Pierre-Marie Gy, OP, is one of the most influential liturgical scholars of our time and comes to us from the Institut supérieur de liturgie in Paris, France. He was born in Paris on October 19, 1922. In 1940 he began medieval studies at the famous School of Chartes in Paris and a year later he entered the Dominican order. Ordained a priest In 1948, from 1949 to 1968 Père Gy taught sacramental theology and liturgy at the Dominican Faculty of Theology of Le Saulchoir. His own doctoral dissertation was on the history and theology of the Ritual of the Sacraments. From 1949 until 2001 he was a member of the Center of Pastoral Liturgy, which in 1964 became the official liturgical center of the French episcopate.
The two scholars whose work and personal presence influenced Père Gy the most were Dom Bernard Botte, OSB., of Louvain, the greatest historian of the liturgy in the 20th century, and Yves Congar, OP, especially from 1945 to 1954 and during the last years of his life when Gy was Cardinal Congar’s closest confidant. During the early part of his career, Père Gy had friendly scholarly contact with the great Anglican liturgist, Dom Gregory Dix, and—both before Vatican II and during the post-conciliar work of liturgical reform—with Fr. Joseph Andreas Jungmann, S.J., the eminent Austrian historian of the liturgy. It was due in great part to Balthasar Fischer and Père Gy’s conciliating efforts that the head liturgist among the French, Aimé-Georges Martimort, and Johannes Wagner, the chief German liturgist, were able to work together in that post-war period, thereby making possible Vatican II’s Sacrosanctum Concilium as well as the later work of liturgical reform.
In 1956 Gy was named assistant director under Dom Bernard Botte of the new Institut supérieur de liturgie founded at the Institut catholique of Paris. Succeeding Botte as director in 1964, Gy continued on in that capacity until 1987 when he became director of doctoral studies and of the whole faculty of theology. His retirement from teaching came in 1990. During his tenure at the Institut supérieur de liturgie he directed a total of 50 doctorates in liturgy, a dozen of which were by Americans. Together with Johannes Wagner and Aimé-Georges Martimort, Père Gy was one of the principal architects of Sacrosanctum Concilium and of the post-conciliar liturgical reform. Over the years he has been the editor, first, of the Dominican Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques, and then of the extremely influential journal on the liturgy, La Maison Dieu. From 1971 to 1973 he served as the third president of the Societas Liturgica, an ecumenical and international association of liturgical scholars. A 1990 listing of his scholarly publications includes 137 articles, 19 annual bulletins on the liturgy, and numerous book reviews. Although formally retired, Père Gy has continued his writing through the past 13 years. One example of his productivity is his latest “Bulletin de Liturgie” in the Revue des sciences philosophiques et théologiques (86/4). This past year’s yearly overview of recent scholarly activity in the liturgy across the world runs a total of 46 pages! Throughout his scholarly career Père Gy’s primary concern has been to help re-establish the unity between sacramental theology and the Church’s liturgy, both as historically understood and as celebrated. Marquette University, named after one outstanding French priest and explorer, is deeply honored by the presence in its midst and the shared wisdom of yet another. For generations Père Pierre-Marie Gy, OP, has served as an outstanding example of careful historical investigation into, and profound love for, the liturgy of the Church. Liturgical scholars across the world have benefitted immeasurably from his dedicated life of learning, both those who had the privilege to study under him in Paris, and the many more who have read his work in the pages of La Maison Dieu and elsewhere. Marquette University wishes to join its voice to the all those who have recognized and expressed gratitude for his immense contribution to the Church’s liturgy and her understanding of the liturgy. May le Père Gy in this, his 81st year, continue to receive, along with our gratitude, God’s richest blessings for many more years to come.