Thursday, July 09, 2015

Sacra Liturgia USA Wrap-Up - A Guest Commentary

Fr. David Friel, a priest of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and blogger at Views from the Choir Loft has shared his thoughts in a wrap-up below from the June Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 conference, as well as a link to lengthier summary articles he wrote about the conference presentations.
The SLUSA Facebook page also highlights a number of other substantive articles on the conference, especially those from the blogs of the Cardinal Newman Society and James Monti at The Wanderer
Also, most readers have probably already seen the official photos from SLUSA, courtesy of Stuart and Jill Chessman, but if not, check them out at the SLUSA flickr page
Announcements about Sacra Liturgia 2016 in London and other future events, as well as news of the publication of the proceedings from SLUSA 2015 will be available at the main Sacra Liturgia website, available here: Please note that no audio or video recordings of the presentations and liturgies are available; publication will be in print format only.  
Encountering the Lord on the Upper East Side 
When plans for a Sacra Liturgia conference in New York City were first announced, I was very excited to attend. The 2013 conference in Rome was too far for many Americans to travel, and the prospect of continuing on our shores the work begun two years ago was enticing.

As I sat in the Kaye Playhouse waiting for the opening keynote address to be given, a young man sitting next to me remarked about the noticeable diversity of the conference attendees. In addition to the many priest participants, there were a large number of lay men and women. Participants included professors, musicians, mothers, bishops, seminarians, artists, and non-Catholics. There were people from all across the country present, along with a fair number of international attendees. Ages ranged widely, also, but a youthful vibrancy characterized the proceedings.

From the very outset, it was clear to me that the focus of this conference would be not simply liturgy, but liturgy and evangelization. This was the central theme of the opening remarks delivered by Bishop Frank Caggiano of the Diocese of Bridgeport. He spoke about the New Evangelization and the sacred liturgy as one of its integral tools. Another theme that surfaced throughout the week was beauty. Cardinal Burke, in particular, spoke about our natural human longing for beauty as one of the Transcendentals.

Both themes—evangelization and beauty—were marvelously linked during a presentation by Dr. Margaret Hughes, entitled, “The Ease of Beauty: Liturgy, Evangelization, and Catechesis.” Hughes’ background is in philosophy, and she drew upon her passion for Josef Pieper to make the point that the perception of beauty naturally enables one to participate in the liturgy with ease.

Among the greatest blessings of spending these days in New York City was the fellowship. Sacra Liturgia was an occasion to share conversations (and meals!) with friends I have made through the seminary, the CMAA Colloquium, and the Internet. I also had the happy occasion to meet many new people and to be inspired by their hospitality, good humor, and genuine love for God. The week was an extended experience of the “culture of encounter” about which Pope Francis often speaks.

One of the most significant revelations during the conference came in the form of a letter from Cardinal Sarah, Prefect of the CDW. His Eminence explained that, upon his appointment as Prefect, the Holy Father asked him to implement the liturgical reforms of the Second Vatican Council and “to continue the good work in the liturgy begun by Pope Benedict XVI.” The liturgical vision of Pope Francis, therefore, is to be understood in continuity with the liturgical vision of Pope Benedict, not as a rupture with it.

Sacra Liturgia USA 2015 was dense with intellectual content. A number of the lectures made serious contributions to the present liturgical movement, advancing the reform of the reform proposed by Pope Benedict XVI and now encouraged by Pope Francis. I have previously shared many details of the lectures in several posts at Views from the Choir Loft, available HERE. The academic meat of the lectures combined with the rich liturgical celebrations to form an experience that appealed to the whole person, body, mind, and soul.

This was not a closed-door meeting of entirely like-minded people. A couple of the lectures, in fact, took unexpected positions, and several of the presentations prompted vigorous debate in their respective question & answer periods. The diversity of thought strengthened the quality and pertinence of the proceedings.

For me, as a parish priest—not a liturgical scholar or chancery official or seminary professor—the Sacra Liturgia movement has nothing to do with idealism; my participation in these sessions was inspired neither by nostalgia nor by liturgical militancy. My earnest hope, rather, is that the fruit of this conference would be the revitalization of Catholic worship at the grassroots level, such that God might be more perfectly glorified and His people might be more deeply sanctified.

I am grateful to have experienced true beauty, true peace, and true Christian joy in—of all places—Manhattan.

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