Mystagogy/Spiritual Life

Incorporating the Liturgy Forum

The drama of contemporary culture is the lack of interiority, the absence of contemplation. Without interiority culture has no content; it is like a body that has not yet found its soul. What can humanity do without interiority? Unfortunately, we know the answer very well. When the contemplative spirit is missing, life is not protected and all that is human is denigrated. Without interiority, modern man puts his own integrity at risk. Pope John Paul II, Madrid, 3 May 2003.


New book by Stratford Caldecott: The Seven Sacraments: Entering the Mysteries of God

The following article is based on the final chapter of Stratford's book: Life Beyond Confirmation: How to Revive the Ancient Practice of Mystagogy.

Also note this important new series from CTS called Deeper Christianity

What happens after a convert is received into full communion with the Church, or after a young person is confirmed? All too often, they are left to sink or swim in the parish. A shortage of priests or qualified spiritual directors may mean they receive very little encouragement to journey deeper into the Christian mystery that now surrounds them. They may not even be aware of the full richness of the spiritual resources that exist within the tradition of the Church, resources to help them to grow in holiness and in the knowledge of God. Some may find this within one of the new ecclesial movements, but many settle down into a routine Christianity that too often turns into a spiritual wasteland for them. The possibility of a widespread Catholic renewal may therefore in part depend on the development of a post-baptismal catechesis in the mysteries of Christ and of the Church, a catechesis traditionally known as mystagogia ("initiation into the mysteries"). Baptism and Confirmation may be received only once, but Christian initiation is a continuing adventure, since the grace of these sacraments is the source of a new life that must be encouraged to grow and flourish. Several important works have appeared on mystagogy in recent years, notably The Wellsprings of Worship by Jean Corbon (Ignatius Press) and Mystagogy by Enrico Mazza (Pueblo), but there is a need for parish resources, and the new series is designed with this in mind. The series is intended to dovetail with deeper study of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

See also The Veil

Prayers and Meditations

The Rosary
John Paul II on the Mysteries of the Rosary
John Paul II on the Eucharist
Pope Benedict XVI on Reading the Word of God
The Angelus
The Holy Family
Jesus Prayer
Prayer to the Trinity
Prayers for a New Chivalry
Introduction to the art of prayer
Stations of the Cross

What the catechism of the Catholic Church says about prayer

For informal daily online prayer and meditation see:

An easy-to-use online Breviary (Divine Office) giving the Church's prayers for today and throughout the year is available from Universalis at:

And please visit the following site for an online Catholic Calendar with today's Mass readings and the Mysteries of the Holy Rosary:
(The Links page on the Calendar site will take you much further.)

Extracts from The Wellsprings of Worship by Jean Corbon (the main author of the Fourth Part of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, on prayer). This writer is highly recommended by Scott Hahn:

The Liturgy Forum

The Centre for Faith & Culture organized an international conference on the liturgy in Oxford during 1996, in which the question of the "reform of the reform" was considered from a number of angles by a range of liturgical experts and organizations. The conclusions of the Liturgy Forum were expressed in "The Oxford Declaration on Liturgy", which was cited in parts of the Catholic press as reflecting a wide consensus among Catholics.

1. Reflecting on the history of liturgical renewal and reform since the Second Vatican Council, the Liturgy Forum agreed that there have been many positive results. Among these might be mentioned the introduction of the vernacular, the opening up of the treasury of the Sacred Scriptures, increased participation in the liturgy and the enrichment of the process of Christian initiation. However, the Forum concluded that the preconciliar liturgical movement as well as the manifest intentions of Sacrosanctum Concilium have in large part been frustrated by powerful contrary forces, which could be described as bureaucratic, philistine and secularist.

2. The effect has been to deprive the Catholic people of much of their liturgical heritage. Certainly, many ancient traditions of sacred music, art and architecture have been all but destroyed. Sacrosanctum Concilium gave pride of place to Gregorian chant [Section 116], yet in many places this "sung theology" of the Roman liturgy has disappeared without trace. Our liturgical heritage is not a superficial embellishment of worship but should properly be regarded as intrinsic to it, as it is also to the process of transmitting the Catholic faith in education and evangelization. Liturgy cannot be separated from culture; it is the living font of a Christian civilization and hence has profound ecumenical significance.

