On May 20, 1943, the Fathers Pie Duployé and Aimon-Marie Roguet (themselves Dominicans) founded the Centre de Pastorale liturgique (CPL) [Center for Pastoral Liturgy] on the premises of the Éditions du Cerf publishing house (belonging to the Dominicans). Dom Lambert Beauduin participated in the foundation meeting.
At the beginning of 1945 the quarterly magazine La Maison-Dieu began to appear, which would become the organ of the CPL. The first article of the review is signed by Dom Lambert Beauduin.
An Activist Group
At this time, the CPL was a group of activists who saw themselves in the mainstream of the (pastoral) Liturgical Movement notably launched by Dom Beauduin. This central notion of “pastoral liturgy” (and not simply “liturgy”) was made manifest at the first congress in January 1944, which was titled “Pastoral Liturgy Studies”: for that matter, the volume of Actes is dedicated to Dom Lambert Beauduin.
This choice of “pastoral liturgy” would be decisive for the future: as the historian and sociologist Guillaume Cuchet writes, “the Center for Pastoral Liturgy was one of the places where the conciliar liturgical reform was prepared” (Comment notre monde a cessé d’être chrétien [How our world has ceased to be Christian], Threshold, 2018, p. 252). A report by Fr. Aimé-Georges Martimort to the CPL, dated 1945, already detailed what the great innovations of the Second Vatican Council would be to liturgical matters. And the central figures of the CPL—namely: Louis Bouyer, Pierre Jounel, Pierre-Marie Gy, Joseph Gélineau, Bernard Botte, Joseph Lécuyer, etc.—would become the great voices during the Council and in its implementation. “The founders of the CPL had identified the institutional conditions for an aggiornamento that went beyond the liturgy alone,” noted Fr. Patrick Prétot, director of La Maison-Dieu (La Croix, May 22, 2013).
Preparation of the Liturgical Aggiornamento
The CPL organized three types of activities. First, study days, a real place of exchange where researchers, theologians, scholars, and pastors share their concerns, their questions, and their tendencies in order to develop a doctrine and a method of action. To keep both a scientific and pastoral character to these days, participants were invited according to their competences.
Immediately following the days, a session open to the greatest number of participants was proposed, during which the specialists, through lectures, would distill the results of their studies and the exchanges carried out during the study days. These sessions would bring together four to five hundred participants.
Finally, in 1947, 1957, and in 1962, a congress took place which brought together several thousand participants. They drew the attention of the public to the main acquisitions of the Pastoral Liturgy Movement and publicized it.
These activities were relayed by journal articles, books, exhibitions, posters, records, etc. and lead to a concrete realization in a large number of parishes.
The Formation of Liturgical Coordinators
In 1956, the CPL also contributed to the foundation, within the Catholic Institute of Paris, of the Superior Institute of Liturgy of Paris (ISLP). According to its own current definition, the ISLP “trains those responsible for teaching, research, and pastoral care in the field of the liturgy and of the theology of the sacraments; it makes them more suitable in the long term for the preparation of celebrations, thanks to the mastery of the historical, anthropological, theological, and liturgical elements which come into play; it is open to clerics, laity, and men and women religious, who are preparing to exercise teaching, research, and practical responsibilities in the field of liturgy and of the theology of the sacraments.” In other words, it forms and graduates “liturgists,” as well as liturgical historians.
This is how “the CPL truly became what it wanted to be from its foundation, a center of unity and rallying where, little by little, a new way of contemplating the thinking on pastoral and liturgical questions was established”(Benoît-Marie Solaberrieta, Les experts du Centre de Pastorale Liturgique [Experts from the Center for Pastoral Liturgy], University of Rennes Press, 2016, p. 16).
In 1965, the CPL was set up within the Secretariat of the French episcopate, under the authority of the Episcopal Commission for Liturgy and Sacramental Pastoral Care: it then took the name of National Center for Liturgy and Pastoral Care (CNPL), and Fr. Jacques Cellier (1922-1999), from the diocese of Lyon, was appointed its first director (until 1973, during the major period of Liturgical Reform).
The CNPL was renamed the National Service for Liturgical and Sacramental Pastoral Care (SNPLS) in 2007, apparently to harmonize its title with that of the Episcopal Commission which oversees it.
The CPL and then CNPL prepared, helped to carry out and implement, and finally accompanied the great liturgical transformation whose charter is Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium, the consitutiton on the liturgy (December 4, 1963).
A few years after Vatican II, Fr. Maurice Lelong, himself a Dominican like the founders of the CPL, but strongly rebellious about the trends of the time, described thusly the aim of the CNPL: “Change everything that can be changed and, by priority, the immutable”(Lexicon de l’Eglise nouvelle [Lexicon of the New Church] Robert Morel publisher, 1971). He ironically translated his acronym into “National Center for Liturgical Chaos” or “National Center for Liturgical Profanation.” These two interpretations, unfortunately, are quite true.