Coming soon: Andrea Grillo’s Beyond Pius V

[UPDATE: More on the book, which is now published, here.]

Nearly a month since my last post — the longest pause since I started this blog, I think. Aside from the typical preoccupations of family and work, my “spare time” has been mostly taken up in the task of completing a translation of a fascinating book by the Italian liturgical theologian Andrea Grillo. That project is now complete!

Originally published in Italian a few years ago (as Oltre Pio V: La Riforma Liturgica nel Conflitto di Interpretazioni), this book will be published by Liturgical Press around the end of the year as Beyond Pius V: Conflicting Interpretations of the Liturgical Reform. Grillo is a highly regarded young scholar of liturgical theology in Italy, a professor at the Pontifical Atheneum of St. Anselm. This will be the first of his books to appear in English.

This book makes, I believe, an important contribution to the conversation about liturgy in the Catholic Church today. It’s no secret that that conversation has been pretty heated and divisive at times, and I really think Professor Grillo manages to rise above all that in many ways. He argues adeptly that the twentieth-century liturgical movement was originally about forming Catholics to understand the rites they participate in, so that they might be more effectively formed by the rites. That transformed into a reform of the rites themselves because that was rightly seen as a good way of making them more accessible to Catholics, allowing them to be formed by them more effectively. But in the course of that, reform of the rites became everything and we forgot about forming Catholics to understand and live the rites. That, he says, is what has prevented the liturgical movement from bearing the sort of fruit that people 50 years ago hoped that it would bear. Now that the church has reformed its rites, we need to remember that original intention and allow the rites to reform the church. Only when we do that will the liturgy really be the source and summit of the church’s life.

Grillo strongly criticizes the idea that the participation in the liturgy that we are called to is (only) an “internal, spiritual” participation. He argues that was the pre-conciliar understanding, but it’s also minimalist and strongly clerical, and liturgical theology, especially the theology enshrined in Sacrosanctum Concilium, moved us beyond that. SC’s concept of participation in the liturgy is true to what came before, but it’s more developed in important ways, Grillo says, and . too many today wish to regress to the earlier understanding. Doing so risks losing the great advances we gained in understanding baptismal priesthood, participation of the assembly, the meaning of liturgical ritual-symbols, etc.

Grillo also addresses directly the publication of Summorum Pontificum, establishing the 1962 Roman Missal as an “extraordinary form” of the Roman Rite. He is critical of it, and unfortunately that will mean that many will dismiss this book without a thought. But that would be a mistake. His criticism is carefully reasoned on many levels (liturgical, theological, pastoral, practical, canonical, and more), quite respectful, and even deferential at times.

One thing about Beyond Pius V that has pleased me is how real-life and practical he is, given the author’s academic and philosophical style. To be sure he is academic and philosophical. But he’s also practical and real. He includes many real life applications of his thinking, and he says, for example, that every liturgist should spend ten years as a truck driver.

Beyond Pius V will be published by Liturgical Press late this fall. (Full disclosure: I work for Liturgical Press.)

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