Tuesday, January 26, 2010

More on the new blog from St. John's, "Pray Tell"

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The previous post was the introductory letter for the blog "Pray Tell" that saw its first Post December 30. Father Anthony Russ, O.S.B., a professor of liturgy at St. John's University in Collegeville is the blog coordinator. But it is to be a group blog with lots of participants.

I have never had any formal studies in liturgy or theology. But I have heard a lot and many will say that the liturgists of St. John's and their Liturgical Press were active participants in many of things that 45 years later many of us would like to see changed: removed or changed back to the way they were.

So the initial reaction to news of a blog coming out of SJU will be one of suspicion and avoidance.

I don't know that that is entirely justified. First of all some of the participants who will be blogging weren't born at the time of the the Second Vatican Council. They are bloggers. Bloggers generally are younger. And we all know that our younger priests are much more traditional than some of the older priests. Of course, not all older priests are enamored of the changes of the Spirit of Vatican II. And probably some younger priests are!

There is no huge ground swell for a return to Latin in the Archdiocese. Likewise, except for the usual suspects, most of the parishes follow the wishes of the bishop in the celebration of their liturgies. Music might be the most controversial issue in the archdiocese, I am thinking.

Most interesting about the scope of Pray Tell are these two paragraphs by Father Ruff in his welcome letter:


  • Some people speak today of “liturgy wars.” (Maybe we should be grateful for such evidence of high interest in liturgy!?) Some talk of a “Reform of the Reform,” which apparently wants to undo the “damage” of the past 45 years. Some zealots on the Right have an unmistakable focus on the musical and archeological and ceremonial externals: east not west, propers not hymns, kneeling not standing, and so forth. [Full disclosure: I personally rather like Latin propers, and kneeling, and the eastward orientation of the Eastern churches.] This blog arose from our sense that the conversation needs to broadened, deepened, redirected. Moderate and progressive voices need to be in dialogue with zealous traditional voices. The “spiritual import” which is the “real nature of the liturgy” needs to be reemphasized. The fundamental pastoral intent of the Second Vatican Council, and of the larger ecumenical liturgical movement of that era, needs to be restated, refined, defended.

  • Some will ask, Is this to be a liberal blog? Well, what else would you expect from Collegeville?! But more needs to be said than that. If liberal means open-minded, self-questioning, ecumenical, attentive to contemporary culture, and avoidant of romantic nostalgia, then we surely hope to be liberal. But if liberal means yesterday’s progressivism, yesterday’s ideals as if the culture and the churches haven’t changed dramatically since the 1970s or 1980s, then we hope to be not at all liberal. Those in the “old guard,” if there be such, can expect to be challenged and engaged.


Father Ruff will not be the only blogger on Pray Tell. And there will be lots of comments, most of them initially from liturgical departments of universities around the country, and perhaps the world. The list of the contributors to the blog contains 24 names, half of whom have already posted, or commented to another post. That bodes well for the future. I don't frequent the taverns where liturgists hang out, so I only recognized two of the names, Fr. Michael Joncas, who needs no introduction, and Johan van Parys, the liturgist at the Basilica who has a PhD from Notre Dame in liturgy.

Recent posts include:

I've read a few of these posts and I have seen nothing at all controversial. There might be some things with which I wouldn't agree, but far fewer than I initially expected.

I am hoping and praying that Pray Tell will be a positive and powerful forum for educating and straightening out the abuses of the liturgy that regularly occur and most importantly, provide aid in assisting bishops and pastors in the implementation of the new translation of the Mass that will be coming out in 2011 or 2012. That will be a difficult task. Resistance to it is already being organized.

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