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Virgil Michel

By Lucinda A. Nolan


Virgil Michel, O.S.B. (1890-1938), a Benedictine monk of Saint John’s Abbey in Collegeville, Minnesota, is best known as a leader of the Roman Catholic Liturgical Movement in the United States. His life’s work was broadly centered on bringing about a more Christian society through education for a greater understanding of and participation in the worship of the Church. Religious education of the laity was at the heart of his desire to effect liturgical reform. Michel believed that a deeper understanding of the liturgy would in turn lead participants to lead more vibrant Christian lives and, consequently, bring about a more just society. He stressed the inherent link between the liturgy of the Church and action for social justice. 


Early Years

George Michel was the second of fifteen children born to Fred and Mary Michel. At the time of his birth on June 26, 1890, his father was co-owner of a general store in St. Paul, Minnesota. His parents were of German descent and were Catholics of great piety. Mary and Fred Michel instilled in their children a love for nature, reading, music, culture and religion. Young George was devoted to study and was frequently honored for scholastic achievement.

In 1900, Fred Michel sold his interests in the general store in order to invest nearly a half-million dollars in the silver mines of Mexico. His fortune was lost following the Mexican revolution. Michel’s father returned home to expand a small real estate company he had previously owned (Marx 1957, 4). The elder Michel was fluent in several languages. Young George eventually mastered five languages and grew to love travel, accompanying his father on several trips after his mother died. In addition to his travels, young George spent a large part of his holiday and vacation time on his grandfather’s farm in Scott County, Minnesota (Marx 1957, 5). There he thrived on hard work and fresh air. He loved hiking, fishing and swimming. These country experiences gave George Michel a solid background in rural living that served him well when as an adult he became associated with the National Catholic Rural Life Conference.



In 1903, George Michel enrolled in St. John’s Preparatory School in Collegeville, Minnesota, a boarding school run by the Benedictine monks of St. John’s Abbey (Marx 1957, 5). He was a serious student, avid reader, writer, actor and athlete during the years he attended St. John’s Prep. His interests were wide and varied and he possessed great energy and focus to follow them all. He was a serious young man, as a classmate recalled:

    He seemed through his lifetime never to be able to laugh as others do. . . . Yet I know as

    well as a close friend could that both the boy George and the religious Virgil spent his

life joyously, carefreely, contented with what God’s goodness allowed him in his unassuming way. (Marx 1957, 6)        

During his sophomore year of college, Michel began to consider the priesthood as a personal calling (Marx 1957, 6). He was attracted to the Benedictine monks with their emphasis on spirituality, learning and monastic living. In 1909, under the mentoring influence of Father Alcuin Deutsch, later abbot of St. John’s, George Michel entered the novitiate taking as his name, Virgil.

While in seminary, Virgil Michel taught English, German, Latin and patrology. He also played in the school orchestra and coached athletics (Marx 1957, 80). He was ordained on June 14, 1916.

Michel remained affiliated with St. John’s Preparatory School where he had been a student. He resided at St. John’s Abbey as a monk, and taught at St. John’s University as a professor of English and philosophy. At the time of his death in 1938, Fr. Michel was Dean of Saint John’s University. His dedication to St. John’s and the Benedictines was deep and life-long.

Michel furthered his studies at The Catholic University of America where he earned a doctorate in English, with minors in philosophy and philology. Here his interest in education emerged as he was introduced to the progressive ideas of Dr. Thomas Edward Shields. Shields himself was a pioneer in liturgical revival, speaking of liturgy as the “organic teaching of the Church” (Marx 1957, 10).

In 1918, Michel wrote his dissertation on the topic, “The Critical Principles of Orestes A. Brownson. Marx writes of Michel’s thesis,

The famous convert [Brownson] wrote much on the philosophical and religious bases for

a healthy society. Never did he fail to point out the inadequacies of Catholic education. His writings on the relation between Catholicism and modern civilization have, perhaps, gone unsurpassed. Atheism and secularism traced in all aspects of American life—that was the heart of Brownson’s contribution. In future years that became Michel’s as well. (Marx 1957, 11)

While at The Catholic University of America, Michel asked his Abbot to assign him to a military chaplaincy. When his request was refused, Michel made plans to attend education classes at Columbia University. He was inspired by the intellectual and current reconstructive ideas going on in the field of education at the time. Michel wrote the Abbot strongly urging him to find someone in his Benedictine community to specialize in the area. In 1919, Michel published his first article in the American Catholic Quarterly Review. In 1922, he returned to St. John’s to teach English and philosophy. He served as Dean at the Prep School from 1922—23 and Dean of the College until he left for Europe in 1924.  According to Marx,

As Dean of the Prep School he organized, with the help of a few confreres, a four—year

high school religion course which received some national recognition. Deeply interested in the improvement of religious education, he had in mind also to write a series of college religion texts. (Marx 1957, 16)

But Virgil Michel was not a popular teacher. His biographers Franklin and Spaeth write,

          As an English teacher he was remembered for the sharpness of his personal comments;    

          as a seminary professor he was said to speak above the level of student comprehension,

          and as a philosophy instructor he was overheard to launch into nervous discussions of

          his numerous personal problems and difficulties. (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 51)

In the 1920s, Michel experienced a kind of intellectual conversion, believing that Benedictine monasticism held the answers to many of the problems that he saw in the modern American Catholic Church.

