posted by Michael Raia
*Well, sort of. Last month I began the first 6-week summer session of a 5-year graduate studies program in Liturgy. For those unfamiliar with the term, a simple definition of liturgy would be public worship. For Catholics and many Protestants, liturgy is an essential part of who we are as Christians, because the external actions of the Body of Christ reflect the internal reality that we are one in Christ, particularly when we unite in communal prayer. How is this relevant to architecture? Churches have a theology. From the earliest roots of Christianity, churches were full of signs and symbols of the sacred – an external reflection of the divine realities, just like the liturgy which the building houses. Therefore, to truly design a building with this purpose in mind, a solid understanding of the liturgy is paramount.
I have begun my journey with the Liturgical Institute of The University of St. Mary of the Lake in Mundelein, IL, a northern suburb of Chicago. In addition to being a graduate school of theology, St. Mary of the Lake, also known as Mundelein Seminary, is the seminary for the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago. St. Mary was the first university in the state of Illinois, and is one of only eight pontifical universities in the United States. A conference center attached to the school is constantly hosting events, so there is always plenty going on. The school's large lakefront campus is gorgeous, to say the least, and offers plenty of inspiration and activities.
The Liturgical Institute has gained much acclaim in its 14 years for a balanced, orthodox approach, training some of the best and brightest in understanding the foundations of sacramental theology. The school's mission is "to restoring all things in Christ," and describes itself as a place "where prayer and study meet in joy and fidelity." I couldn't think of a better way to sum up what happens here than with those two statements.
The application of these studies of liturgy ranges from diocesan worship offices, parish liturgy coordinators, parish religious education directors and catechists, youth and young adult ministers, music directors and composers, and architectural professionals. I am honored to be among many wonderful people, learning from them and growing together in our knowledge and love for the Church through a deeper knowledge and love of Christ. Half of the summer program student body are priests priests, some newly ordained, and some celebrating anniversaries after a decade or two of faithful service. Students come from all over the US and beyond – New Zealand, Bermuda, and Canada – all together, about 30 students in the summer program, some of us in our first year, and some in their last.
While I have much to still learn and accomplish over the next few weeks before I return to Austin, I already have so many things I can't wait to bring back to Texas and to JGA. I look forward to writing again when I have my first summer behind me. Finally, thank you to two wonderfully supportive bosses, Bob Galloway and John Jackson, for fully supporting this endeavor!