If nothing else, Liam has convinced me to read Gamber at the source, not through the lens of NLM or other commentator. In suggesting the scholar is not a mainstream liturgist, I have to confess I was reading him through the eyes of his most loyal supporters. Quotes like this strike me as being way over the top:
(T)he liturgical reform welcomed with so much idealism and hope by many priest and lay people alike has turned out to be a liturgical destruction of startling proportions–a debacle worsening with each passing year
I think it’s a sound assessment to state that post-conciliar liturgical reform has disappointed many Catholics. On the most basic level, we should expect that some would feel it went too far. Others believe it was too timid.
Most insightful liturgy people would say the implementation (aside from being too hot, too cold, or just right) was occasionally to often mishandled and misunderstood by reformers on the local level.
I don’t know Msgr. Gamber, so I can’t say if his frustration with conciliar reform is colored by mourning for losses in Europe. I might suspect it is so–that seems to be the pope’s sense. Would a more finely-tuned reform have offset European indifference to religiosity? If one were ready to blame the liturgy for all of the social sins of the hierarchy and laity, I suppose one could accept it. As a liturgist, I might feel that the liturgy has the same power over other lay people as it does for me. Maybe Gamber feels the same way as he looks at the bumbling liturgical presidency of his European brother priests. When I consider 60-70% Sunday truancy, and the occasional glassy stare, I get the same hot feelings on occasion.
Failing to live up to expectations, be they one’s own or of the Church, can be supremely frustrating. It is more of a test to temper such attitudes and continue in the labors one is called to do. This is why I think “destruction” and “debacle” are extreme words, not to mention false ones.
I’ve read of Gamber’s interest in ancient liturgy, and I can respect his immersion in the world of scholarship. But most of the Church’s best liturgists are not only serving in parishes, but they also maintain the personal connections to the parishioners for whom they facilitate worship and prayer.
My criticism of Gamber is of a kind with liturgical gurus who focus on the publicity tours, the conference circuit, and the workshops to the exclusion of work in the parish trenches. More than that, too many scholars and gurus exclude the pastoral/spiritual side of our Catholic faith expression.
One of my professors impressed me greatly with his knowledge of New Testament Scripture. In his introduction of the various methods of scholarship, he never lost sight of the point: we were encountering the living, divine Word of God. Theology was faith seeking understanding, not understanding for its own clever sake.
What was even more impressive was the pastoral way he worked with me and so many other students. A friend once shared with me that this same professor volunteered to assist her and her husband in a discernment for their family. This priest, I thought, has the whole package: scholar, authentic teacher, counsellor, spiritual director, friend.
A person such as that would not put pen to paper publicly and make such misjudgements as “destruction” and “debacle.” On the other hand, sometimes our friends do us little favors, so perhaps it is time to read more deeply into his works.