From ancient to modern times Benedictine monasticism had expressed in a variety of ways the unique insight that both matter and spirit are in the service of human purposes, had been concerned with how the individual relates to the community, and had acknowledged that faith implies freedom as well as authority. (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 51—52)

In 1924, when Abbot Deutsch sent Michel to Europe to study Scholastic philosophy, the young monk was certain that he would find answers to many of the questions that were plaguing him.



In Europe, the liturgical revival was thriving during the years following the 1903 motu proprio of Pius X. Pius X initiated many reforms in the various areas of Church life, including Eucharistic practices, sacred music, biblical studies and catechesis. Michel’s time in Europe drew him into a fascination with liturgical renewal. Romano Guardini’s Vom Geist der Liturgie (1918) was an early inspiration on needed liturgical reform for young Michel.

There is little doubt that Father Michel’s sojourn to Europe from February 1924 to August 1925 was of utmost significance in opening up his mind to the broad horizons of the theology of the Mystical Body, the liturgical movement and Scholastic philosophy (Marx 1957, 24). In Rome, Michel studied philosophy with metaphysician, Joseph Gredt, at the International Benedictine College of Saint Anselm. Michel was disillusioned by Gredt’s methods, but was totally enchanted by Europe. He traveled extensively, talking with people in all walks of life and visiting as many monasteries as he could. He sent liturgical books back to St. John’s to be translated and disseminated in the United States.

At this time, courses in liturgy were being taught at Saint Anselm’s by a monk from Mont César in Belgium named Lambert Beauduin. Beauduin believed that the work of saving souls, to be truly effective, must be rooted in the liturgy (Marx 1957, 28). Virgil Michel was deeply influenced by the scholarly and energetic Dom Lambert who wrote of their meeting:

Liturgy was not for him (Michel) just a matter of study; it was above all a powerful means of doing apostolic work, by increasing the faith and devotion of the faithful. His vocation for such work seemed a part of himself. (Marx 1957, 28)

Michel continued his studies and travels in Europe. He became aware of clerical apathy, social injustices and the careless and poor liturgical practices in many parishes.  These issues were deeply disturbing to him. In the months before he was to return home, Michel became acquainted with the doctrine of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ. This gave structure to his ideas for liturgical reform in the United States.  “He began to perceive that a properly worshipping people, realizing that oneness in The Mystical Christ and actively contacting the living realities of the liturgy, could in time transform a whole society” (Marx 1957, 36). To this end, Michel made plans for a “Popular Liturgical Library” of books and pamphlets and for the publication of a liturgical review, which would come into being as Orate Fratres. Father Michel threw himself into plans for the advancement of the liturgical movement in the United States, realizing the importance of custom fitting it to the situation in the United States. “To all he listened, but when the time came to organize the liturgical apostolate in America, he would be realist enough to know that there could be no slavish imitation” (Marx 1957, 40).

Before leaving Europe, Dom Virgil became acquainted with ideas that would later bear fruit in his ministry: the mission of women in the modern world, the need for a series of texts on the liturgy, the relationship between the natural and the supernatural world and the utmost need of the Church for an active laity (Marx 1957, 40).


Virgil Michel’s Later Years

Michel returned to the United States in September of 1925. He worked tirelessly teaching philosophy at the seminary, writing articles, organizing the liturgical movement, editing Orate Fratres, directing the Liturgical Press, lecturing, directing and editing With Mother Church, offering retreats and editing a new religion textbook series (Marx 1957, 161). Among his goals, Michel hoped “to diminish the separation of the Eucharist from daily affairs; to transform the piety of the laity; and to establish stronger bonds between the clergy and their congregations” (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 75).

