Tuesday, January 26, 2010

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

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.


Our Word said...


I heard about this new blog on NLM (http://www.newliturgicalmovement.org/2010/01/pray-tell-new-blog.html), and while the good Mr. Tucker is very charitable to them, I must admit being extremely skeptical about it.

Their sniffing at the ad orientem posture is the canary in the coal mine for me; if you're going to disregard that (and for what it's worth, I've seen versus populum celebrations that were done quite reverently - that still doesn't make it ideal), then it seems to me you've shown your true colors.

One hopeful sign, as you and others have noted, is if they can keep the discussion on a high, charitable plain. To do that, even though we may disagree, is a commendable goal indeed.


Unknown said...


Fr. Ruff posted this: [Full disclosure: I personally rather like Latin propers, and kneeling, and the eastward orientation of the Eastern churches.]

Maybe somebody else sniffed. But if a priest from St. John's says he like's ad orientem, that to me is a very good sign.

But I think that we will be seeing a wide spectrum of opinion.

I have asked a layperson with a large following to monitor it. The guy writes very well and has a large national following. I asked another priest blogger who was very skeptical that they would be of interest.

Our Word said...

Ray, I guess I'm on the priest blogger's side. For example, if you read the excerpt from the NLM piece to which I linked, you can sense some of his feelings regarding the position which the priest faces. Perhaps he didn't exactly sniff, but I think he had a runny nose.

Unknown said...

I would be all for versus populum if the priests would say the Mass as it is supposed to be said.

But when they face the people there is an incredible self-imposed pressure to show off, to become the MC, the entertainer.

I went to the 4:30 at the Basilica yesterday. They bring priests down from SJU to say some of the weekend Masses.

This one did a fine job for a time and then when he got to the Our Father he started substituting his own words for those of the GIRM. What is there that possess these priests to do this? It's very common.

If priests were facing the tabernacle and the large crucifix, that just wouldn't happen (as much).

Fr. Ruff is younger than 40, it appears. The Benedictine at the Basilica was in his 50s and I would bet that Father Baldovin is in his 50s or older, too. He is a Jesuit and well into his 60s or maybe even 70s. I rest my case.

It's an age issue.