Church liturgy and catechesis: a critical examination of liturgical development in its relationship to catechesis in the modern Catholic Church

Smith, Josephine Mary (2013) Church liturgy and catechesis: a critical examination of liturgical development in its relationship to catechesis in the modern Catholic Church. PhD thesis, University of Glasgow.

Full text available as:
Download (2MB) | Preview
Printed Thesis Information:


Why this study now?
As the Catholic Church advances through the twenty first century it continues to be
deeply influenced by the great legacy of its previous pontiff Pope John Paul II (1920-
2005). This legacy includes his championing of a new evangelisation; the pivotal role
that he gave to catechesis in this process and his desire to eliminate unacceptable
departures from liturgical norms. Recalling his own words at the Congress of
Liturgical Commissions (1984) Pope John Paul II stated:
In the work of liturgical renewal, desired by the Council, it is necessary to keep in mind "with great balance the part of God and the part of man, the hierarchy and the faithful, tradition and progress, the law and adaptation, the individual and the community, silence and choral praise. Thus the Liturgy on earth will fuse with that of heaven, where ... it will form one choir ... to praise with one voice the Father through Jesus Christ" (Vicesimus Quintus Annos #23).
The words of Pope John Paul II call for a liturgical perspective which is characterised
by moderation and an appreciation of the eschatological dimension of the sacred
liturgy. Through his liturgical writings, Pope John Paul II sought to be a corrective
voice in trying to ensure universal fidelity to the liturgical law. This is exemplified in
his exposition of the centrality of the Eucharist in the life of the Church in Ecclesia de
Eucharistia (2003), a work that was intended to remedy the liturgical ‘abuses’ that
had become apparent in the Church’s worship.
It is acknowledged here that the word ‘abuse’ carries connotations associated with
offenses of a moral nature. Turner (2012), expresses caution about an overuse of the
word ‘abuses’ in the context of how the Church prays and the manner in which the
sacred mysteries are celebrated (p,169). In this discussion on the liturgy (and
throughout this thesis) the word ‘abuse’ is applied in a technical manner to describe
significant departures from liturgical norms which falsify and damage the Church’s
liturgy as well as the tradition and authority of the Church in relation to public
worship 1
In Ecclesia de Eucharistia Pope John Paul II recognises the positive signs of
Eucharistic faith and then he refers to “the shadows” (#10) identifying these as the
abandonment of Eucharistic adoration and also those unorthodox liturgical practices
which resulted in confusion and a weakened understanding of liturgy:
It is my hope that the present Encyclical Letter will effectively help to banish the dark clouds of unacceptable doctrine and practice, so that the Eucharist will continue to shine forth in all its radiant mystery (#10).
Redemptionis Sacramentum seeks to develop a deeper appreciation of the value of
liturgical norms so that the whole Church, Bishops, Priests, Deacons and lay faithful
can carry them out according to their responsibility. There is also recognition of a
clear link between the liturgy of the Church and its faith and the use of unapproved
rites, texts or practices damages this link. The use of the word ‘banish’ in the words
cited above is interesting since it denotes a dramatic and immediate attempt to dispel
rather than a gradual elimination or negotiation. This communicates the urgency and
the level of concern about the unacceptable practices that have obscured the
Eucharistic celebration. In Spiritus et Sponsa (2003), in observance of the fortieth
anniversary of Sacrosanctum Concilium, Pope John Paul II reflects on the degree to 1 The Instruction from the Sacred Congregation for Divine Worship Redemptionis Sacramentum (2004) states: “Certainly the liturgical reform inaugurated by the Council has greatly contributed to a more conscious, active and fruitful participation in the Holy Sacrifice of the Altar on the part of the faithful” (#4). Even so, “shadows are not lacking”(10). In this regard it is not possible to be silent about the abuses, even quite grave ones, against the nature of the Liturgy and the Sacraments as well as the tradition and the authority of the Church, which in our day not infrequently plague liturgical celebrations in one ecclesial environment or another (11). Whenever an abuse is committed in the celebration of the sacred Liturgy, it is to be seen as a real falsification of Catholic Liturgy (171). Among the various abuses there are some which are objectively graviora delicta or otherwise constitute grave matters, as well as others which are nonetheless to be carefully avoided and corrected.
which the spirit and liturgical mandate outlined in Sacrosanctum Concilium has been
implemented by the Church. Pope John Paul’s "chirograph" on sacred music, in
observance of the 100th anniversary of Pope Saint Pius X's document on the same
subject, Tra le sollecitudini (1903), was also intended “to offer the Church practical
guidelines in that vital section of the liturgy…presenting a juridical code of sacred
music” (#1) In all of these writings his deep concern for the sacred liturgy is clearly
Pope John Paul II’s successor to the See of Peter, Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph
Ratzinger), has continued and developed this focus on the centrality of the liturgy in
the life of the Church, although he has approached the matter from a different
perspective. Benedict is a prolific writer on liturgical matters and the dominant focus
of his work on the liturgy is to establish an understanding of its objective nature. As
the current pontiff he is leading the Church into the twenty first century during what is
a challenging and also a privileged time. The English speaking world is both
cautiously and eagerly undertaking the implementation of the new translation of the