By1930, Dom Virgil’s eyesight was giving out and he was near exhaustion. He was sent to an Indian mission for recovery. There he embraced the life of the Chippewa Indians of northern Minnesota. Still far from recovery, while Michel was at work directing seminarians in a summer program for the catechizing the Chippewa, he was called back to St. John’s to serve as Dean of the college (Marx 1957, 166). Dom Virgil returned reluctantly in 1933, but sincerely believed at this point that God did not will his recovery. However, he did recover and began to work on major liturgical reforms which included liturgy in the vernacular, evening mass, new postures at Mass, architectural changes in the churches, and lay participation in the prayers of the Divine Office (Franklin and Spaeth, 84). He continued to encourage women to participate in worship and to “take on positions of lay leadership since they shared, as members of the Savior’s body, in the same priesthood as lay men” (Franklin and Spaeth, 86). For Dom Virgil, “fundamentally, the real task of a liturgical movement [was] an educational one” and to this end, the laity, men and women alike, could make a tremendous contribution to the Catholic Church (Marx 1957, 219).

The years between 1935 and 1938 (Michel’s last living years) were spent focusing on the relationship between Eucharistic worship and social justice.

[Liturgy] gives us a proper concept and understanding of what society is like, through its model, the mystical Body of Christ. And it puts the concept of community rather than individualism into action in its worship and wants us to live it out in everyday life. By ever sowing in men’s hearts the seeds of the unifying bond that ties them all to God and to each other in an intimate social fellowship, the liturgy will transmit the solid values of communal civilization. (Letter, St. John’s Abbey Archives, 1935)

Michel believed that Christians, transformed through Eucharistic worship, would subsequently gradually transform society. He spent the last two years of his life outlining a program to achieve this goal. He enjoyed conversations with non-Catholic philosophers, including Richard Hocking, Scott Buchanan and Mortimer Adler. Adler was much impressed by the “breadth of his understanding” (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 95). Adler convinced Michel of the wisdom behind the philosophy of education at the University of Chicago and the importance of his Great Books program. At the time of Dom Virgil’s death his schedule was heavily impacted with developing programs, writing articles and revising curriculum. In addition to all this, traveling, lecturing and offering retreats, took their toll on Michel. His strength depleted, he contracted pneumonia and a streptococcus infection. He died at St. John’s infirmary on November 26, 1938, at the age of forty-eight. He is buried in the St. John’s Abbey Cemetery.


Works Cited

Marx, Paul. (1957). Virgil Michel and the liturgical movement. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Franklin, R. W., and Spaeth, R. L. (1988). Virgil Michel American Catholic. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Contributions to Christian Education

The Liturgical Movement in the United States

Perhaps the most significant contribution made by Dom Virgil Michel to Catholic religious education in the U.S. was his pioneering effort in bringing together the idea of an educated and participating laity with the renewal of human society toward a more compassionate and just world.  “To Virgil Michel, the Eucharist is an act which empowers men and women who are right with God to make all earthly things right (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 35).

The liturgical movement had its origins in 1832 at the Benedictine Abbey of Solesmes in France. It was there that Dom Prosper Guéranger endeavored to recover authentic Gregorian chant. His work and the work of other monks at the center for liturgy spurred new interest in all aspects of liturgical life (Weiss 1998, 61). In 1903, Pius X issued a motu proprio on church music and by 1909 a conference focusing on liturgy was held in Malines, Belgium. Dom Lambert Beauduin led the conference that underscored full participation in the liturgy as a way of instructing the faithful and deepening their faith. These ideas were pastoral in nature and pointed to the catechetical potential of the Mass. In an article on liturgy and catechesis, Joseph Weiss quotes Virgil Funk,

Beauduin held that an understanding of the nature of the Church as the body of Christ would enable the development of a deeper sense of community in both worship and life. Worship, Beauduin stressed, was the common action of the people of the Church, an action that involved them all in a sharing in the saving work of Christ in and for the world. . . . The “active participation” of the people, a phrase first used officially by Pope Pius X, was promoted through early and frequent communion, the restoration of community singing, and the translation of the Roman Missal as a devotional manual for the people. (Funk 1991, 699)

It was Dom Beauduin who was the inspirational force behind Michel’s desire to revive the liturgical worship of the Catholic Church in the Unites States. From the elder monk, Michel grew to see the theology of The Mystical Body of Christ as a key element in understanding the nature of the liturgy and it ability to touch the whole person, individually and collectively. In it also lay the key to Michel’s inclusive theology. The laity as well as the clergy made up the Church and each member of the Body of Christ was given special gifts in order to help build up the Church. For Michel, the laity must be at the heart of the liturgy as the “work of the people.” Participation in the Mass and an active Catholic laity were central to Michel’s thought.

Were not the prayers of the priest pointing to the true communal nature of the Mass? Pius XI had declared, “It is quite necessary that the faithful, not as visitors or mute spectators, but as worshippers thoroughly imbued with the beauty of the liturgy, should take part in the sacred ceremonies . . .  (Michel 1930b, 123).  By virtue of one’s baptism, the believer has a share, though not a full, unlimited share, in the priesthood of Christ. This leads lay Catholics to full and responsible participation in the Christian way of life, one that is informed and self-reflective.

