University of Notre DameUniversity of Notre Dame

McGrath Institute for Church Life

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Integrating Theory into Practice

Michael Mathis 1953 Notre Dame

Mathis insisted on academic excellence; however, even academics took second place to the celebration of the liturgy. The daily celebration of eucharist and the liturgy of the hours took pride of place in the Notre Dame program. Mathis was convinced that theory must be integrated into practice. He kept the program alive from year to year through his own dogged perseverance, despite the fact that few of his colleagues or confreres appreciated his work at first. They were not alone, in those days, in thinking liturgy an eccentric pastime for so capable a person. Until his health broke in the late 1950's, Mathis oversaw every detail of the summer school, from planning the program and hiring the faculty, to finding places to celebrate the liturgy.

As if that were not enough, he took on a number of other projects as offshoots of the liturgy program: Seminars for artists and architects, seminars for priests and seminarians, including a unique workshop held in 1956 to instruct them in the newly revised rites for Holy Week, and an important series of books. At the urging of Cavanaugh's successor as president of Notre Dame, Father Theodore Hesburgh, C.S.C., Mathis saw to it that the faculty's lecture notes for nine of the summer courses were either translated from their original languages, or transcribed and edited for publication. The University of Notre Dame Press published them under the general title of the Liturgical Studies. Among them were Jungmann's The Early Liturgy, Bouyer's Liturgical Piety, and Danielou's The Bible and the Liturgy, to name only three still in use as study sources today.

Michael Mathis blessing bicycles

It is difficult to believe that the indefatigable Mathis found time for still other projects in the late 1940's and 50's, but he was always pursuing some new idea. Reversing his own earlier opposition to the use of the vernacular, he came to see the value of an English liturgy and played an important part in the translation and publication of the official American ritual approved by Rome in 1954 for limited use in the United States.