Roman Missal (Advent 2011) - a process which will continue to require significant
and sustained programmes of Liturgical Formation and Liturgical Catechesis over
several years. At this stage in its history the Catholic Church faces various other
concurrent pastoral and liturgical challenges in terms of dwindling congregations, a
diminishing number of priests and what some perceive to be a widening of the
perceived gap between the Church and people in the context of a dramatically
changed social landscape (Taylor 2007, p513-516). Despite these massive societal and
ecclesial changes and their sometimes pernicious effects, (or perhaps because of
them), there is also a sense that the Church is entering a vital and exciting era in
liturgical and catechetical development.
The major themes of this thesis are ‘Church’, ‘Liturgy’ and ‘Catechesis’ from which
an associated secondary theme of Liturgical Formation emerged. Part of the
discussion will explore the relationship between these various elements.
The current relevance of this study comes from three main sources. Firstly, the
Pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI is signalling a new phase in the life of the Roman
Catholic Church where sociological influences, ecclesial concerns, catechetical
endeavour and a liturgical agenda are meeting and interacting. His pontificate is
producing a creative synthesis leading the Church into a new stage in the organic
development of the sacred liturgy and the result is prolific liturgical homilies and
writings. Pope Benedict XVI’s papacy is characterised by a desire to ensure a deeper
understanding of the essence of liturgy coupled with a leadership which demonstrates
a reforming zeal for the sacred liturgy. At the centre of the pontiff’s vision to restore
the liturgy (as expressed in The Spirit of the Liturgy), is a belief that a deeper
understanding of, and fidelity to, its objective nature, will help to restore reverence
and beauty in the celebration of sacred rites (2000, p9). He also insists on fidelity to
the authentic vision of liturgical renewal expressed by the Fathers of the Second
Vatican Council (2000, p, 8; p,171). 2 Nearly five decades after this Council, Pope
Benedict XVI is acutely aware that there continues to be a pressing challenge to
ensure accurate translation of the primary conciliar liturgical directive as expressed in
Sacrosanctum Concilium:
Mother Church earnestly desires that all the faithful should be led to that full, conscious and active participation in liturgical celebrations which is demanded by the very nature of the liturgy. Such participation by the Christian people as ‘a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, a redeemed people’ (1Pt 2:9;cf.2:4-5), is their right and duty by reason of their baptism” (#14).
2 Address to the Roman Curia (22 December 2005): AAS 98 (2006), 44-45
The liturgical mandate given above has been subject to a misinterpretation of the mind
of the Council Fathers in relation to active participation. Pope Benedict is eager to
focus on this concept as a ‘spiritual’ rather than a physical one. His pontificate is one
of four clearly identifiable and critical chronological junctures in the history of the
organic development of the liturgy. Three other significant crossroads will be
examined in this thesis: The Council of Trent; the Liturgical Movement and The
Second Vatican Council. Each of these vital historical ‘moments’ has made a vital and
transforming contribution to the development of the Church’s liturgical
understanding, its liturgical practice and its educational mission.
The second reason offered for the current relevance of this research is that the
introduction of a new English translation of the Roman Missal and the associated
formation and catechesis that is required, dominates contemporary liturgical debate.
Thirdly, this thesis takes cognisance of societal changes including changes in patterns
of religious allegiance; diminishing Mass attendance and the erosion of family life.
This sociological shift means that there is now less evidence of a gradual, traditional,
guaranteed socialisation into liturgical awareness, understanding and behaviour. In
this process the sacred liturgy has become somewhat devalued presenting the Catholic
Church with the urgent challenge of restoring a sense of liturgical literacy, liturgical
awareness, liturgical confidence and liturgical vitality. In addition to developing an
appreciation of the educational dimension of the liturgical action, a long process is
now at hand to educate and re-educate about the role of the sacred liturgy in Catholic
life. Part of the response to this challenge is to put robust, systematic and integrated
Liturgical Formation and Liturgical Catechesis at the top of the Church’s agenda. The
research process investigated and explored these issues within the Roman Church.
Chapters Four and Five have been devoted entirely to these aspects. Part of the aim of
this thesis is to encourage courageous and imaginative action particularly in the area
of formation and catechesis as part of the Church’s ongoing conversation on the
liturgy. Chapter six, therefore, includes some predictions, proposals and
recommendations for the liturgical journey ahead, with important questions being
raised concerning the organic development of liturgy and its attendant catechesis
within the specific context of the Roman Catholic Church in Scotland.

Item Type: Thesis (PhD)
Qualification Level: Doctoral
Keywords: Church liturgy, catechesis
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BR Christianity
Colleges/Schools: College of Social Sciences > School of Education
Supervisor's Name: Davis, Prof. Robert and Conroy, Prof. James
Date of Award: 2013
Depositing User: miss Josephine Mary Smith
Unique ID: glathesis:2013-4218
Copyright: Copyright of this thesis is held by the author.
Date Deposited: 30 Apr 2013 11:45
Last Modified: 30 Apr 2013 11:45

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item


Downloads per month over past year