Catholic action is the natural outgrowth of this form of lay apostleship. Though Michel noted that in the strictest sense, Catholic Action is lay participation in Catholic Church organizations, it goes beyond that as the Catholic laity exerts influence in all areas of life. For Michel, a participative, educated laity “could not but go out into the day breathing everywhere the inspiration of Christ” (Michel 1930b, 124).

Many of his fellow clergymen were not of the same mind, but Michel’s inclusive theology was “rooted in the origins of Benedictine monasticism as a lay movement” (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 75). Before leaving Europe to return to St. John’s, Virgil Michel began envisioning the translation of the best of European liturgical documents and texts into English.



Another of Michel’s significant and enduring contributions to Catholic religious education was in the form of the printed word. Michel had witnessed much in Europe that he felt would be beneficial to liturgical reform in this country. However, Michel knew that he could not simply translate those ideas into English, but instead sought to adapt them to the unique challenges of the U.S. Church. “From the beginning, Father Michel was convinced that the liturgical movement in the United States must be genuinely American, an emphasis that would best assure its success in the whole English–speaking world. But this demanded a unique periodical and literature” (Marx 1957, 113). Moreover, he understood the true method of reform was education. Through his journal and press, he was convinced he could further the education of both clergy and laity in matters of the liturgy.

In a time of confusion and suspicion about the liturgical apostolate, getting priests and the laity to think about the liturgy and liturgical practices in new ways was a difficult task (Marx 1957, 81). Marx tells us, “The power of the movement lay in the written word. A journal, Orate Fratres, later re-named Worship, and a publishing firm, The Liturgical Press, communicated Virgil Michel’s ideas about liturgical reform to the laity and clergy in the U.S. The Liturgical Press of St. John’s Abbey was established partly because no publishing house would risk the publication of popular treatises on the liturgy” (Marx 1957, 92). By 1926, Michel was lining up editors and workers for the Liturgical Press. The first volume of Orate Fratres also appeared in 1926. Michel wrote more than a third of its first volume and the first three publications of The Liturgical Press. By 1929, the periodical and the Liturgical Press publications could be found in twenty-six countries.

The impact of the content of the publications coming out of Collegeville, Minnesota, on the religious education of Catholic children and adults was far reaching. Articles on sound catechetical principles and methods were written by Michel and others. Other content focused on the areas of piety, dogma, ritual, the liturgical calendar, liturgical sources and music (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 76).

In a later, more radical phase, Michel suggested reforms in worship that included use of the vernacular in liturgy, evening Mass, new postures at Mass, architectural changes and lay participation in the Divine Office (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 83—84). Both Orate Fratres (as Worship) and the Liturgical Press remain in existence today and reflect the values and concern for excellence in scholarship and publishing that were central to the vision of Virgil Michel.


Religious Education and Textbooks

If education paves the way to reform, the place to begin is with the young. To this end, Dom Virgil, following in the footsteps of Thomas Shields of The Catholic University of America, started a summer school at ST. John’s for teachers that included a variety of coursework to prepare them for teaching the liturgy. The catechetical movement was in its early phase of development in the U.S. so pedagogical courses were added to the curriculum. Seventy-five students came to Collegeville to study during the first summer. During that first summer Michel woke up to the reality of his concerns: there was a great need for textbooks and teachers’ manuals that were grounded in his ideas on the liturgy and education. The outdated method of memorizing and reciting the answers to the questions in The Baltimore Catechism needed to give way to a pedagogy that paid attention to the whole student. Michel wrote,

Now what does it mean to say that the liturgy must be made basic in our religious education? It means just this (and perhaps much more): that we must teach the truths of our religion in their practical relation to that living religion, to the actual living out of these truths in the church both by the church as a whole and by each member as an active participant, It means that the truth in their interrelation of dogma and worship must also be taught in their mutual relation to the everyday life of the Christian, which must ever be but an extension of the sacrificial dedication of himself to God at the altar. It means that the truths must be taught with all the interrelations they have in the living itself, psychological, emotional, intellectual, volitional, natural and supernatural. (1937d, 267)

Learning and doing must be connected, if the child is to be educated as a whole person. Accordingly, content and method must be adapted to the age and experience of the students.

Michel held that the application of the principles of educational psychology, such as logical progression, movement from concrete to abstract material, group process and repetition would be beneficial to religious education (1937d, 286).

Michel had long believed that, “If religious teaching knows no other motive than that of authority, if it hides its dearth of motive behind the authority of the Church whose coercive power alone is made to lend force to arguments, it may arouse only an instinctive counter-impulse in the human heart” (Michel 1924a, 409). Religion must be taught as something that is “mysteriously interior” and should include the study of the history of religion, liturgy, and mental prayer (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 124).

