Societas Liturgica at Maynooth

“Within the first 30 minutes of my arrival on the campus I was greeting friends from Norway, Australia, Canada, Germany, France, and England,” a friend of mine commented; “I think heaven will be like that.”

The Societas Congress held at St. Patrick College in Maynooth, Ireland, from August 7 – 10, was truly a grand experience. It felt even more powerful because it had been such a while since our last in-person gathering. (The pandemic had caused the previous congress to be held virtually.)  Pray Tell contributor Neil Xavier O’Donoghue did a fine job hosting, ably assisted by an excellent local team. The campus itself holds historic interest. Established in the eighteenth century, it includes the ruins of a castle and is home to the oldest tree in Ireland, the Yew of Silken Thomas, which is 800 years old.

A lot of people came and the mood was upbeat. For a specialization that is supposed to be fading in our post-modern world, there was an awful lot of interest in the liturgical issues and topics discussed. We were approximately 230 strong, drawn from all over the world, including places I had not seen represented before, such as Brazil and Ukraine, not to mention various nations of Africa and the far East.

The theme was ecumenism. You can see the keynote address descriptions and the list of papers here. There is too much to comment on, so I will just say that all were excellent. As is usually the case, the keynotes and some of the papers will be published in Studia Liturgica, so be on the lookout for the coming issues of that journal.

Two events that may be of special interest to Pray Tell readers took place on the fringes of the congress: contributor Nathan Chase and Australian liturgist Carmel Pilcher hosted a pre-congress morning meeting on inculturation, keynoted by Mark Francis, a notable authority on the subject. Also, a cluster of people interested in the future of the blog met for coffee and discussion. Several ideas and suggestions were proposed for keeping the blog alive and connected to our readership. These include notifications when new posts appear, and/or a subscription option that would help to keep readers in touch with what’s new on the blog.

In the past, these Congresses used to be five days long, with a day devoted to seeing local sites, but the decision was reached by Council to limit the time to four days in order to keep the costs down. For the next Congress however, to be held in Paris in 2025, our hosts have decided to combine the best of both worlds: four days for the Congress proper, followed by an optional day for touring around Paris.

Our Congress at Maynooth was crowned by an excellent banquet dinner. Let no one say you can’t eat well in Ireland — the food was delicious, and served with warm hospitality. A fitting end to a most memorable gathering.