ACU Public Lecture Using Social Science to Explore the Role of the Faithful in the Liturgy

Father Peter Williams, expert in liturgical studies and Vicar General of the Diocese of Parramatta, leads a public lecture exploring ars celebrandi, a Latin term meaning the art of properly celebrating the liturgy.

The conference organized by the Australian Catholic University Center for Liturgy would explore this question from the point of view of the “liturgical user”.

Ars celebrandi was a term introduced by Pope Benedict XVI in his apostolic exhortation, Sacramentum Caritatis, which responded to the 2005 synod of bishops and coincided with the end of the 2004 year of the Eucharist.

In the exhortation, Pope Benedict argued that the most effective way to foster the full, active and fruitful participation of the faithful in the liturgy “is the proper celebration of the rite,” directing many of his instructions to clergy.

Father Williams said that there were certain limitations to this explanation of the ars celebrandi.

“Pope Benedict XVI’s argument assumes that all participants in the liturgy (ministers and faithful) have the same understanding of what participation means and what ‘true celebration’ is, which is a fairly broad assumption. “said father Williams.

“People are strongly formed by the culture they inhabit on a daily basis and this cultural background is expressed in what is brought to the celebration of the Eucharist.

“The thesis offered in my May 9 online lecture is that we can usefully use the tools of social science to understand what influences are at play when people come together to offer public worship and how much those influences inform the ars celebrandi.”

Director of the ACU’s Center for Liturgy, Professor Clare Johnson, said Fr Williams’ lecture would offer new insight into how God’s people might celebrate liturgy.

“Ars celebrandi is the art of the proper celebration of the liturgy, and although it has been commonly associated with how the clergy preside over the liturgy, it actually relates to how each participant in the liturgy understands and executes its role,” Professor Johnson said.

“The liturgy is what sustains the life of faith, and every aspect of it should reflect the mystery of the faith we are celebrating.

“Father Williams’ talk will unveil this fascinating aspect of the liturgy in a new and engaging way.”

Father Williams was director of liturgy for World Youth Day Sydney 2008 and was responsible for preparing the liturgical celebrations surrounding WYD and the papal visit.

He received an honorary doctorate from the ACU in 2014 and teaches liturgical studies at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.

Learn more about Ars Celebrandi: It’s Everyone’s Responsibility online at

Angela C. Hale