There remained little choice but to publish textbooks that would accomplish these goals of liturgical catechesis. Virgil Michel turned to colleagues for assistance in his endeavor to publish a series of graded texts that would teach students of all ages to grow in the Christ-life. Although he had varying degrees of involvement with the writing of the texts, nevertheless these volumes contain a concrete expression of his perspectives on liturgical catechesis (Whalen 1996, 166—214).

The first series designed and published by Michel was A High School Course in Religion (1924).

Each of the four years was divided into four parts: memorization, doctrine, history, and practice or reading. Michel felt these twice-a-week classes were substantial enough to form and inform young Catholics to become the sort of lay people who would be able to defend their faith and build up the Church.

In 1929, The Dominicans sent sixteen sisters to study in Michel’s summer program. Two of the sisters, Estelle Hackett, O.P. and Jane Marie Murray, O.P., conceived of a series, entitled With Mother Church (1929), that would “initiate children to the liturgical feasts within a catechetical environment” (Parascandola 2009, 150). Michel collaborated with the sisters on the project and wrote two lessons for it: one on the liturgy the other on the church calendar year (Parascandola 2009, 149). These manuals were designed to be used with the Baltimore Catechism, but it soon became evident that texts of a broader scope were needed.

Together, Dom Virgil, Basil Stegmann, O.S.B., and the Dominican sisters began work on a series of graded textbooks for grades one through eight. Plans were made to extend the series into the college years. Sister Jane Murray, O.P., working closely with Michel, wrote much of the curriculum. She worked tirelessly on the series in collaboration with Michel who also served as editor. The grade-school series was entitled The Christ-Life Series in Religion (1934), the high school series, The Christian Religion Series for High School, followed by The Christian Religion Series for College. The grade school series was published as planned in eight volumes. Due to the Michel’s death in 1938, only two volumes of the high school and college curriculum were published.

Michael Whalen summarizes Michel’s philosophy and methodology in five points: 1) the Foundation of the series is Michel’s philosophy of personalism, which places great importance on the absolute value of the human person; 2) the Content of the catechesis in the series is the entire liturgical life of the Church as lived in its sacraments, the Mass and the liturgical year; 3) the Context in which catechesis takes place is the liturgy as celebrated within the family and the Church, which were viewed by Michel as the primary foci for the celebrations of feasts, sacraments, and the liturgy; 4) the Experience of liturgical catechesis is participation in the Mass; 5) the Integrating Principle of the catechesis is the community (Whalen 1996, 209—212).  “As such his approach to liturgical catechesis correlated liturgy and life, sacrament and society, worship and world” (Whalen, 213).

It was Michel’s vision that such a catechesis, leading as it would to full participation in the liturgy, would result in a body of faithful Christians who would be fully committed to the renewal of society through their work for social justice.

(For extended research on this topic, see: Whalen, Michael D. (1996). Method in liturgical catechesis: A systematic and critical analysis of the relationship between liturgy and catechesis in the writings of Virgil Michel 1890—1938. (Doctoral dissertation, The Catholic University of America, 1996).


Social Justice

Conditions in this country in the 1920s and 1930s were such that the communal nature of the Church as the Mystical Body of Christ had been lost to the new mainstream secular philosophy of individualism. Michel was critical of negative individualism as well as collectivism. He found support for his own understanding of education in the personalist philosophy of Emmanuel Mounier. While, in personalist thought, the individual must be respected, it is only in a life of solidarity with others that human dignity and social justice flourish. According to Michel, individualism was a major problem and challenge to Catholicism in this country (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 14). Michel offered a solution of moderation, of balancing a Christian spirit that takes into account both the individual and the social sides of human nature” (14). This, for Michel, was the guiding philosophical force behind his ministry, but it became especially explicit in his philosophy of religious education: the liturgy is intricately linked to concern for others and social justice. Religious education must address the whole person, individual and social (Marx 1957, 221).

Both Pope Pius XI and Michel believed that, “without a return to the spirit of the Gospels, ‘no reforms of social institutions can be of much avail’” (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 109). Knowledge of and participation in the liturgy leads one to Christian living and concern for the poor. “The Christian in the World (1939), reads like a summary of Virgil Michel’s understanding of human society and his version of the Christian response to social problems” (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 130). Human dignity and the social nature of the human person find their deepest expression in the liturgy and the work of praise and thanksgiving to God, the Creator.

In 1979, decades after the death of Virgil Michel, the United States Catholic Conference published Sharing the Light of Faith, a catechetical directory, for all those who teach the Catholic faith. Much of Michel’s thought is evident there, especially in the emphasis on liturgy and its relation to social justice. In a section entitled “Catechesis for a Worshipping Community,” the Directory (83) asserts that the liturgy is the “heart of the Church’s life” and that it “leads its members to seek justice, charity and peace” (Franklin and Spaeth 1988, 133).



