Monday, November 28, 2005

Gone to the Heavenly Liturgy

Just when you thought the picture couldn't be bleaker for the liturgical movement, word's come from Boston that Msgr. Frederick McManus, the father of the American renewal, passed peacefully away early yesterday. He was 82.

McManus, a canon lawyer by trade known to one and all as "Fred," became the founding president of the Liturgical Conference in 1959 and was named the following year to the body from which flowed the Conciliar Decree on the Liturgy Sacrosanctum Concilium. Instrumental in the establishment of ICEL and the return of the church's public prayer to an austere, dignified sense of substance, America's most eminent liturgy award -- given by the Federation of Diocesan Liturgical Commissions -- was named for McManus in 1995.

On accepting the Frederick R. McManus Award in 2003, Bishop Donald Trautman of Erie -- who was nominated from the floor by his conferes the following year to return to the chairmanship of the US Bishops' Committee for the Liturgy -- spoke of the state of the movement its namesake championed
In 1956 Pope Pius XII summed up in one sentence the meaning of the liturgical movement. He said that the liturgical movement was a sign of the providential disposition of God, a sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit in the Church to draw people more closely to the mysteries of faith and the riches of grace which flow from active participation in liturgical life. Note the key phrase in the Pope’s message: “The liturgical movement is a sign of the movement of the Holy Spirit” in the Church today. It is not a fad, it is not the work of liturgical terrorists, not the invention of liberal liturgical scholars; the liturgical movement is the will of the Spirit for all of God’s people.

Today liturgists face major challenges. The euphoria of Vatican II has ended. As the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy fades in time, is it also fading in influence? Do we recognize a pullback from the liturgical principles, a lessening of collaboration, a return to devotionalism rather than Eucharistic celebration? Is there a liturgical backsliding that causes us to be disillusioned, dejected, disheartened? We need to recall the founders of the American Liturgical Movement. These liturgical pioneers did not give up and we must not give up. We must not surrender the progress made at Vatican II.

St. Paul once told his parishioners: While you are waiting for the Lord to come, “Do not quench the Spirit”. Do not stifle the Spirit. These are words for the Church today. When we encounter those who advocate a “reform of the reform”, we must say, “Do not quench the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit was present at Vatican II and gave us new liturgical direction. When we encounter people who harken back to rigidity in rubrics, we must say. “Do not quench the Spirit.” When inculturation is denied and one liturgical form is forced on all, we must say, “Do not quench the Spirit.” When the Scripture translations in our Lectionary are flawed and not proclaimable, we must say, “Give us the richness of God’s Word: Do not quench the Spirit.” The Holy Spirit prompted the renewal and reform of the liturgy. Now, more than ever, we must say, “Do not quench the Spirit.”
McManus' funeral is slated for Friday in the Boston suburbs. The timing is almost providential, as the gathered ICEL alums and worship gurus will have some interesting new developments to observe by that time.