Book Notice: Illusions of Reform

In recent years we have seen an increase in liturgical tensions, sparked in great part by the fact that much of the liturgical work and legacy of Benedict XVI has been sidelined before our very eyes  The downside of these actions -- theological and ecclesiological as much as they are liturgical and pastoral -- are clear enough to those with even a passing familiarity of the issues. While it is certainly lamentable that so many Catholics have been negatively impacted by this, if there is any one positive that we might take from this situation it is that it has resulted in a renewed impetus for the all important task of the critical study of the liturgy and the mid-twentieth century liturgical reforms.

During that period -- specifically the second half of the twentieth century -- there were many popular tropes that were trotted out by 'progressive' liturgists about the traditional forms of Catholic worship. Frequently these were made in an attempt to argue for or justify reforms (sometimes radical and rupturous in nature) to the traditional liturgical rites. Taken together, these formed the progressive narrative of the Catholic liturgy and frequently these came to be the only views and ideas that were ever heard from the Catholic institutions and pulpits of that time.

Given that this monologue was the sole diet of so many Catholics for so long, it should likely come as little surprise that the present climate has seen some of these same arguments once again dusted off and revived, as was the case in a series of articles published recently in Church Life Journal by the authors Cavadini, Healy and Weinandy. However, whereas in previous times this discussion was little more than a monologue, present times and technologies have allowed it to become a dialogue as well as an open forum for debate.

Illusions of Reform is an example of this in practice. After the publication of the aforementioned articles various academics and commentators responded within their own respective publication platforms. Some of these responses were able to be gathered together and turned into the present book. These responses include Dr. Janet Smith's detailed critical analysis of the articles, originally published in Crisis Magazine, as well as a chorus of others who are best seen by simply taking a quick look of the table of contents: 

This book is not merely limited to historical and ceremonial considerations however, but also touches on (in a modest way) the domain of the liturgical arts. These too were impacted by the same arguments and ideas of that time of course and how could they not be? The sacred liturgy is rather like a seamless garment where one part cannot be taken in isolation from the others. The liturgy and divine worship is not merely a collection of words and gestures; its influence rather stretches outward and influences all of the other externals which surround it. So it is then that, amidst all of the other important topics, ideas and impacts addressed in the essays found in this book, you will not fail to also find some considerations of beauty and of the impact that the liturgical ideas of the latter half of the twentieth century had on liturgical art:

In this regard, this book offers a little something for everyone -- though not, I suppose, if you subscribe to the ideas and viewpoints that this book and its authors set out to critique. However, should one find oneself in that particular camp I would hasten to point out that the weakest arguments are those which have not been subject to reasonable criticism and challenge, or which fail to engage the various sed contra counter-arguments that might be offered.

I would certainly recommend that our readers acquire a copy of this book so that you might be better familiar with some of the talking points and issues at stake in the Church today as well as to be better informed about the historical liturgical patrimony of the Catholic Church -- your patrimony.

The book is available in softcover or hardcover from Os Justi Press or Amazon.

Illusions of Reform: Responses to Cavadini, Healy and Weinandy in Defense of the Traditional Mass and Those Who Attend It. Os Justi Press, 254 pp. $16.95 / $24.95

Do you like Liturgical Arts Journal's original content? You can help support LAJ in its mission and vision to promote beauty in Catholic worship either by: 

You choose the amount! Your support makes all the difference.

Join in the conversation on our Facebook page.