There is an ironic saying in some parts of the world that claims a good Jesuit liturgy is one in which nobody gets hurt. That is to say, Jesuits are sometimes known for presiding over liturgical celebrations that are less than flawless or perfectly organized.
Although it is true that we are not Franciscans or Dominicans, whose religious community is focused around regular and sometimes elaborate liturgy, the Jesuits have a very deep liturgical tradition of their own. This past weekend, we were delighted to host Fr. Vlasto Dufka SJ in the house. He spoke to us at great length about the specific importance of Jesuit liturgy and music.
For those who don’t know, which is likely many, the Jesuits were one of the first religious communities in 16th century Europe that focused themselves outward as opposed to inward. Rather than spending long hours singing the Liturgy of the Hours or saying lengthy Masses in the monastery, the early Jesuits – and subsequent generations – believed that they were called to make the world their house and every experience an encounter with God.
And so, though they each believed that it was important to pray in very formal ways, Jesuits were more often known for noble and shorter liturgies – in order that they might return to the work to which God has called them. Over the course of hundreds of years, the liturgical style of Jesuits has become rather dignified in its simplicity. Some have criticized the Society of Jesus for not knowing how to do elaborate liturgies, but this accusation is in fact an error.
Some of the greatest liturgical music and art found in Europe (and throughout the Renaissance period) was created or influenced by Jesuits. When the time and place demanded, there could be a great propensity toward beauty. In fact, many of the most ornate churches in Italy are influenced by the Baroque style – a distinctly Jesuit contribution to liturgy.
All the same, when everything is considered, the liturgical style most associated with the Jesuits is simple… and communal prayer is often done with a quiet dignity that allows each man to return with haste to the mission.
We are grateful for Fr. Dufka’s visit to the tertianship house. We learned that there is a place for all forms of liturgical celebration… it simply demands a discreta caritas – a discerning love – to know the right liturgy for the appropriate occasion.