the Archbishop, His Eminence, Timothy Cardinal Dolan. The Cardinal welcomed the initiative immediately; indeed, he will honor us by presenting an address of welcome at the opening session on Monday afternoon, June 1st.
CWR: Have you found much support for Sacra Liturgia in the USA?
Dom Alcuin: Yes indeed; a great deal. The Knights of Columbus, who sponsored the Rome conference, have been most generous once again. So too, other 2013 sponsors such as the Cardinal Newman Society, Arte Granda and DeMontfort Music are very keen to do all that they can to ensure the success of Sacra Liturgia USA. We have been delighted to receive the support of new sponsors as well.
We have also been blessed with a great local organizing team led by Dr Jennifer Donelson, the Director of Sacred Music at St Joseph’s Seminary, Dunwoodie, NY, and Fr Richard Cipolla, Pastor of St Mary’s, Norwalk, CT. Fr Jordan Kelly, OP, pastor of the parish of St Catherine of Siena (E 68th St) has graciously welcomed us to his beautiful Church for our liturgical celebrations and additionally has given us invaluable administrative help. The team at the excellent venue for the presentations—the Kaye Playhouse at Hunter College (68th St between Park & Lexington)—has been most welcoming also.
CWR: What do you hope to achieve through this conference?
Dom Alcuin: I think the reason people wanted a Sacra Liturgia conference in the USA was because they saw that what we did in Rome was to further peoples’ formation in what the Sacred Liturgy is, in how to celebrate and pray it, and in appreciating its utterly fundamental role in living the Christian life of witness and mission in the world of the twenty-first century. We did this at various levels—practically by the full and beautiful celebration of the older and the newer rites, academically through the presentations of many expert scholars and pastors which have done a lot already to move liturgical scholarship forward, and informally through the contacts and networks built up throughout the conference.
If our New York conference can continue that work of liturgical formation and sound scholarship and put people in contact with one another we shall be very pleased.
CWR: What place does this conference have in what has become known as the “new liturgical movement”?
Dom Alcuin: Certainly Sacra Liturgia wishes to be seen as something standing at the centre of the new liturgical movement. That is a phrase that comes from Pope Benedict XVI’s book The Spirit of the Liturgy, written as Cardinal Ratzinger before his election to the papacy.
We look to support all that is good and true in the liturgical life of the Church: we promote an authentic interpretation of the Second Vatican Council’s mandate for liturgical reform and an assessment of the implementation of its Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy that is faithful to the Council. We are open to an ongoing consideration of the value of a possible reform of the reform. Most certainly we work for the integral celebration of the usus recentior (the modern liturgy) with an optimal ars celebrandi—that way of celebrating the liturgy fully, beautifully and in harmony with its received tradition—as well as an openness to the value and riches of the usus antiquior (the older rites) in the Church today.
All of these are elements of the new liturgical movement. If we can move forward on these fronts Catholics will be able to draw ever more deeply from the source and summit of Christian life—which is what the Sacred Liturgy is—and our mission in the world will be stronger, more effective.
CWR: Is there a general theme to the conference?
Dom Alcuin: Apart from the goals I’ve just mentioned there is no set “theme”, though the keynote address, to be given at the opening session by His Eminence Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke, entitled “Beauty in the Sacred Liturgy and the Beauty of a Holy Life,” sums up what we are about. We want to do all that we can to enable people to live holy lives, and getting the Sacred Liturgy right, getting liturgical formation and celebration right, is utterly fundamental to that. That’s what we’re trying to do.
CWR: Who are some of the different speakers and presenters?
Dom Alcuin: There are sixteen addresses in all. I’ve already mentioned Cardinal Burke’s keynote. Archbishop Cordileone of San Francisco will speak on “Liturgical Leadership in a Secular Society: A Bishop’s Perspective”. We have renown scholars such as Dr Lauren Pristas speaking on “The Reform of Liturgical Texts of Principal Feast Days”, pastors such as Fr Christopher Smith on “Liturgical Formation and Catholic Identity”, Fr Thomas Kocik on “The Reform of the Reform”, Abbot Anderson of Clear Creek on “Living the Liturgy: The Monastic Contribution to Liturgical Renewal”, amongst many others. The presentation on “Youth and the Liturgy” by Matthew Menendez, a young university graduate, promises to be particularly interesting given the significant number of young Catholics for whom the ‘question of the liturgy’ is of great importance today. All of the speakers, with their topics and biographies as well as the conference schedule, can be found on the website www.sacraliturgiausa.org.
