From Benedictine Culture 4 (2011)


Abbot Martin Shipperlee

As a Benedictine, Iam pleased to contribute my voice to this booklet that sets out some of the reasons for promoting the advanced teaching and study of liturgy in England and Wales and explores possible rationales for developing a curriculum of study.

The Benedictine tradition, uniting both liturgical celebration and scholarship, has existed in Britain ever since St Bede and St Benedict Biscop in the seventh century. More recently on the continent the classical liturgical renewal was established by Dom Prosper Guéranger and developed by Dom Lambert Beauduin.

The scientific study of the liturgy was encouraged by Abbot Primate Benno Gut and the Rector Augustine Meyer, who established the research Institutum Liturgicum at Sant’Anselmo in Rome in 1951, which developed into the teaching Pontificium Institutum Liturgicum in 1961.

In this same tradition, more than twenty years ago our own Abbot Francis Rossiter conceived the idea that we at Ealing Abbey might have a study centre for liturgy where some of the monks might teach, so it may be that we also can contribute something. Yet we are still awaiting a centre for liturgical study to serve the Church in England and Wales.

Two fundamental principles stand out for their importance in the English-speaking world. These concern developing a consensus in liturgical research while respecting ecumenical differentiation in liturgical renewal.

The Declaration on Christian Education Gravissimum educationis of the Second Vatican Council affirms that because “faith and reason accord in one truth”, the scientific study of liturgy “should be treated according to its own proper principles, its proper method, and the proper freedom of scientific inquiry” (n. 10, ed. Tanner, London 1990).

Because of our situation in the English speaking world, any Roman Catholic institute of liturgy would necessarily function within an ecumenical context for which we take inspiration from the Second Vatican Council’s Decree on Ecumenism Unitatis redintegratio, which says: “When catholic theologians join with other Christians in common study of the divine mysteries, while standing fast by the teaching of the church, they should pursue the work with love for the truth, with charity, and with humility” (n. 11).

The Mirfield Liturgical Institute founded in 2008 and the Lincoln School of Theology founded in 2009 promise to develop the tradition of teaching and studying liturgy in the Church of England. We hope that this booklet will bring closer collaboration with them and bring forward the time when Roman Catholic Church in England and Wales also brings to birth a Liturgical Institute, perhaps not without further labour.