Monday, August 01, 2005

Celebrating Mass

Our new pastor, Father P., quoted the following from the General Instruction of the Roman Missal (GIRM) in the bulletin yesterday:

"The entire celebration is [to be] planned in such a way that it leads to a conscious, active, and full participation of the faithful, both in body and in mind, a participation burning with faith, hop, and charity, off the sort which is desired by the Church and demanded by the very nature of the celebration, and to which the Christian people have a right and duty by reason of their Baptism."

He goes on to say: "Special ministries in the liturgy have an effect on our participation. If they are done competently and reverently, they encourage active participation. Otherwise, they can be a distraction.... We can always deepen our knowledge and improve our skills in celebrating the liturgy."

Ah, but to be done "competently and reverently" we need to know what we are doing and why. For myself, knowing the "why" is almost as important as knowing the "what." From my experience in my parish, and from what I've seen in others, I am not alone. I read an article in the about a Little Flower Parish in Bethesda, MD, where Fr. George Stuart has designed an altar server program that not only includes three hours of training and rehersal, but a CD which serves as a training manual and as supplemental texts. His goal: "Ultimately, Stuart wants his kids to put their faith in the grand paradox: Only when they understand every ritual taking place on the altar will they enjoy the mystery of it all. And, contrary to popular opinion about kids ages 10 to 15, they've responded."

We all respond to ritual and mystery. I believe the need to create ritual specifically around mystery is hard-wired into us.

My diocese recently had a Lectors' Workshop and invited Ms. Sally T. Gomez-Kelley to speak. We all left awed by the significance of our calling to be a lector and enthused about doing it. (Ms. Gomez-Kelly hails from San Antonio, TX, and is worth seeking out!) There were members from five or six parishes--some not local--who came out on a weeknight to hear her. Afterwards, many of us cornered the Diocesan coordinator and said, "We want more. We want this kind of workshop for all the ministries involved in the Mass!"

Our recent Eucharistic Minister meeting was more of a training, but Father did take time to read several passages from the GIRM. And we were encouraged to ask questions about why the changes were being made. The lightbulb went off in my head, "Ah, now I understand!"

Next in line: the Altar Servers. Since it's summer, they haven't received any training, except for notices posted on the bulletin board in the sacristy. DS#2 got tapped to serve this weekend--he's been away for three weeks, he was tired, he had no clue there had been some significant changes. Father G. had to prompt him and DD#2 a couple of times, but was good-natured about it.

Liturgical excellence was one of the priorities our parish decided on during the discernment process for our new pastor. I think we got what we wanted.