by Richard Oliver OSB

August 1996

The due date for this article was April 1, 1996. It was published in Modern Liturgy Magazine, now known as Ministry and Liturgy.

That date also marked the first anniversary of the opening of the World Wide Web site for The Order of Saint Benedict (URL:http://www.osb.org/).

Fitting, perhaps, because it was very much a case of "Fools rush in where angels fear to tread." The year in cyberspace was marked by the rapid increase in the amount and diversity of material of interest to those actively engaged in Christian ministry.

I sometimes reflect on the phenomenon of the Web's rapid growth, comparing it in my mind to those grainy motion pictures of the Wright brothers' feeble hops that ushered in the Age of Flight. Although several other teams throughout the world were trying to achieve the avian condition, the Wright brothers, atop the windswept dunes of New Jersey, persisted in their lonely pursuit of that common dream.

The technological breakthrough that resulted from their double effort, however, in no way resembles the technological advance created when the first Mosaic browser became universally available in November 1993. Instead of two isolated bicycle technicians, tens of thousands of individuals were enabled to catch the wave of a technological revolution simultaneously -- the long-term effects of which few can conceptualize, imagine, or comprehend.


Fledgling liturgical cybernauts were well served early by the work of Michael Fraser, then studying theology at Durham University in Bede and Cuthbert's rugged Northumbria, not far from Hadrian's Wall. Fraser's gopher site of twenty-some liturgical resources at Durham, created in March 1994, is an informative port of call for liturgists (URL: gopher://delphi.dur.ac.uk:70/11/Academic/P-T/Theology/Computing/ Liturgy/)

The first item on the gopher menu links to an explanation and description of LITURGY, an e-mail discussion group founded by Fraser in October 1992 to remedy the lack of such a list. LITURGY currently has about 445 members worldwide, "the majority of whom are involved in either research or teaching liturgical studies. Many are members of Societas Liturgicae or the North American Academy of Liturgy." Besides recognizable names such as Michael Joncas, Thomas Talley, and Nick Wagner, the group also includes parish liturgists and musicians. Some topics discussed recently included different denominations' varied practices of veiling statues and images during Lent, the effect of carpeting on congregational singing, and what makes a hymn "Catholic." The list averages about five messages per day. To join the list send e-mail to (mailbase@mailbase.ac.uk) and use no subject for the message "subscribe liturgy" followed by your first and last names. Michael Fraser (mike.fraser@computing-services.oxford.ac.uk), soon to become Dr. Fraser, now at Oxford University's CTI Centre for Textual Studies, remains the list owner. His hypertext version of Egeria's Pilgrimage (as yet unfinished, like the manuscript on which it is based) is a model of online scholarship.


Many of the other items in the Durham gopher menu link to the extensive collection of files at American University founded by Jim McIntosh, at the time a secular Franciscan. McIntosh arranged a home for the "Free Catholic" mailing list on the listserv at American University (catholic@american.edu) (also available on Usenet as (bit.listserv.catholic).

As McIntosh explained in a recent communication, "From time to time people would make files available, and so we'd put them on the listserv. Three years ago when we joined the Internet we also made the files available by anonymous ftp, and then later by gopher. Last year we installed a Web server so these files could be obtained that way. Over time more and more people made files available. I have tried to be open-minded and have included any files which might be of interest to Catholics. This has included such diverse groups as Opus Dei and Call to Action."

McIntosh ceased to maintain the site, but his energy is directed more to the development of the Franciscan Web Page.

Most of the files of interest to liturgists are included in the section "Documents of the Roman Catholic Church." The earliest of these are "Writings of the Church Fathers/Doctors/Saints," but documents are also available from the time of Boniface VIII (1294-1303) through The Council of Trent (1545-63) to Vatican Council II (1963-65) and beyond-- including the British edition of the Catechism of the Catholic Church. A limited selection of the texts of actual liturgies can be found in a list of "Other miscellaneous documents."

"Catholic Liturgy and Worship" is featured prominently at the long-established and comprehensive site maintained at Carnegie Mellon University by John Mark Ockerbloom (spok+catholic@cs.cmu.edu). Ockerbloom, a lay Catholic, recently reorganized "Catholic Resources on the Net" (URL: http://www.cs.cmu.edu/Web/People/spok/catholic.html). He has made a special effort to provide links for the Oriental rites -- both Catholic and Orthodox. The section on "Prayer" covers devotional topics, and this site contains the greatest number of links to "Religious Orders" available on the World Wide Web. Ockerbloom and Marty Kirwan (mkirwn@capaccess.org) together keep track of Catholic educational sites on the Internet worldwide from primary to graduate schools.


As a member of the Benedictine abbey that did so much, beginning in the 1920s, to bring the liturgical movement from Europe to North America, I judged it fitting and proper to devote a section of the Order of Saint Benedict site to liturgy (URL:www.osb.org/liturgy/). The page, more selective than comprehensive, is divided into three sections: Liturgical Texts, Liturgical Commentary, and Liturgical Sites.

One of the more developed sites listed there is "Lift Up Your Hearts" (URL:www.worship.on.ca/). Based in Canada, "Lift Up Your Hearts" provides access to practical resources designed to enhance the worship and spiritual life of the Lutheran community and is offered as a contribution to the common life of the ecumenical church. As far as I have been able to discover, the highly ecumenical list there of WWW Sites Devoted to Worship & Spirituality is the most comprehensive in cyberspace. Pastor Andre Lavergne (lavergne@golden.org) maintains the site, and his "What's New" section is a convenient way to recognize new links added to the site since your last visit.

My colleague, Liz Knuth, MA, MDiv (eknuth @ unix.csbsju.edu), who edits the Lectio Divina section of the OSB site, has recently created "Liturgical Studies and Liturgical Music" (URL:www.users.csbsju.edu/~eknuth/). This collection is more scholarly than practical in emphasis, and it reflects its origin as a library guide to Internet theology resources. In many ways it expands and completes the OSB Liturgy section.

The proliferation in the last six months of competing commercial search engines (Altavista, Galaxy, Infoseek, Inktomi, Lycos, the McKinley, Yahoo, etc.) makes it much easier for the Internet researcher to find liturgical resources. The non-commercial sites examined above, however, provide a genuine service by their limited focus, classified arrangement, and editorial attention. Whichever route you take to begin exploring the riches of liturgical information available online, I wish you all, "Happy cybersurfing!"


Brother Richard Oliver, OSB, MA, (URL: http://richoliver.us/) celebrated his silver anniversary as an unordained monk of St. John's Abbey in July 1996. Trained as a university librarian, Br. Richard spent seven years in Europe overseeing the microfilming of medieval manuscripts for the Hill Monastic Manuscript Library (URL:http://www.hmml.org/). On his return to Collegeville in 1992, he took a position in the Office of Admission for the College of St. Benedict and Saint John's University (http://www.csbsju.edu/). This coincided with an extensive multi-year upgrade of computing facilities on both campuses and the rapid growth of the Internet. In April 1996 he was named Webmaster, but since July 1998 works exclusively on personal and Benedictine websites.


"Finding Your Way Online" by Maureen Jais-Mick (ML 23:4)
"Liturgy Online" by Chris Larson (ML 21:6)
"Liturgical Music in Cyber-space" by Paul Wrynn (ML 21:6)

Copyright (c) 1996, Resource Publications, Inc. May not be reproduced in any fashion without permission. Rev. 990506.