Friday, September 22, 2006

CIEL colloquium explores "the genius of the Roman liturgy"

Yet another article, this time from Brian Mershon who attended the colloquium on behalf of The Wanderer. This particular piece (CIEL UK colloquium explores "the genius of the Roman liturgy") will appear in The Wanderer on Sept. 28th.

Here is the text:

Brian Mershon
September 21, 2006

OXFORD, United Kingdom — Shawn Tribe, from the increasingly popular "The New Liturgical Movement" blog (, outlined the substance of the liturgical colloquium for Centre International d'Etudes Liturgiques (CIEL) (International Centre for Liturgical Studies), which took place at Merton College in Oxford September 12-16.

Interesting that as things shape up, this "new" liturgical movement has all the appearances of exploring the depths of the most ancient spiritual, liturgical, musical, architectural, and devotional depths of the Roman liturgy and ecclesiastical traditions. Indeed, that would be quite "new" to those who have experienced only the manufactured liturgy of 1970.

Many U.S. Catholics (including myself prior to attendance at this colloquium) are unfamiliar with CIEL's ever-important and influential work, its purposes and goals. While affiliate organizations exist in Rome, the United Kingdom, Canada, and the United States, CIEL has been primarily a French phenomenon. And indeed a sizable French presence was noticed and experienced throughout the conference.

With Pope Benedict XVI's obvious emphasis on the Sacred Liturgy, The Wanderer covered this conference throughout its 12 talks from notable Catholic academics and clergy. And a surprising, edifying, and unexpected spiritual rejuvenation was the experience of several attendees as well. Indeed, the heart, mind, soul, and body were all filled to capacity at the close of the Pontifical Solemn High Mass on Saturday, September 16.

The offices of Lauds, Vespers, and Compline were chanted daily at Merton Chapel, as well as Solemn High Mass each day at noon, capped off with a rousing Solemn Pontifical High Mass on Saturday at noon, with Bishop David McGough, an auxiliary from the Archdiocese of Birmingham, England. Exquisite organ music with integrated Gregorian chant was provided throughout the colloquium, most notably from what became popularly known as "that traveling French schola" and a singer from Australia.

The presence of this excellent schola enabled the organic, not coerced, participation of the lay faithful throughout the colloquium with noticeable improvement on a daily basis. Repetitio est mater studiorum. Repetition is the mother of studies. And so this was borne out.

The noticeable active participation of the attendees, as well as their improvements in singing the offices of the day, was the subject of discussions of several attendees. Of course the acoustics in this once Catholic Merton Chapel, especially with choir stalls facing each other throughout the congregation, further enhanced this otherworldly musical phenomenon in giving glory and praise to God.

Not only was the Sacred Liturgy discussed, it was lived by the attendees of the colloquium. Several attendees commented that what they initially believed would be merely academic talks turned into a mini-retreat, almost monastic in character, as well.

With more than 120 Catholic laymen, priests, and academics gathered from France, Australia, Switzerland, Canada, the United States, England, Ireland, and elsewhere, the universality of Catholicism was evident. Or as Dr. Sheridan Gilley noted in his paper presentation, "Roman Liturgy and Popular Piety," focusing on the inculturation of Catholicism primarily in Ireland in the 1800s, "The old rite made for a more inclusive Church."

While the purpose of CIEL can be found easily on its web site, in a nutshell, the Colloquium provided the latest in academic studies on the Roman liturgical tradition, which one hopes will assist the Church in recovering them — in other words, how to worship God in a manner most pleasing and befitting Him. And second, this experience was lived through actuoso participatio in the Sacred Liturgy as well. One layman's perspective was that the Colloquium successfully accomplished these objectives.

Indeed, in these hallowed halls of Oxford, the ghost of John Cardinal Henry Newman was noticeably present. The reverberating echoes of the living, but ancient liturgical music and language, lived out, taught, and inculcated in the midst of Oxford, would have brought a broad smile to the face of this giant figure who once walked these very halls. No fewer than 84 churches, chapels, oratories, and other related once-Catholic monuments and buildings dot the grounds of this one-time bastion of Catholicism.

The Catholic priest from the Oratory who took us on our tour of the Oxford College grounds, Fr. Jerome Bertram, speculated that each day during this recent conference at the Oratory, where the 25 or so priest attendees offered the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass in its ancient Roman form, there may have been more Catholic Masses offered daily there since before the Protestant Revolt (misnomered as "Reformation").