CWR: What liturgical celebrations will be at the conference?
Dom Alcuin: Following the opening session on Monday, June 1st, we will celebrate Solemn Vespers according to the usus antiquior in the presence of His Eminence, Cardinal Burke, at 7.30pm. On the Tuesday at 5.15pm we will sing a solemn votive Mass of the Holy Angels according to the same use. Archbishop Cordileone will be the principal celebrant of a solemn Mass in the usus recentior on Wednesday, June 3rd at 5.15pm at which Bishop Caggiano of Bridgeport will preach. Thursday, June 4th, the feast of Corpus Christi, Bishop Joseph Perry, Auxiliary in Chicago, will celebrate a pontifical Mass according to the usus antiquior and carry the Blessed Sacrament in procession after the Mass to the Church of St Vincent Ferrer, where the conference will come to an appropriate conclusion with Benediction of the Blessed Sacrament. We are delighted that, at the suggestion of Cardinal Dolan, his Auxiliary, Bishop John O’Hara, will be present at the Mass of Corpus Christi and will preach and participate in the procession.
As I mentioned earlier, thanks to the graciousness of Fr Jordan Kelly OP all our liturgical celebrations will take place at the Church of St Catherine of Siena (E. 68th St). They are open to the public, however because we cannot predict numbers we will reserve seats and booklets for registered conference delegates.
CWR: Is the conference open to anyone?
Dom Alcuin: Most certainly! All who are interested in the Sacred Liturgy are welcome to all or part of the conference. It will be of particular interest to clergy and to laity who work in liturgical ministry, of course, but formation in the Church’s liturgy is not something reserved for specialists—all Catholics can benefit from a deeper appreciation of the Sacred Liturgy and a greater understanding of questions in respect of its history, reform and centrality in the life of the Church.
The conference website (www.sacraliturgiausa.org) provides full and part-time registration options and there is a discount for students in full-time education. Seminarians and religious who need assistance can apply for a scholarship if necessary.
CWR: If some of our readers can’t attend the New York conference, how can they support this initiative?
Dom Alcuin: We would be profoundly grateful for their prayers for its success, that through the teaching, example and formation given at Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 more people will come to draw ever more deeply from the source and summit of Christian life and that our mission in the world will be stronger and more effective.
So too, if any of your readers are able to assist with the sponsorship of seminarians or religious for whom the costs of participating are prohibitive, we—and they—would be profoundly grateful. It would be a beautiful investment in the Church and liturgy of the future to assist in the liturgical formation of seminarians and religious in this way. Readers can contact us through the website or by telephone (347-979-1954).
CWR: What other Sacra Liturgia events are planned for the future?
Dom Alcuin: This is the first USA event and we very much hope that it will give rise to others. This year there is also the Sacra Liturgia Summer School in Provence, in the South of France, from July 4-19 which will include singing Mass and the Divine Office each day, practical training in chant and liturgical ministry, as well as some lectures and pilgrimages. Bishop Athanasius Schneider will be celebrating pontifical Mass on the feast of St Benedict and will giving a conference. Bishop Dominique Rey will celebrate pontifical vespers. It is something of a liturgical working-holiday in a very pleasant part of the world!
Plans are underway for a major Sacra Liturgia conference in England in the United Kingdom in the summer of 2016. I very much hope to be able to announce details in New York in June. Further information about that conference and of any subsequent initiatives will be posted on our central website www.sacraliturgia.org and on our Facebook page.
I should add that the New York event is happening because there were people interested in bringing it about and who have been willing to support it both financially and with their time and energy. If your readers have ideas and also the means with which to put them into practice, let’s talk. Sound liturgical formation is a great need for the Church of our time, and if we can do more to promote that, it would be a great blessing.
Related on CWR:
• “The Liturgy, Fifty Years after Sacrosanctum Concilium” (Dec 4, 2013)
• “Sacred Liturgy: Past, Present, and Future” (Feb 27, 2013)
• “Interview with Dom Alcuin Reid about upcoming ‘Sacra Liturgia’ Conference in Rome” (June 10, 2013)