The Second Vatican Council overshadowed the earlier efforts of the pioneers of the liturgical movement here and in Europe, but it is without doubt that their influence was strongly felt there. Liturgy, as the expression of a people’s worship, continues to be the source and summit of the Christian life. Virgil Michel’s influence remains with us in his publications, his untiring efforts in social justice and the field of liturgical catechesis. No doubt, he would have his critics today, but many religious educators continue to base their efforts on the idea that the liturgy is the supreme teacher of the faith. 


Virgil Michel wrote extensively on many topics. Highlighted here are works that are pertinent to Christian religious education. For more extensive bibliographies see:

Franklin, R. W., and Spaeth, R. L. (1988). Virgil Michel American Catholic. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press, 164—167.

Marx, Paul. (1957). Virgil Michel and the liturgical movement. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press, 421—438.

Whalen, Michael D. (1996). Method in liturgical catechesis: A systematic and critical analysis of the relationship between liturgy and catechesis in the writings of Virgil Michel 1890—1938. (Doctoral dissertation, The Catholic University of America, 1996).



St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota



Beauduin, Lambert.  (1926). Liturgy the life of the church. (Virgil Michel, Trans.). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Caronti, Emmanuele. (1926). The spirit of the liturgy. (Virgil Michel, Trans.). Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Grabmann, Martin. (1928). Thomas Aquinas: His personality and thought. (Virgil Michel, Trans.) New York: Longmans, Green and Co.

Mounier, Emmanuel. (1938). A personalist manifesto.  (Virgil Michel and the Monks of St. John’s Abbey, Trans.) New York: Longmans, Green and Co.



Michel, Virgil. (1918). The critical principles of Orestes A. Brownson. Washington: Privately published.

Michel, Virgil. (1929). Notes on epistemology. Collegeville, MN: The Order of St. Benedict.

Michel, Virgil, Basil Stegmann and the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, MI. (1934, 1935) The Christ life series in religion, New York: Macmillan Company.

Michel, Virgil. (1936). Critique of capitalism. St. Paul, MN: Wanderer Publishing Company.

Michel, Virgil. (1936). The nature of capitalism. St. Paul, MN: Wanderer Publishing Company.

Michel, Virgil. (1936).  Philosophy of human conduct. Minneapolis, MN: Burgess.

Michel, Virgil. (1937). Christian social reconstruction. Milwaukee: The Bruce Publishing Company.

Michel, Virgil. (1938). The Liturgy of the church. New York: The Macmillan Company.

Michel, Virgil. (1939). The Christian in the world. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Michel, Virgil and Murray, Jane Marie. (1942-1950). The Christian religion series. Milwaukee: Bruce Publishing Company.

Michel, Virgil. (1981). Liberal education: Essays on the philosophy of higher education. Robert L. Spaeth (Ed.). Collegeville, MN: Saint John's University.

Michel, Virgil. (1987). The social question: Essays on capitalism and Christianity. Robert L. Spaeth, (Ed.). Collegeville, MN: Saint John's University.



Michel, Virgil. (1919). Brownson’s political philosophy and today. American Catholic Quarterly Review, 44, 193—202.

Michel, Virgil. (1921). Smith-Towner bill again. Educational Review, 61, 70—79.

Michel, Virgil. (1923). Religion for credit. Catholic Educational Review, 221, 465—470.

Michel, Virgil. (1924a). A high school course in religion. Catholic Educational Review, 22, 408—419; 472—486.

Michel, Virgil. (1924b). The role of authority. Catholic Educational Review, 22, 267—271.

Michel, Virgil. (1925). A religious need of the day. Catholic Educational Review, 23, 449—456.

Michel, Virgil. (1926a). Intellectual confusion today and Philosophia Perennis. Fortnightly  Review, 33, 211—212.

Michel, Virgil. (1926b). Participation in the Mass. Orate Fratres, 1, 17—20.

Michel, Virgil. (1927a). Stimulating intellectual independence in senior college students.  Catholic Educational Review, 25, 524—533.

Michel, Virgil. (1927b). Are we educating moral parasites? The Catholic Educational Review, 25, 147—155.

Michel, Virgil. (1930a). The basic need of Christian education today. Catholic Educational  Review, 28, 3—12.

Michel, Virgil. (1930b). The layman in the Church. Commonweal, 8, 123—125.

Michel, Virgil. (1935). Infidelity in the Church. Orate Fratres 1: 17—20.

Michel, Virgil, Stegmann, Basil and the Dominican Sisters of Grand Rapids, Michigan. (1936a). Some pedagogical features of the Christ Life Series in Religion. Journal of Religious Instruction 6, 583-588.

