Dear Friends in Christ,
The Fifth Principle of Evangelical Catholicism states that “The sacred liturgy, through which the seven Sacraments are celebrated and the Hours of praise are prayed, makes present to us the saving mysteries of the Lord Jesus. The liturgy must therefore be celebrated in such a way that the truth of the Gospel, the beauty of sacred music, the dignity of ritual form, the solemnity of divine worship, and the fellowship of the baptized assembled to pray are kept together in organic unity.”
Since the late 1960’s, the Catholic Church has been convulsed by a great internal struggle that might fairly be described as “Liturgy Wars,” and like all wars, this one has left devastation in its wake. Instead of the renewal of the Church’s interior life which was called for the Fathers of the Second Vatican Council when they set into motion the reform of the sacred liturgy, what most dioceses, parishes, religious orders, and seminaries have experienced for the past 40 years has been chaos, division, confusion, and exhaustion. Even now in too many places, the way in which the liturgy is celebrated is not truly sacred, and such worship does not effectively connect us to the mysteries of salvation because our attention is directed not towards Christ but towards the congregation itself. This is among the many reasons why vocations to the priesthood and religious life are so scarce in many places.
Throughout my priestly ministry, I have attempted to celebrate the sacred liturgy according to the perennial mind of the Church and in complete fidelity to the Second Vatican Council, and the practical result of this effort is experienced in the pews of St. Mary’s. Our celebration of Mass and the Liturgy of the Hours is shaped by the conviction that all authentic worship must be Christ-centered and marked by reverence, dignity, and beauty.
For those interested in understanding more deeply why the Church asks us to pray as we do, I recommend three short texts. The first to read is Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy of the Second Vatican Council; it is only a few pages long, and the text is available online. Next should be The Spirit of the Liturgy by Joseph Ratzinger (later Pope Benedict XVI), a beautiful meditation on the nature and purpose of liturgical worship by the finest theological mind of our time. Finally comes Looking at the Liturgy by Aidan Nichols, OP, a slender but profound volume which explores in greater depth the themes sounded in the Fifth Principle of Evangelical Catholicism. The psalmist sings that we are created “to worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness,” and the sacred liturgy is meant always to lead us to the Lord Jesus. An essential part of the New Evangelization is the full and faithful celebration of the sacred liturgy, and that is what we strive for in all our prayer. Let us go together to the source and summit of the Church’s life and find there a glimpse of the New and Eternal Jerusalem.