This web site is a memorial to those individuals who were passionate about the reform of the
Roman Catholic liturgy as set forth in Sacrosanctum Concilium (the Constitution on the Sacred Liturgy)
and who now, in eternal life, worship the God whom they served in this life.

Gerald Ellard, SJ

Gerald Ellard, SJ
October 8, 1894 - April 1, 1963

To those gathered in this church this evening, Father Gerald Ellard was many things. To some, he was a little-known priest of the Society of Jesus; to some, an intimate friend and counselor. To many, he was a kind and gentle human being marked by his mildness and meekness. Some knew him as the scholar whose book Anointings in the Middle Ages was published here by the Medieval Academy of America, or knew him for his work on Alcuin, or his publications in scholarly journals. Some knew him from the gentle humor of the classroom or the retreat conference where he brought to us, in terms of our own understanding, the scholarship for which we had either not the capacity or the time. To many he was a symbol—a symbol of liturgical life and growth. And to many indeed he was one who, in a long lifetime in the priesthood, brought them the Bread of the Word that they might be reunited in Christ.

Personally, before I came to know him as a friend, I met him first some thirty-five years ago in a magazine article on the liturgy of the Eucharist, and then some few years later in the first edition of the book that has influenced untold numbers of college students—his text, Christian Life and Worship. He dedicated that remarkable textbook to the “Catholic collegians of America… into whose hands the cause of Christ in America passes.”

Father Gerald Ellard was not responsible for the growth of the liturgical apostolate in the United States. Many streams have come together to bring about the renewal—the revitalizing—of Christian life and Christian worship which is now in its beginnings here. Nor is it an isolated American phenomenon, nor yet something’s imported full-blown. The renewal is not the work of any individual or even group of individuals in the United States or elsewhere. If human judgment can be relied on, it is instead the wind of the Holy Spirit blowing keenly—cleanly—through our world.

But, Father Gerald Ellard was blest by God in his early grasp of the full import of the apostolate, of the true meaning of the liturgy, of the depth and riches of its scripturally-based spirituality. He was blest with qualities of scholarship and a great capacity to bring the fruits of scholarship to the ordinary person, without the time lag usually found between work in the halls of scholarship and its effect on the man in the street. He was blest with qualities of leadership of an unusual kind—mild and almost self-effacing. Courage, patience and prudence he knew—not the prudence of fear, but the virtuous prudence of courage.

Few here will know to what degree he stood alone in other days in his recognition of what Pius X called “the primary and indispensable source of the true Christian spirit.” Few can understand the pressures upon him then when he predicted and prayed for the return of evening Mass (which seems so natural to us here, tonight), the relaxation of the Eucharistic fast, or the reintegration of a liturgically based spirituality.

Few can reconstrust the suspicion and even scorn which were aroused by his repeated plea for active participation by the people in the Mass, and few in our historical context could be expected to know the antipathy to what he and a few others were calling a Missa recitata or a “dialogue Mass.” Strangely, in retrospect, he may have been spared some of the repercussions of the times because of his quality of meekness—some of those who opposed him did not recognize his strength.

For he was a meek man—certainly not meek in any pejorative popular sense of being spiritless and excessively submissive—but meek in that he was gentle, mild of temper, patient, and even long-suffering—meek in the real sense that he always had a true respect for the other person, the “thee” or “thou” of the conversation.

This quiet priest of many parts must, in his later lifetime, have had many occasions to sing his Nunc dimittis—times, for example, like that of the issuance of the encyclical on the Mystical Body or the encyclical on Sacred Worship, or occasions like the announcement of the restoration of the Easter liturgy, or of the reforms of missal and breviary, or of the papal instruction on active participation—or glorious days in the warm sun of Assisi when the International Congress on the Liturgy met with bishops and cardinals of the Church under the papal blessing. The Nunc dimittis must have been strong indeed when the Second Vatican Council recognized by the priority of its agenda that the sacred liturgy is indeed the primary and indispensable source of true Christian spirituality—and more—that the liturgy is the bridge capable of spanning the chasm between Christians, the chasm whose very existence has been a scandal of the centuries.

Short days ago, the Nunc dimittis could have been sung again when, here in the Harvard Colloquium, separated Christians sought the “Veritas” which all must seek, and Father Gerald Ellard was one of the principal contributors.

“Now Thou dost dismiss Thy servant, O Lord, according to Thy word, in peace…”

The dismissal came soon after the Colloquium had reached its conclusion. Father Ellard has gone before us to the eternal vision. He traveled with us to the threshold of a new day. He led us toward that day. The “cause of Christ in America” and in the world, passes to other hands. And the work is only begun. May we be worthy to have some part in carrying it on during whatever time remains for each of us.

And, in the company of Jesus, may our great friend, Gerald Ellard, find “a place of refreshment, of light, and of peace”—through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Tribute prepared by Fr. Thomas J. Carroll, published in the May 1963 edition of Worship, volume 37, no 6, pg. 330.

