The Future of the Liturgy:
Liturgical Week to open at Seattle World’s Fair tonight
Original publication, 20 August 1962, by Seminarian Michael G. Ryan
From Seattle, a report on the upcoming National Liturgical Week by Michael G. Ryan, a seminarian at St. Thomas Seminary in Kenmore, Wash.
This is an exciting time to be in Seattle. I never imagined that our city would host a World’s Fair, but now the “Space Needle,” as they are calling it, rises at the foot of Queen Anne Hill, and the sprawling modern buildings of Century 21 have taken the place of the quiet neighborhood where my dad once taught me to drive. For Catholics, it is an especially exciting time, since Seattle will also be hosting the National Liturgical Week from August 20 to 23 at the World’s Fair Arena.
The Century 21 exhibits are all about the future—there are displays about Sputnik, space exploration and new inventions (including telephones with push-button pads instead of dials – amazing!). But good as these inventions are, we know that this endless advancement is not the purpose of life. Our Archdiocesan newspaper, the Catholic Northwest Progress, reports:
We Christians are not indifferent to these works of human genius. We too are thrilled to find ourselves now at the very threshold of untold new worlds. But in all this we must be reminded again that our eternal hope lies still not in any works of man’s doing, but in the ageless Victory of the Risen Christ: in the triumph of Life over death.
We live always in the “last days,” preparing for no other future than the Coming of Our Lord and the lasting triumph of His Kingdom. These truths, which are the constant theme of the liturgy throughout the year, will be developed in the major talks of this Liturgical Week and will be applied to our practical Christian living. (April 13, 1962)
It is fitting, then, that the theme chosen for Seattle’s Liturgical Week is “Thy Kingdom Come: Christian Hope in the Modern World.”
What is a Liturgical Week?
The first Liturgical Week, sponsored by the National Liturgical Conference, was held in 1940, in a room in the basement of Holy Name Cathedral in Chicago. It was attended by just a handful of people, mainly priests. But these days, it is clear that the Liturgical Movement is not just a fad or a trend, nor is it only for priests. Pope Pius XII, and his successor, our beloved Pope John XXIII, have embraced the Liturgical Movement as the work of the Church itself. Last year’s Liturgical Week in Oklahoma City drew about 5,000 people–priests, religious, and laity–who came together to pray together and to learn more about the Church’s worship and to explore displays, listen to lectures, view demonstrations and art exhibits, and even take part in a contest for the best church design. This year’s Liturgical Week in Seattle is expected to be the largest yet, with as many as 6,000 participants. The added attraction of the World’s Fair, and the excitement about the forthcoming Ecumenical Council, both have something to do with the surge of interest in the Liturgical Week.
Feverish Preparations Underway
All of us seminarians are glad the Liturgical Week is happening in August, because it means we are free to join in these exciting events. Most of us are helping out in some capacity or other, as it will take hundreds of volunteers to pull together this three-day event. There are dozens of drivers to bring special guests to and from the events. Others are forming a typing pool during the conference. About a hundred men and women will join in a National Choir. And then dozens of volunteers are needed as ushers and greeters at all the events.
I have been assigned to host some of the guest priests in the mornings, and then to help at the information desk at the Arena in the afternoons. One of my seminarian classmates and I will be responsible for preparing for the priests’ morning Masses at the temporary altars which will be set up in lower level of the Mayflower Hotel downtown. It should be pretty exciting for us to serve the Masses of these liturgical luminaries whose names we have seen on the covers of books, but whom we never dreamed we would meet in person: Father Frederick McManus, the President of the Liturgical Conference, Father Gerard Sloyan of the Catholic University of America, and Father Godfrey Diekmann, OSB, from St. John’s Abbey in Collegeville, to name just a few.
Arranging facilities for Masses has occupied much of the energies of the organizers, since about 300 priests will be participating in the Liturgical Week and each of them needs an altar to celebrate his Mass each morning. About 100 of them will be saying their Masses at St. James Cathedral, where in addition to the Cathedral’s altars, temporary altars have been set up in the Cathedral Hall. There are also about 28 prelates in attendance, and Father James Mallahan, the Seattle priest in charge of local arrangements, has had the large task of borrowing 28 prie-dieus from neighboring parishes and chapels, and returning them again when the Liturgical Week is over.
It all begins tonight, with Mass at 5:00 p.m., celebrated by Father Fred McManus. It will be in Latin, of course, but there is a lot of talking and dreaming about a vernacular liturgy among the members of the Conference – even though one of our seminary professors told us recently that such a thing would never happen in our lifetime.
But there will be one very noticeable change at the Conference Masses in the Arena: through a special indult from Rome, all of them will be celebrated facing the people! I wonder what that will be like. I’m especially wondering what it will be like at the concluding Mass when Archbishop Connolly is scheduled to be the celebrant. I’m not sure he is completely favorable to all the latest liturgical developments (which are really not new at all but far more ancient than what we have grown up with), but I suspect he’ll be a good sport and do his best. One thing is for certain: like the Space Needle and the other exhibits of the World’s Fair, the Liturgical Week promises to give us a glimpse of the future. It’s one I can’t wait to see!
Back to the future: The Very Rev. Michael G. Ryan is pastor of St. James Cathedral, Seattle.