Whether they knew it or not, both the priests and the colloquium organizers and participants were making their little bit of history in these Catholic and once-Catholic chapels. The resulting graces flowing from these Masses and chanted prayers for each participant, priest, and the college and town itself are known to God alone. But a rich and cultured history was indeed present, not as some dusty relic of the past, during this colloquium.

Some U.S. Catholics may be familiar with Una Voce, an international organization, with which Una Voce America is affiliated. Una Voce is a grassroots, lay-led apostolate whose goal is to work in conjunction with bishops and priests to encourage them to offer the Classical Roman rite of Mass (Traditional Latin Mass) in a "wide and generous" manner throughout their dioceses, as requested to bishops by Pope John Paul II in his apostolic letter, Ecclesia Dei Adflicta, in 1988. Una Voce also actively promotes the use of Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony in the Sacred Liturgy, as well as works to establish private parishes dedicated toward a full liturgical life according to the Classical Roman rite.

CIEL is also a lay-led, academically oriented initiative that includes notable scholars such as Rev. Dr. Alcuin Reid (author of The Organic Development of the Liturgy), Dr. Michael Lang (author of Turning Towards the Lord), and Professor Lauren Pristas, whose work has been recognized and noted at high levels of the Vatican Curia. Pristas' recent scholarly articles demonstrate the substantial differences in theology in some of the prayers (orations) from the Bugnini-Pauline missal when compared with the same prayers in the 1962 missal.

All three of these scholars appeared at the Merton College colloquium, and all of them have written works that have gained the attention of members of the Roman Curia. Dr. Reid's book contains a preface written by none other than our current Pope. Also, Rev. Dr. Lang recently co-presented the theme of his book in Rome at a conference with the new secretary of the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, Archbishop Ranjith of Sri Lanka. Fr. Nicola Bux, from Bari, Italy, a consultant for the Congregation of the Doctrine of the Faith, also presented a paper at Merton on the theological aspects of the Roman liturgy.

A note of gratitude and special thanks to Neville McNally, lieutenant commander in the Royal Navy and director of CIEL UK; Anthony Delarue, CIEL Colloquium organizer; and Shawn Tribe, director of CIEL Canada, whose encouragement and promotion of this colloquium, and assistance with logistics for North American attendees, was noted by several priests and laymen from North America.

Patrons of CIEL UK included His Eminence Alfons Maria Cardinal Stickler, SDB, Archduke Philipp of Austria, and Fr. Konrad zu Loewenstein, FSSP. Dario Cardinal Castrillon Hoyos, who was initially scheduled to offer the Pontifical Solemn High Mass, sent a letter of encouragement and blessings prior to the colloquium.

Twenty-five priests, including at least two diocesan directors of liturgy and the sacraments (Atlanta and Charleston, S.C.), the Priestly Fraternity of St. Peter (Switzerland, France, and the U.S.), St. John Cantius Canons of Chicago, Fr. Daniel Augustine Oppenheimer and his two canons from St. Louis' Canons of the New Jerusalem, a diocesan priest and a monsignor from Des Moines, Iowa, a religious from the Diocese of La Crosse, Wis., and at least two priests from Ireland were representative examples of the width and breadth of priestly representation at the colloquium.

A True Restoration

The future of the Church is indeed bright, at least in pockets, as many young people engaged actively in this colloquium dedicated to restoring the heritage, culture, and traditions of our very own faith of our fathers, in the midst of the surrounding postconciliar ash heap and impostor "renewal."

And fully in keeping with Sacrosanctum Concilium, the Second Vatican Council's document on the Sacred Liturgy, Gregorian chant and sacred polyphony were given "pride of place," as well as the Church's Latin language, which the document called "to be retained in the Latin rite."

My personal opinion is that the CIEL Colloquium and other similar conferences and retreats being held more frequently throughout the world are a significant spark in a true restoration and revitalization of the Sacred Liturgy, and indeed thereby, the life of the Church militant.

Adveniat Regnum Tuum!

Brian Mershon is a commentator on cultural issues from a classical Catholic perspective. His trade is in media relations, and his vocation is as a husband to his beloved wife Tracey and father to his six living children. He attempts to assist his family and himself in attaining eternal salvation through frequent attendance at the Traditional Latin rite of Mass, homeschooling, and building Catholic culture in the buckle of the Bible Belt of Greenville, South Carolina.

© Copyright 2006 by Brian Mershon

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