Editor’s Note:
Father Carroll’s eulogy of the late Father Gerald Ellard, S.J., briefly summarizes some of the reasons for the sense of loss his death evoked in all who have even a passing acquaintance with the history of the liturgical movement in America. His contribution was major; and because it was made in such a reasonably persuasive manner, so patently inspired by his consuming concern for the greater glory of God through the proper exercise of the worshiping rights of God’s holy people, his pioneering labors resulted in the firm foundations upon which others have been confidently building ever since. The “sweet reasonableness” that characterized Father Ellard served also to minimize some of the sharp controversies and misunderstandings that are inevitably encountered by any new movement that challenges long established patters of behavior and thought.

Worship has, however, very special reasons to pay grateful tribute to the deceased. We mourn him as one of our founding fathers. When Orate Fratres was launched on the first Sunday of Advent, 1926, Father Ellard’s name appeared among the ten associate editors. And since then his signature has been appended to no less than fifty-four main articles, and even more frequently to book reviews. My own association with the magazine dates back to 1933. In all that time, Father Ellard not once failed to respond swiftly and cheerfully to any appeal for help, whether it involved a frantic last-minute plea for an essay on a particular subject, or the more leisurely spelling out of advice concerning policy or recurrent problems.

With Msgr. Busch and Msgr. Hellriegel, Father Ellard constituted the small group who collaborated most closely with Father Virgil Michel, OSB, in planning the magazine (Orate Fratres) and in keeping it alive during the first difficult years. Father Virgil died tragically early, in 1938. But it has undoubtedly been a very great blessing that the next death among the pioneers did not occur until a quarter of a century later: for it meant that these three founders could exercise a continuity of guidance of an entire generation of younger men. That stabilizing influence of wisdom and experience on the part of Monsignors Busch and Hellriegel is still, thank God, actively being felt. The former is this year celebrating his fiftieth anniversary of teaching at the Saint Paul Seminary and Msgr. Hellriegel who will observe the golden jubilee of his ordination next year, continues to lecture and conduct priests’ retreats besides directing a large suburban parish as pastor. Father Ellard in recent years had been less in the public eye than formerly. It was only at his funeral that I learned the reason: a cerebral hemorrhage suffered in 1953. To his friends who inquired about his health, he had in his usual self-deprecatory way always given a pleasant but evasively reassuring reply. As if it were a matter of small moment—let’s talk about something that’s important.

Father Ellard, I am sure, thoroughly enjoyed his own funeral. The office of the dead and the Mass in the Jesuit theologate where he had spent a lifetime sharing his vision of full, as well as true worship, with his young confreres, were celebrated with beauty and with maximum participation. It was a tribute of affectionate devotion to one of our generation’s most effective teachers. Deo gratias for Gerry Ellard.

Editor’s Note by Godfrey L. Diekmann, OSB, published in the May 1963 edition of Worship, volume 37, no 6, pg. 376. Reprinted with permission.

Biographical Note (from Boston College - University Libraries)

Gerald Ellard, S.J., was born on October 8, 1894, in Commonwealth, Wisconsin. He was the second of four children to Hugh and Margaret (Fitzgerald) Ellard. Gerald and his brother, Augustine, and his two sisters, Marian and Eileen, all entered the religious life. Gerald and Augustine entered the Society of Jesus, while Marian and Eileen entered the Sisters of St. Joseph of Corondelet.

Ellard entered the Society of Jesus on July 27, 1912, at the Sacred Heart novitiate in Los Gatos, California. He was ordained on June 16, 1926. For the following five years, Ellard undertook his doctoral studies in Europe. On his return to the United States, he was assigned to a teaching post in history and religion at St. Louis University. When the Missouri Province of the Society of Jesus transferred the theologate to St. Mary's College in Kansas, Ellard was assigned to the school starting in the fall of 1932. He taught as a professor of liturgy at St. Mary's from 1932 until his death in 1963.

In addition to his life as a teacher, Ellard was also significantly involved in the liturgical reform movement. Ellard co-founded the National Liturgical Conference, and wrote an influential book entitled Christian Life and Worship (1933). He also authored two books on the Mass entitled The Mass of the Future (1948) and The Mass in Transition (1956), both of which were viewed as radical at the time, but anticipated the changes that took effect with the Second Vatican Council.

Ellard devoted a significant amount of time to lectures and seminars addressing the subject of the liturgy. Just before his death, Ellard presented a seminar entitled "Sacrament and Symbol" at the Roman Catholic-Protestant Colloquium at the Harvard Divinity School. He was living at Boston College in preparation for the colloquium.

Ellard had a heart attack on 1963 April 1, and died the same day. Father William Leonard, S.J., of Boston College, a close friend and colleague in the liturgical reform movement, traveled with the body back to St. Mary's College in Kansas to preach the eulogy. Ellard was buried in the St. Mary's College cemetery.