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Viatorian Advocates for Cultural Expression in Liturgy

December 6, 2016

The latest issue of U.S. Catholic magazine features an interview with Fr. Mark Francis,

Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago

Fr. Mark Francis, CSV, president of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago

CSV, who describes how today’s liturgies are including more cultural practices from Catholics around the world, in order to meet the needs of the faithful — and how the church is richer for it.

How do we integrate popular religious practices into the liturgy — while remaining true to the Roman Rite, he asks.

“We assume the liturgy is universal,” he says, “but each culture and each congregation adapt the liturgy to reflect their own needs. . . . There’s no time that this diversity and the living nature of liturgy is more apparent than at Christmas.

Viatorians celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe

Viatorians celebrate the Feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe each year with the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus and Our Lady of Guadalupe

“Las Posadas, Simbang Gabi, Advent wreaths, and the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe are all examples of popular traditions,” he adds, “that have been integrated into the liturgical celebrations of Advent and Christmas.”

Fr. Francis holds a doctorate in liturgy from the Pontifical Liturgical Institute of Sant’Anselmo in Rome, and he also taught liturgy at the Catholic Theological Union in Chicago — where he now serves as president — before returning to Rome as superior general of the Viatorian Community, a position he held for 12 years.

The inclusion of the Advent wreath is a German tradition that became assimilated into traditional Catholic liturgies, Fr. Francis describes. Here, the members of the Bourbonnais/Kankakee region gather in prayer

The inclusion of the Advent wreath is a German tradition that became assimilated into traditional Catholic liturgies, Fr. Francis describes. Here, the members of the Bourbonnais/Kankakee region gather in prayer

Fr. Francis is a product of Saint Viator High School, where he graduated in 1971 and five years later he professed his first vows as a Viatorian brother.

“The basic issue is this: How can the good news of Jesus Christ be expressed in these rites, and how can we be culturally sensitive,” Fr. Francis asks. “Proclaiming the gospel has to be the ultimate purpose because otherwise you’re not doing liturgy, you’re practicing folklore.”