Book Reviews2 Liturgy: Sacrosanctum Concilium

Book written by: Rita Ferrone


Rita Ferrone’s book is an examination of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy, Sacrosanctum Concilium, from the Second Vatican Council. This book is part of the Paulist Press’ Rediscovering Vatican II series which seeks to commemorate the fortieth anniversary of Vatican II.  This is a short book, but is a great introduction into the study of this document, of the history leading up to it and of the post-conciliar period that we have been living in since the Second Vatican Council met from 1962 to 1965. 


The Liturgical Movement which started in the 19th century with Abbot Prosper Gueranger and the Benedictine monks of the Abbey of Solesme of France slowly spread to other monasteries and countries.  The reforms proposed by this movement received papal support especially from Popes St. Pius X and Pius XII.  This led up to the call of reforming the liturgy as an important item for the Second Vatican Council to work on.  The liturgy became the first topic dealt with by the Council which produced the document, Sacrosanctum Concilium which was approved by the bishops 2,147 for the document and only 4 against it.  This marked a major change in the Catholic Church which continues down to this day.


In her next chapter Ferrone explores the major concepts of the document: the Paschal Mystery which returned the Church to the thinking of not only of the passion and death of Christ, but also his resurrection; the liturgy being the “summit and source” of the Church’s life; all Christians are to participate fully and actively and not like they had done before.  Before Vatican II people usually did not exactly know what was going on at Mass since it was in Latin.  Many did their own devotions and could not hear what the priest was saying.  Sometimes there was a choir which performed songs that the congregation did not participate in.  Vatican II changed this. 


The next concepts say that all should perform their proper roles during the liturgy.  That means the ordained do their particular roles either as a bishop, priest, or as a deacon.  The non-ordained are to do their roles as cantors, organists, servers, readers and other ministries and to actively participate during the liturgy even if they do not have a ministry to perform. 


The book also discusses the topics of inculturation, the renewal of liturgical books, education and formation.  Ferrone also examines the implementation of Sacrosantum Concilium.  A group was commissioned to implement the liturgical reforms and create the new books and other items needed called the Consilium.  The Consilium had to deal with opponents to the reforms who were members of the Vatican.  Some did not want to change so they went into schism by following Archbishop Marcel Lefebvre and the Society of St. Pius X; others went the other extreme.  Experimentation was allowed but some went too far like having the presider/celebrant dress up like a clown or have balloons and such.  For those who did not live during the days after the Council and wonder what happened, this chapter informs the reader about this confusing period. 


Rita Ferrone has provided a great introduction into the study of the document on the liturgy of the Second Vatican Council by presenting the seven major concepts of the document and how they are or are not implemented in the liturgy.  Her historical summary of what happened before and after Vatican II with the liturgy is enlightening. 


Rita Ferrone has a master of divinity from Yale University.  She lectures on liturgy at conferences and at other national settings. She is the author of On the Rite of Election (2007) and of Sourcebook for Sundays and Seasons (2005).  

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