Ricky MANALO. The Liturgy of Life: The Interrelationship of Sunday Eucharist and Everyday Worship Practices. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 2014. pp. 205. $24.95 pb. ISBN 978-0-8146-6308-0. Reviewed by Stephen S. WILBRICHT, Stonehill College, Easton, MA 02356
Ricky Manalo is a Paulist priest who teaches at Santa Clara University and the Jesuit School of Theology in California and is well-known as a composer of liturgical music. In his work, The Liturgy of Life—an expansion of his doctoral dissertation—Manalo wrestles with the identification of the liturgy (and most especially the Eucharist) as the true “source” and “summit” of the Christian life, a hallmark phrase of Paragraph 10 of Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium. Manalo contends that “the liturgy of life,” including daily, domestic activities and popular devotions, is both real worship of the divine that also informs the worldview of a Christian.
One of the most appealing aspects of this book is that it proceeds from ethnographic research. Each chapter opens with stories of parishioners from St. Agnes Church in San Francisco. Manalo’s study includes a wide range of participants, from a very devote Filipina widow, with a house filled with religious artifacts, to a recovering alcoholic, whose primary association with the Church is his attendance at AA meetings, to interreligious and interracial married couples. Their stories depict the diverse ways in which people encounter God and are able to live out their Christian faith.
The Liturgy of Life contains seven chapters. Chapter One introduces the reader to St. Agnes Church, in particular its style of hospitality, music ministry, and preaching. Manalo’s description leaves no doubt that St. Agnes is a vibrant community. Chapter Two examines how the language of “source” and “summit” began to take hold in the Liturgical Movement of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, when pioneers were promoting participation in the official liturgy of the Church over and above private devotions. Chapter Three explores how this language specifies, and therefore limits, the parameters of liturgy in the documents of the Second Vatican Council and subsequently in the writings of John Paul II and Benedict XVI. Manalo writes: “As a result of solidifying and promoting the idea of Eucharist as source and summit, less attention was given to articulating a genuine evaluation of popular religious practices in the everyday lives of Christian…” (77).
Chapter Four introduces Peter Phan’s work to broaden the Christian perspective of liturgy to include life activities and popular devotions. It is the next two chapters that demonstrate Manalo’s unique contribution to the idea of “the liturgy of life.” In Chapter Five he lays out principles for a sociological study of people’s religious and/or spiritual behaviors, while in Chapter Six he maps out and analyzes his ethnographic findings. He suggests that the voices of “non-experts” are indispensible for determining what truly constitutes “source” and “summit.” Thus, in the final chapter, Manalo offers “correlations and theological interpretations” on the interrelationship of Sunday Eucharist and everyday religiosity. The author sums up his work: “What this book has demonstrated is that dialogue with the social sciences, including the call to consider more intentionally the expanding sociocultural context of worship by means of sociological and ethnographic tools, can not only lead to new paradigms to help understand what liturgy is and how liturgy is performed, but to do so while maintaining the divine initiative” (168).
Manalo’s work is an important addition to the field of liturgical studies. Although the project of studying the liturgy through the lens of its actual performance has been proposed by numerous scholars, Manalo holds that the scope of this study needs to encompass the manifold ways people encounter God outside the confines of the church building and the official liturgy. The Liturgy of Life offers the invitation to examine liturgy from the perspective of the people and, simultaneously, to examine the lives of Christians as a necessary part of worship. This is an engaging book that merits serious attention by liturgical theologians and scholars of ritual studies, and is one that can be readily appreciated by “non-experts” as well.