Michel, Virgil. (1936b). The scope of the liturgical movement. Orate Fratres 10, 485—490.

Michel, Virgil. (1937a). Liturgical religious instruction: Answers to separation of dogma from Life. Orate Fratres, 11, 267—269.

Michel, Virgil. (1937b). Reconstructing the Latin curriculum. Classical Bulletin, 23, 61.

Michel, Virgil. (1937c). Religious education. Orate Fratres 11, 218—220.

Michel, Virgil. (1937d). Liturgical  religious education. Orate Fratres 11, 267—269.

Michel, Virgil. (1937e). Religious instruction again. Orate Fratres, 11, 321—322.

Michel, Virgil. (1938). Christian education for rural living. Catholic Rural Life Bulletin, 1,  19—21.

Michel, Virgil. (1938). Adequate preparation for teaching the Mass.  Journal of Religious Instruction 8, 594—598.

Michel, Virgil. (1938). Knowledge requirement for teaching the Mass. Journal of Religious Instruction 8, 765—770.

Michel, Virgil. (1938). Educating for tomorrow. Free America, 2, l3—14.

Michel, Virgil. (1940). Rediscovering the obvious: Liturgy and the psychology of education. Orate Fratres 14, 529—532.

Michel, Virgil. (Not dated).  Liturgy and religious education. Unpublished manuscript. Archives  of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota.



Michel, Virgil. November 27, 1935. Archives of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville: MN.


Religious Education Series

Michel, Virgil, Stegmann, Basil & the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic, Marywood, Grand Rapids Michigan. (1934-1935) The Christ-Life Series. New York: Macmillan.

                        Book One: God Our Father.

                        Book Two: Jesus Our Savior.

                        Book Three: The Story of God’s Love.

                        Book Four: A Child of God.

                        Book Five: The Redeeming Sacrifice.

                        Book Six: The Kingdom of God.

                        Book Seven: With Mother Church.

                        Book Eight: Through Christ Our Lord.

                        Teachers’ Manual, Vol. 1.

                        Teachers’ Manual, Vol. 2.

Michel, Virgil, and Murray, Jane Marie. The Christian Religion Series for High School.Milwaukee: Bruce.

                        (1938, 1945). The Life of Our Lord.

                        (1952). Christ in His Church.

Michel, Virgil in collaboration with the Monks of St. John’s Abbey, Collegeville, Minnesota and the Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic, Marywood, Grand Rapids, Michigan (1929-1936). The Christian Religion Series for College. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

                        (1939). Our Life in Christ.

                        (1939). The Christian in the World.

                        (1937). The Liturgy of the Church.

                        (1926). My Sacrifice and Yours.

The Sisters of the Order of St. Dominic, Marywood, Grand Rapids, Michigan. & Michel, Virgil.

                       (1929). With Mother Church. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.


Writings about Virgil Michel:

Beaudoin, David M. (1988). A personalist approach to catechetics. Worship, 237—249.

Bryce, Mary Charles. (1978). Four decades of Roman Catholic innovators, Religious Education 73, S 36—57.

Chinnici, Joseph P. (1988). Virgil Michel and the tradition of affective prayer. Worship, 225-236.

Elias, John L. and Nolan, Lucinda A. (Eds.). (2009). Educators in the Catholic intellectual tradition. Fairfield, CT: Sacred Heart University Press.

Franklin, R.W. & Spaeth, Robert L. (1988). Virgil Michel: American Catholic. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Franklin, R. W. (1988a.). Virgil Michel: An introduction. Worship, 194—201.

Funk, Virgil. (1991). Liturgy and catechesis. In Peter Fink (Ed.), The New Dictionary of Sacramental Theology (p. 699). Wilmington, DE: Michael Glazier.

Hall, Jeremy. (1976). The full stature of Christ: The ecclesiology of Virgil Michel, OSB.  Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Hines, Kenneth, (1988).  Eucharist and justice: Assessing the legacy of Virgil Michel. Worship, 201—224.

Hughes, Kathleen (Ed.). (1990). How firm a foundation: Voices of the early liturgical movement.  Chicago: Liturgical Training Publications.

Hynes, E. (1940). The social thought of Virgil Michel, O.S.B. The American Catholic Sociological Review, 1(4), 172-180.

Marx, Paul B. (1957). Virgil Michel and the liturgical movement. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Oosdyke, Mary K. (1987). The Christ life series in religion (1933-35): Liturgy and experience  as formative influences in religious education. University of Michigan Microfilm. Boston College.

Parascandola, J. (2009). Virgil Michel: Prophet of liturgical education and reform.  In John L. Elias and Lucinda A. Nolan (Eds.), Educators in the Catholic intellectual tradition (pp. 131-161). Fairfield, CT: Sacred Heart University Press.

