The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is presenting the first of what is expected to be a series of history lessons rooted in the documents of the Second Vatican Council when it hosts a liturgical congress, Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Cousins Center.

The congress is built around the first document – “Sacrosanctum Concilium” (“The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy”) – written by the council and proclaimed by Pope Paul VI, Dec. 4, 1963. Subsequent presentations regarding the council’s major documents will follow in chronological order of the approximate 50th anniversary of the dates on which they were proclaimed.

If you go

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Liturgical Congress will be held Saturday, Feb. 1, at the Cousin’s Center, 3501 S. Lake Drive, St. Francis. A list of speakers and topics, as well as registration, are available online, or by calling (414) 769-3353. Registration deadline is Friday, Jan. 24.

According to Dean Daniels, director of the archdiocesan Office of Worship, he and those who planned the congress wanted an event that would “bring out the high points of ‘The Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy’ without it becoming so erudite and heady that no one would attend.” 

To that end, the group focused on four areas – mystery of the Eucharist; sacraments and sacramentals; sacred music; and art and architecture. Each of those tracks will include four presentations during the daylong event. Planners looked to local liturgical ministers to serve as presenters. 

“That was by design,” Daniels said, noting that other than bringing in a keynote speaker (see Page 4), the committee didn’t have the budget to bring in a lot of outside speakers. “We have a lot of talent here in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and in the Chicago area.”

A major source of funding for the congress is a $15,000 grant from the Faith in Our Future Trust. This allows parish participants to pay a reduced rate rather than the full price that others will pay to attend.

Dynamic church, liturgy


     Setting the tone for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s liturgical congress will be Paulist Fr. Ricky Manalo, a lecturer in the department of religious studies at Santa Clara University and liturgical composer.Paulist Fr. Ricky Manalo

     “He is a fine theologian, as well as a pastoral musician. His expertise is enculturation of the liturgy: ‘What are the main parts of the liturgy that every culture celebrates?’ That’s how he ties things together,” according to Dean Daniels, director of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Office of Worship. 

     He noted that the way each culture receives the liturgy is “culturally dependent.” 

     “We (in the United States) access the liturgy from an egalitarian understanding, but the liturgy itself is a hierarchical system which means there are certain items in the liturgy that are more important than others. But they tie together to form an entire unit,” Daniels said.

     Fr. Manalo will use the social cultural context to show how Catholics experience liturgy in their daily lives, and how it can affect their lives, according to Daniels. He said that no matter one’s cultural context “liturgy is still able to speak to that culture in a very emphatic manner.”

     “(Fr. Manalo) does it in such an engaging way,” Daniels said. “He wants us to see liturgy in such a rich, multi-cultural way.”

— Brian T. Olszewski

Daniels noted the planning committee was comprised of academics and people involved in liturgy on the parish level, but the congress is designed to be a pastoral exercise, not an academic one. 

The blend of academic/pastoral mirrors work done on the constitution itself.

“When we look at the document, we see that there was a lot of academic groundwork that happened 50 years before the document – not only academic groundwork, but pastoral groundwork as well,” said Daniels, citing the work done by Benedictines in Europe and in Collegeville, Minn. “So when we look historically at Vatican Council II, it just didn’t all of sudden pop out of the pope’s mind; he looked at the history of liturgical renewal in Europe at the time and said let’s bring this to fruition.”

Noting what had transpired for a half a century prior to Vatican II, during the council itself where the emphasis was on liturgical reform and a revamping of internal church structures, and in the 50 years since, Daniels said he wants people to see the church as a living church.

“One thing we learned from the council is that the church is dynamic and that the liturgy is dynamic. It’s not a static, once and for all,” he said. “It comes from what was before. We don’t create something in the liturgy that doesn’t have its genesis somewhere else in the history of the liturgy. It’s all connected.”

Interpretation of Gospel dependent upon culture

Referring to Pope Francis’ statements that while the church reforms itself, the Gospel message remains the same, Daniels said “how we interpret that Gospel message is culturally dependent on what’s going on in the real world when people are living their lives.”  

“We, as Catholics, are uncomfortable with the term ‘reformation’ because it brings up to us a historical thing; we were attacked so we use the term ‘continuity.’ Pope Benedict used the term ‘the hermeneutic of discontinuity.’ So continuity is what we have in the liturgy,” he said.

With the Council of Trent (1545-1563), Daniels noted, the church was defending itself from the Reformation. Thus, liturgical practice was a response to something.

“What we see in Vatican II is that the liturgy is not being defensive of something, but it is opening up the treasures of the Patristic Era (100-600), which was a very simple, pastoral liturgy and not a high, artistic art form. It spoke to the people where they were,” he said. “Our reformed liturgy of the Council of Trent became a very rubric-centered liturgy where you had to follow the rules in order to get to the centrality of the liturgy. That served a purpose. What we see in Vatican Council II is that the liturgy is the source; it’s not a following of rules, but it’s meant to be food and medicine to help us live our lives as Christians.”

It’s about the message

For those attending the congress, e.g., clergy, lectors, cantors, musicians, environment planners, Daniels hopes that in whatever ministry they are involved, they will realize, “It’s not about them.”

Citing a lector who attends Bishop Richard J. Sklba’s presentation, “Role of the Word,” Daniel said, “It’s about the words they’re going to read. How do I get out of the way so the people who are listening to me speak hear what I’m saying and not how I’ve said it?”

He said musicians attending one of the workshops in their ministry should realize not that “‘This is my moment in the spotlight,’ but they are singing ancient texts to help somebody live their life during the week.”

Daniels, a cantor in his parish, said, “When people come up to me after Mass and say, ‘I love it when you’re the cantor,’ it makes me feel good. But what I ask them to say is, ‘Yes, we sing well together, don’t we?’ because I’m part of a community trying to get across a formative message, not an educational message, trying to form Christian disciples and not Christian academics. What I’m hoping (participants) take away from it is that it’s not about them. It’s about the message that their talent delivers.”