Defense Date


Graduation Date

Fall 2011


Immediate Access

Submission Type


Degree Name





McAnulty College and Graduate School of Liberal Arts

Committee Chair

George Worgul

Committee Member

Elochukwu Uzukwu

Committee Member

Sebastian Madathummuriyil


Kavanagh, Liturgy


This dissertation explores the liturgical theology of the late Aidan Kavanagh, OSB. His particular approach to liturgy helped to shape the implementation of the liturgical changes instituted by the Second Vatican Council. His early published works were instrumental in explaining the goals of these liturgical changes, while his later works offered a not-so-subtle critique of how the changes had begun to impact the American Church. Fr. Kavanagh based the importance of liturgy on several unique and potentially controversial subjects. To Fr. Kavanagh, liturgical theology is theologia prima and the foundation of all other secondary theology. Participation in the liturgy and theologia prima is afforded to all those initiated into the Church. For this reason, he focused much of his scholarship on the rites of initiation and proposed that the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults was the norm of baptism. His passionate and provocative approach to liturgy may still have relevance as the Church embraces continued liturgical revision. The first chapter is an exploration of his personal and intellectual background. It reviews many of his early articles and notes how his tone shifts from one of explanation to one of critique. The next chapter seeks to define the key elements liturgy, ecclesiology, sacrament and ritural. The next chapter attempts to unpack his liturgical theology. Theologia prima, the maxim lex orandi...lex credendi and the issues of liturgy in regards to culture are explored. This chapter also begins to highlight Fr. Kavanagh's appreciation of the Eastern approach to liturgy and his reliance on the work of Alexander Schmemann. The next chapter explores his theology of initiation and its importance to liturgical celebration. The final chapter is a brief synthesis and critique of both his theology and its continued relevance. The critique comes from the author, other theologians who engaged his thought during his lifetime and from contemporary issues in liturgical theology. Fr. Kavanagh's theology evidences limitations with regards to subjects like ecumenism, diversity and post modernity. However, his theology still has relevance today because of the passion he brought to liturgy and his vision for corporate worship constituting the Church.