Catholic scholars from the United States are in Rome right now joining pilgrims from around the world at a conference on the sacred liturgy of the Catholic Church, Sacra Liturgia 2013. Cardinals, bishops, and other luminaries of the Church are headlining the international conference, the goal of which is "to study, promote and renew the appreciation of liturgical formation and celebration and its foundation for the mission of the Church," according to the organizers.
The Cardinal Newman Society is co-sponsoring Sacra Liturgia and providing registration scholarships for nine Catholic academics and others in order that their participation will spur on liturgical renewal in Catholic higher education. This is part of a larger project of the Newman Society aiming to articulate the arguments, discuss best practices and identify strategies for promoting liturgical renewal on Catholic campuses. The following post by Dr. Peter Kwasniewski, one of our scholars at Sacra Liturgia, is the first in a series of several articles at Catholic Education Daily about how Catholic colleges and universities can live out authentic Catholic liturgical life on campus.
The Mass is the source and summit of our lives as Christians. This is true in a special way for a community of learners who are dedicating themselves to the effort of acquiring Christian wisdom. This effort, to be successful, requires a well-formed prayer life; and at the center of our prayer life stands the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass. One may and should promote the Liturgy of the Hours, lectio divina, Eucharistic adoration and Marian devotions. Yet indispensable as these things are, none of them is the invisible axis that joins heaven and earth, the “still point” where time and eternity meet and the real presence of the Lord lights up and warms our world, touches our bodies and nourishes our souls. A college community aspiring to be authentically Catholic must nourish and form its students by the Eucharist celebrated in the most worthy manner, according to the best of our heritage.
Such a commitment should mean the regular use of the Roman Church’s mother tongue, Latin; her native music, Gregorian chant; her time-tested and unbroken customs. This is not a mere matter of taste or preference; it is a matter of internal consistency within the educational program, a matter of consistency with Catholic ideals. Why would we study the best that our Tradition has to offer—the Fathers and Doctors and mystics of the Church—but not worship in a way like unto the way they worshiped? Why would we dazzle the eyes and ears of our students with the glories of Western art and music, but not ensure for them the greatest glory of all—the Holy Mass celebrated with dignity, solemnity, and beauty? Truly the Mass must be the focal point of the daily campus life, and this it will only be when a concerted effort has been made to purify and elevate the details of its celebration.
I remember how impressed I was when reading for the first time a passage from Vatican II’s Decree on Education, Gravissimum Educationis:
A Christian education does not merely strive for the maturing of a human person as just now described [in terms of psychological and social maturity], but has as its principal purpose this goal: that the baptized, while they are gradually introduced to the knowledge of the mystery of salvation, become ever more aware of the gift of Faith they have received, and that they learn in addition how to worship God the Father in spirit and truth (cf. Jn 4:23) especially in liturgical action, and be conformed in their personal lives according to the new man created in justice and holiness of truth (Eph 4:22-24); also that they develop into perfect manhood, to the mature measure of the fullness of Christ (cf. Eph 4:13) and strive for the growth of the Mystical Body; moreover, that aware of their calling, they learn not only how to bear witness to the hope that is in them (cf. 1 Pet 3:15) but also how to help in the Christian formation of the world that takes place when natural powers viewed in the full consideration of man redeemed by Christ contribute to the good of the whole society.
According to the Council, whose authentic teaching we are supposed to be rediscovering in this Year of Faith, the main purpose of Catholic education is not merely imparting a lot of information, not promoting psychological or social maturity, not preparing students for successful careers, and so forth, but increasing in each student his or her awareness of the gift of faith, its content, its meaning, and most of all, the transformative power of that faith in the sublime worship of Almighty God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. This, the Council seems to be saying by the very order of its phrases, is the very foundation for the effective transformation of the world by preaching and witness. The New Evangelization will falter, will not even get off the ground, if it is not firmly and deeply planted in the solemn, reverent, beautiful enactment of the sacred mysteries of our salvation.
[Dr. Peter Kwasniewski is Professor of Theology and Philosophy at Wyoming Catholic College in Lander, Wyoming. He earned a B.A. in Liberal Arts from Thomas Aquinas College, and an M.A. and Ph.D. in Philosophy from The Catholic University of America. He has taught at the International Theological Institute in Austria, lectured for the Austrian Program of Ave Maria University, for the Phoenix Institute Europe Foundation, and for the Austrian Program of the Franciscan University of Steubenville. His articles have appeared in many scholarly and popular journals, and he has published two books with The Catholic University of America Press: Wisdom's Apprentice and On Love and Charity. In addition to his teaching, Dr. Kwasniewski is a composer of sacred music and has directed choirs for the past twenty years; he currently directs the Wyoming Catholic College Choir and Schola.]
[Wyoming Catholic College is recommended by The Cardinal Newman Society at TheNewmanGuide.com.]
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