Conference on liturgical formation to be held in W. Peabody parish

WEST PEABODY -- Dom Alcuin Reid, one of the foremost scholars of the history and ceremonies of the Roman Liturgy, will visit Massachusetts next week to share his expertise with local Catholics. A native of Australia now stationed at a monastery in southern France, Dom Alcuin is the featured speaker at the upcoming Culmen et Fons Conference on Liturgical Formation, to be held at St. Adelaide's Church in West Peabody from Sept. 18 to 22.

Dom Alcuin is responsible for two classics of liturgical scholarship: ''The Organic Development of the Liturgy'' (2004) and the 15th edition of Adrian Fortescue and J.B. O'Connell's ''Ceremonies of the Roman Rite Described'' (2009), the standard text for liturgical ceremonies in the older form of the Catholic Mass.

The conference takes its name Culmen et fons from the 10th section of the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy ("Sacrosanctum Concilium") issued by Vatican Council II on Dec. 4, 1963, which describes the Church's official public worship, or liturgy, as "the summit (culmen) toward which the activity of the Church is directed; at the same time it is the fount (fons) from which all her power flows."

Dom Alcuin will join other scholars of the sacred liturgy in explaining to members of the clergy, religious orders, and the laity the meaning and power of the actions, gestures, and words of the ceremonies of the Mass, as well as the other sacraments and the Divine Office, or Liturgy of the Hours, the Church's prayer book, drawn mainly from the Book of Psalms in the Bible.

The conference, a blend of theoretical and practical sessions, serves specifically to instruct priests and music leaders in how to carry out the ceremonies of Mass and Vespers (sung evening prayer) according to the liturgical rites in vigor at the opening of the Second Vatican Conference (1962).

On July 7, 2007, Pope Benedict XVI legislated through the decree "Summorum pontificum" that every priest in good standing in the Church can offer Mass and other religious ceremonies according to the older form (usus antiquior) of the Roman Rite in use before Paul VI revised the liturgical books in 1969.

Increased interest in the older usage by priests and lay Catholics, particularly organists and choirs, has led to international conferences and workshops that help to educate and form them in accurate, reverent, and musically beautiful celebrations of Mass. Over the days of the conference, participants will experience, first, the sung Mass (Missa cantata), then the solemn Mass (Missa solemnis) with priest, deacon, and subdeacon, and finally the Solemn Pontifical Mass with Bishop Joseph N. Perry, auxiliary Bishop of Chicago, Sept. 21 at 11:15 a.m. at St. Adelaide Church.

The first talk by Dom Alcuin, "The Spirit and Power of the Liturgy" takes place at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 18. On the following days, clergy and interested lay people may follow the liturgical track of presentations preparing them for rites in the sanctuary, while musicians and singers may follow a second track in Gregorian chant and polyphony. The rehearsals are designed to prepare priests and musicians in offering Masses at these levels. Dom Alcuin will present a final lecture titled "What is the Sacred Liturgy? How do we pray the Sacred Liturgy?" at 7:30 p.m. on Sept. 22.

More information and registration information is available at