Wednesday, August 31, 2011

Liturgical Life at Wyoming Catholic College

At the end of our recent article on Thomas More College, I noted that we would like to hear from other Catholic colleges. Accordingly, I was delighted to hear from Dr. Peter Kwasniewski of Wyoming Catholic College who shares an article with us which first appeared on Rorate caeli in February 2010 and which has been updated for posting here at NLM.

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A Rich Liturgical Life at Wyoming Catholic College


by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski
Professor of Theology and Philosophy
Wyoming Catholic College


Pope Benedict XVI is leading the Church out of a forty-year captivity marked by a “hermeneutic of rupture and discontinuity” into a new era in which Vatican II can be seen for what it truly is: one among many Councils, in continuity with them, and not opposed to all that had come before.

This is true in a special way of the Sacred Liturgy. Too often in recent decades the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass has been celebrated in a way that is quite different from, and even opposed to, the way it had been celebrated since time immemorial. The Pope is calling us back to a celebration in keeping with the dignity and mystery of the Eucharistic mystery. He is gently but firmly calling the Church back to continuity with her own Tradition. This is the deepest reason for his motu proprio liberating the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite: he wishes to see the two uses or forms exercising a mutual influence, such that lost continuity can be regained over time. It is a long term strategy with many immediate practical consequences. The “reform of the reform” has indeed begun, and the question that each knowledgeable Catholic must ask himself is this: Am I with the Pope and the real Vatican II, or am I de facto against the Pope because I wish to perpetuate a supposed “spirit of Vatican II”?

All over the world, parishes, chapels, and religious communities are adding the Extraordinary Form to their roster of Masses. The Pope’s example is beginning to have effects on the way Mass in the Ordinary Form is celebrated outside of the Vatican, especially in cities and in cathedrals. Plainchant and polyphony, ornate vessels and vestments, the Latin language, incense, and other such once familiar features of liturgy are returning in a way that could never have been foreseen even ten years ago. The seminaries and religious orders that are swelling most rapidly are those that have heartily embraced the Pope’s reforms.

Catholic institutions of higher learning cannot remain unaffected by the momentous shift taking place in the life of the Church. Rather than keeping students in thrall to the outmoded mentality of the past few decades, a truly Catholic college will set them confidently along the path of the hermeneutic of continuity, following in the footsteps of the Vicar of Christ.

For those who are hoping to hear good news in this regard, Wyoming Catholic College is truly a cause for rejoicing. This college is radical in its educational philosophy and curriculum, because we go back to the roots, the radices, of Western thought and culture. In the eyes of the world we are just about as “retro” as a college can be, but we are convinced that this is ultimately in the best interest of our students. Is it not the same with the liturgy and Catholic life? We want to be radical in the best sense—to connect with the deep roots that nourish our faith and identity as Catholics. Traditional liturgy, be it Western or Eastern, is an essential part of this nourishment; so is the language of the Latin-rite Church and her musical patrimony. Wyoming Catholic College is grateful to Almighty God that we are able to provide such nourishment—the robust and hopeful vision of Pope Benedict XVI—to the future leaders of the Church in this country.

As the Second Vatican Council teaches, the sacred liturgy—and above all, the Holy Eucharist—is “the source and summit” of the Christian life. For this reason, the sacred liturgy is celebrated at Wyoming Catholic College with fidelity to the directives of Holy Mother Church and with loving attention to her Tradition. Taking inspiration and guidance from the teaching and example of Pope Benedict XVI, the College chaplaincy offers a rich liturgical life to students, faculty, staff, and members of the local community. On most days of the week, the collegiate Mass is the Ordinary Form of the Roman Rite, celebrated in English, with common parts (Kyrie, Gloria, Sanctus, Pater Noster, etc.) sung in Gregorian chant, and with antiphons taken from the Graduale Simplex. The main collegiate Mass on Sundays is celebrated with special solemnity, the Schola singing the Introit, Offertory, and Communion antiphons and the College Choir providing hymns and polyphonic music.

In keeping with the generous intentions of Summorum Pontificum, the Extraordinary Form of the Roman Rite is celebrated every Wednesday (12 pm), Saturday (11 am), and Sunday (8 am) by the College’s full-time resident chaplain. On Wednesday it is the only collegiate Mass offered and the majority of students attend it; on Saturday it is the only daily Mass in the town of Lander. On Sunday it is always a Missa Cantata.

About twice a year, a biritual diocesan priest celebrates a fully sung Byzantine Divine Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom (Ukrainian recension). This, together with the Roman rite, affords all of us, including several Eastern-rite Catholics in the student body, a welcome opportunity to “breathe with both lungs” of the Church.

Confessions, all-afternoon Eucharistic adoration, and evening Benediction are part of nearly every day’s schedule. Small groups of students gather daily to pray Lauds, Vespers, and Compline in Latin, and the Rosary in English.

The College has been blessed with visits from a number of prelates who have celebrated the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass with us: The Most Rev. Daniel Cardinal DiNardo; Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap.; Bishop David L. Ricken of Green Bay (one of the College’s founders); Bishop Paul D. Etienne of Cheyenne; Bishop Michael J. Sheridan of Colorado Springs; Bishop Paul S. Coakley of Salinas; and Bishop James D. Conley, Auxiliary Bishop of Denver. Fr. Vernon Clark, a priest of the Diocese of Cheyenne who also ministers to the Carmelite monastery in Wyoming, has twice celebrated a Missa Cantata in the traditional Carmelite Rite. Other priests have made extended stays in Lander, either for personal visits or to assist in The Aquinas Institute for the Study of Sacred Doctrine, and during their stay have celebrated the Extraordinary Form, often as a series of sung Masses: Fr. Samuel Weber, OSB, formerly of the Institute of Sacred Music in St. Louis; Fr. Thomas Bolin, OSB, of the Monastero di San Benedetto in Norcia; Fr. Sebastian Walshe, O.Praem., of St. Michael’s Abbey in California; and Fr. John Zuhlsdorf. The local pastor has been most welcoming and accommodating towards all these visitors and has made a point of including the College’s liturgical and devotional schedule in his parish bulletin.

The general attitude and approach of Wyoming Catholic College is this: whatever form or rite is being used, the sacred liturgy is to be offered in the most beautiful and dignified manner possible, characterized by obedience to current universal norms and by an immense respect for the Church’s ancient heritage.  In recognition of the exalted place of the sacred liturgy in the life of the College, our academic schedule is devised to allow all students and faculty to attend every day.  The College promotes a culture of daily attendance at Mass and we are pleased to see that a majority of the students do attend daily.