Pecklers, Keith F. (1998). The unread vision: The liturgical movement in the United States of America 1926-1955. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Spaeth, Robert L. (Ed.). (1981). Liberal education: Essays on the philosophy of higher education by Father Virgil Michel, O.S.B. St. Cloud, MN: The May Printing Company.

Spaeth, Robert L. (Ed.). (1987). The Social question: Essays on capitalism and Christianity by Father Virgil Michel, O.S.B. St. Cloud, MN: The Palmer Printing Company.

Weiss, Joseph E. (1998). Liturgy and catechesis. Liturgical Ministry 7, Spring, 57—66.


Internet Resources

Houston Catholic Newspaper. Article by Louise and Mark Zwick.     

Photo and brief mention of his founding of Orate Fratres (Worship), with link.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                                

Worship journal website. History of Worship Magazine page, with information on Michel’s founding of the journal.

Excerpts from Publications

The liturgy teaches the mind through the senses, the heart through the emotions, the individual by aid of the social, the human through the divine. It answers the whole man, body and soul, heart and mind—and is the one complete and genuine form of the holy grail so earnestly sought today: religious experience.

            Michel, Virgil. 1927. The Liturgical apostolate. Catholic Educational Review, 25, 5—6.


The liturgy assimilates dogma, adapts the latter to its nature, and expresses it in formulas, rites and symbols. . . . The liturgy is theology, not scientifically expounded, but applied to the art of glorifying God and sanctifying souls. . . . The liturgy gives testimony of dogma, . . . it popularizes dogma by introducing it into the mind, the heart, and the soul of the faithful with consummate pedagogical skill.

Beauduin-Michel, Liturgy the life of the Church. 1929.Collegeville: Liturgical Press, 104—106.


That the external life has become more intense is therefore a condition that the teacher of religion must keep well in mind; it is a situation which [he] must face and with which [he] must deal. Since it makes a deeper and fuller appreciation of religion more necessary than ever, it increases the responsibility of the teacher of religion, and it increases it in a definite direction.

Michel, Virgil. (1925). A religious need of the day. Catholic Educational Review, 23, 449—456.


Anything that separates action from knowledge is inadequate today, even more so than in the past. It is surely not enough to leave the religious education entirely to separate classes in religion. The principles of Christian life must be given their very evident connection with every activity of the student’s life. In some way the old gap between religion classes and the others . . . must be bridged over. And religion classes themselves must not be merely aiming at so and so much knowledge about Christian truths.

Michel, Virgil. (1930). The Basic need of Christian education today. Catholic Educational Review, 28, 3—12.


Today there is an awakened realization of the inconsistency between rigorously compulsory methods or systems of education and the spontaneous growth of mind that is true education. We realize that, in spite of any philosophy of strict psychological determination, there is an element of spontaneity in mind, whose neglect spells death; that our methods may have suppressed or limited this spontaneous activity and have forced energetic spirits to seek an outlet outside of   school work. Today a healthy reaction is in full swing. Everywhere there is the spirit of new adventure in education (sometimes in ways so old as to have been forgotten).

Michel, Virgil. 1927. Stimulating intellectual independence in senior college students. Catholic Educational Review 25, 524—533.

Franklin, R.W. and Spaeth, Robert L. (1988). Virgil Michel: American Catholic. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Hall, Jeremy. (1976). The full stature of Christ: The ecclesiology of Virgil Michel OSB. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Marx, Paul B. (1957). Virgil Michel and the liturgical movement. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Michel, Virgil. (1939). The Christian in the world. Collegeville, MN: Liturgical Press.

Parascandola, J. (2009). Virgil Michel: Prophet of liturgical education and reform.  In John L. Elias and Lucinda A. Nolan (Eds.), Educators in the Catholic intellectual tradition (pp. 131161). Fairfield, CT: Sacred Heart University Press.

Pecklers, Keith F. The unread vision: The liturgical movement in the United States of America 1926-1955. Collegeville, MN: The Liturgical Press.

Whalen, Michael D. (1996). Method in liturgical catechesis: A systematic and critical analysis of the relationship between liturgy and catechesis in the writings of Virgil Michel 1890—1938 (Doctoral dissertation, The Catholic University of America, 1996).

Author Information

Lucinda A. Nolan

Lucinda A. Nolan is retired Assistant Professor of Religious Education and Catechetics at The Catholic University of America. She earned the Ph.D. in Religion and Religious Education from Fordham University in New York. Dr. Nolan has published numerous articles and is co-editor of Educators in the Catholic Intellectual Tradition (2009). She has taught courses in theology, religious education, faith formation and catechetics at Lewis University, Santa Clara University, St. Elizabeth’s College, Sacred Heart University and Dominican University of California.