3. The impoverishment of our liturgy after the Council is a fact not yet sufficiently admitted or understood, to which the necessary response must be a revival of the liturgical movement and the initiation of a new cycle of reflection and reform. The liturgical movement which we represent is concerned with the enrichment, correction and resacralization of Catholic liturgical practice. It is concerned with a renewal of liturgical eschatology, cosmology and aesthetics, and with a recovery of the sense of the sacred mindful that the law of worship is the law of belief. This renewal will be aided by a closer and deeper acquaintance with the liturgical, theological and iconographic traditions of the Christian East.

4. The revived liturgical movement calls for the promotion of the Liturgy of the Hours, celebrated in song as an action of the Church in cathedrals, parishes, monasteries and families, and of Eucharistic Adoration, already spreading in many parishes. In this way, the Divine Word and the Presence of Christ's reality in the Mass may resonate throughout the day, making human culture into a dwelling place for God. At the heart of the Church in the world we must be able to find that loving contemplation, that adoring silence, which is the essential complement to the spoken word of Revelation, and the key to active participation in the holy mysteries of faith [cf. Orientale Lumen, section 16].

5. We call for a greater pluralism of Catholic rites and uses, so that all these elements of our tradition may flourish and be more widely known during the period of reflection and ressourcement that lies ahead. If the liturgical movement is to prosper, it must seek to rise above differences of opinion and taste to that unity which is the Holy Spirit's gift to the Body of Christ. Those who love the Catholic tradition in its fullness should strive to work together in charity, bearing each other's burdens in the light of the Holy Spirit, and persevering in prayer with Mary the Mother of Jesus.

6. We hope that any future liturgical reform would not be imposed on the faithful but would proceed, with the utmost caution and sensitivity to the sensus fidelium, from a thorough understanding of the organic nature of the liturgical traditions of the Church [cf. Sacrosanctum Concilium, section 23]. Our work should be sustained by prayer, education and study. This cannot be undertaken in haste, or in anything other than a serene spirit. No matter what difficulties lie ahead, the glory of the Paschal Mystery Christ's love, his cosmic sacrifice and his childlike trust in the Father shines through every Catholic liturgy for those who have eyes to see, and in this undeserved grace we await the return of spring.

In the Declaration, several suggestions were made concerning the future of the liturgical reform: cultural enrichment, revival of the sense of the sacred and of contemplative prayer, restoration of plainsong, promotion of the liturgy of the hours and of eucharistic adoration, and acceptance of a "greater pluralism of Catholic rites and uses". It stressed the need to avoid any further mechanical tampering with the liturgy. The implication was that the liturgy should be permitted to develop organically.

The Declaration also claimed that a revival of the liturgical movement would be aided by a "closer and deeper acquaintance with the liturgical, theological and iconographic traditions of the Christian East". It seems clear that in many ways the Byzantine tradition has maintained a greater sense of the sacred and of the cosmic dimensions of the liturgy than the Western tradition has been able to do. As a consequence, one observes the growing interest in the Eastern rites on the part of Westerners since the time of the Council. The popularity of Byzantine icons in the West is partly a healthy reaction against the widespread use of sentimentalized devotional images, but as the true greatness of the iconographic tradition gradually reveals itself lessons may be learnt concerning the liturgy too: the iconic properties of a ritual which manifests the action of Christ, compared to the iconic properties of a picture manifesting his presence, or the reality of his human nature. The point would not necessarily be to copy the Byzantine rite, but to develop the Roman rite to a point where the East can recognize in it an authentic Christian liturgy which today is often not the case.

Clearly, further study and reflection are still needed to discern the principles that should govern any further reform of the liturgy. But a far-reaching programme of education is also needed, to accompany and make possible a reform of the reform. What is needed is a continuing education in the language of symbolism, in the spiritual meaning of the liturgy and of Holy Scripture, in the lives of the saints, and in the possibility of authentic and orthodox religious experience the tradition of the spiritual senses, of contemplative prayer, of ascesis and purity, of Catholic poetry and sacred art, and of the correct understanding and value of traditional devotions. The monastic practice of lectio divina has already become quite popular, but this should be increasingly integrated with a contemplative lectio of the Mass, and with a developed reflection on the intimate connection between Scripture and Liturgy.

With this sole addition of the need for mystagogy, the Oxford Declaration perhaps may still stand today as an expression of the need felt by many for an authentic liturgical movement, faithful to the tradition of the Church, and submissive to the Holy Spirit who fills her with divine life.

For further reading, see
Ratzinger at Fontgombault
'Liturgy and Trinity'
Institute for Sacred Architecture
New Liturgical Movement
Antiphon magazine
The Snowbird Statement
Motu Propriu: Summorum Pontificum in English
Pope's letter accompanying Motu Proprio