Sacra Liturgia 2015: A “few days of heaven on earth”

An interview with Sacra Liturgia’s international coordinator, Dom Alcuin Reid, about the recent conference in New York City

Sacra Liturgia USA launched in New York City on June 1st with a major conference dedicated to the Sacred Liturgy, continuing the work begun at Sacra Liturgia 2013 in Rome. CWR spoke with Sacra Liturgia’s international coordinator, Dom Alcuin Reid, about how the June 1-4 conference in New York went.

CWR: Dom Alcuin, how did the New York Sacra Liturgia conference go?

Dom Alcuin: Very well indeed, thank you. In fact, I think it far surpassed the organizers’ expectations. Over 350 participants came together from across the United States, as well as from Canada, England and further afield for three and a half days of presentations of the highest quality and for liturgical celebrations of great beauty. One participant wrote in thanking us for “a few days of heaven on earth.” That may be a little exaggerated, but there was much energy and hope throughout the conference, and much satisfaction when it concluded. It was a most positive and—very importantly—a profoundly formative experience for many if not all who came.

CWR: Were there any particular highlights you would like to mention?

Dom Alcuin: Where to begin?! The message sent to the Conference by Robert Cardinal Sarah gave us great joy and much encouragement, particularly when he related the conversation he and the Holy Father had when Cardinal Sarah was appointed to be Prefect of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments. His message is worth reading again for its clarity, beauty and humility.

Then there was the keynote address by Raymond Leo Cardinal Burke “Beauty in the Sacred Liturgy and the Beauty of a Holy Life” – a truly magisterial presentation. Archbishop Cordileone’s paper “Liturgical Leadership in a Secular Society: A Bishop’s Perspective”underlined the integral role of the Sacred Liturgy in the life of a diocese. Father Kocik gave us much to think about in terms of the “Reform of the Reform”. Matt Menendez raised the voice of youth in a way some found very challenging. And so on. All the presenters gave us something, indeed a great deal, to ponder.

Above all, though, the conference liturgies shone forth like a beacon of all that is true, beautiful and good in the Sacred Liturgy. Solemn vespers, reverently concelebrated Mass, a simple solemn Mass as well as a pontifical Mass in the usus antiquior and a profoundly moving Corpus Christi procession of over five blocks on the upper East side with police stopping New York traffic as we went—all celebrated with an optimal ars celebrandi and drawing richly from the Church’s treasury of Gregorian chant and sacred music—these gave us life and breath. They showed us not only what can be done, but indeed that it can be done. These were certainly glimpses of heaven on earth.

As one organiser observed, there was much energy and a great deal of youth present in New York. The number of young men and women present was impressive, including many seminarians and younger clergy. Their enthusiasm for the Sacred Liturgy is a great sign of hope for the Church in our day and for the future.

CWR: Were there any disappointments?

Dom Alcuin: That His Eminence, Cardinal Dolan, was prevented at the last minute from coming to us personally due to urgent business in the State Capital was unfortunate, but he sent a warm message to us saying that “you do the Church in New York, and indeed the whole Church, a service in continuing the conversation of authentic liturgical renewal and reform.” For his message and his welcome we remain profoundly grateful.

The rather facile reporting of one media outlet was also a disappointment. Their reporter seemed neither to engage in any of the academic issues raised nor to appreciate the depth of faith the liturgical celebrations represented and nourished, in spite of being with us for a good deal of the time. Rather, in a manner reminiscent of the 1960s and 70s he seemed only to see the externals. That was unfortunate, because their full and appropriate use today bespeaks a radical commitment to Christ and His Church, which is a real sign of the times.

Some other reports, particularly blog posts, seem rather partisan: ‘the conference didn’t reaffirm my liturgical prejudices, so it was no good’, as it were. These, perhaps, reflect some of the rather myopic stances of the ‘liturgy wars’ of recent decades. They also underline something of the importance of Sacra Liturgia’s identity, if not its mission. We are not partisans. We are open to all that is good and true in the liturgical life of the Church, and we hope that we can discuss matters and listen to perspectives that may not be our own and evaluate them on their merits. Uncritical reactions aren’t helpful. Critical scholarship and charitable discussion are the way forward here.

CWR: How can CWR readers access the conference presentations?

Dom Alcuin: The conference Facebook page posted live highlights of the talks and they are freely available. There is also a photo album on Flickr. The editing of the proceedings will begin very soon and they will be published within the year, all being well. We won’t be releasing full texts before then because the presentations deserve to be read in their entirety, with the appropriate references, etc. They will be available as quickly as possible!

CWR: Finally, what’s next for Sacra Liturgia?

Dom Alcuin: Well, immediately there is the July 2015 Summer School in France. In New York we were very happy to announce that the next major international conference will take place in London, England, from 5-8 July 2016. In fact Cardinal Sarah announced this in his message: we have invited His Eminence to present the keynote address in London 2016 and he very much hopes to be with us to do so. Details of the venue and of speakers should be available by September and will be available at One or two interesting ideas for other events in the United States were floated also. Stay tuned!

Related: “’Sacra Liturgia’ Is Coming to New York City in June”: An interview with Dom Alcuin Reid (May 5, 2015)

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