University of Notre DameUniversity of Notre Dame

McGrath Institute for Church Life

Notre Dame Center for Liturgy

Creating a Liturgy Program at Notre Dame

Mathis put this insight into practice in 1942 with his Vigil service, an adaptation of the Office of Matins celebrated in English in preparation for the Sunday Eucharist. He held the vigil with small groups wherever he could: in the hospital chapel, over the Aquinas bookstore, in the tiny firehouse chapel on the campus, until it gained respectability through the Notre Dame Summer School of Liturgy.

That, too, was Mathis' brainchild, and one of his most enduring contributions. In 1947, he badgered university authorities into allowing him to hold a summer session in liturgy. It was for undergraduates only, and consisted of three courses: History of the Sacred Liturgy in the Latin Rite, Theory and Practice of Gregorian Chant, and a miscellany entitled Important Features of the Liturgy. By 1948, after working all one night to devise a curriculum to replace one rejected as "not academic enough," Mathis was given permission to launch a graduate school of liturgy, with these instructions from Notre Dame president, Fr. John Cavanaugh, C.S.C.: "Now, Mike, this must not be a one-horse affair. Go out and get the best professors and then get the money to pay for them."


Mathis obeyed Cavanaugh's instructions to the letter. Armed with funds provided by a former student of his, Michael P. Grace, he scoured Europe and the United States for the very best of the liturgical scholars. The summer faculty rosters he assembled read like a "Who's Who" of the liturgical movement. Pictured here are the 1955 faculty members: (l. to r.) Cornelius Bouman of Nijmegen, Holland; Fr. Mathis; Msgr. Martin Hellriegel; Gerald Ellard, sj (teacher and author); Ermin Vitry; and Johannes Hofinger, professor of liturgy, evangelization and the missions. Boniface Luykx, the Belgian Norbertine priest, with his controversial views on confirmation, was a frequent visitor.

It is unfortunate that, in the 1940's and 50's, no one thought liturgists or the liturgy program important enough to merit a file of photos in the University archives, though the list is long and impressive: Joseph Jungmann, Louis Bouyer, Jean Danielou, Balthasar Fischer, and Godfrey Diekmann are only a few of the scholars who taught here.